SAP Attempts to Discredit the Cloud

Written November 28th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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CIO Magazine recently published an interview with SAP’s Chief Technology Officer, Vishal Sikka, entitled “Cloud Won’t Do for Critical Applications“.  Frankly, not only did I find his comments quite disingenuous, but considering our experiences of the past year and a half, they were deliciously ironic.

It’s quite obvious that Mr. Sikka is trying to discredit the cloud to cover up for SAP’s shortcomings.

There really is no dignity in that approach.

In my IBM days we called that spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).  It was a defensive strategy meant to buy time until we could get our act together.  It’s something you can do when you’re the 900 pound gorilla.

We all know that SAP’s Business byDesign has been a PR, if not a technical, nightmare for them.  To their defense, SAP doesn’t have the luxury of solving simple problems in simple ways.  For better or for worse, they have set expectations in the market that they will provide “all solutions for all situations”.  In addition, they have to worry about cannibalizing their existing products, managing channel conflict and keeping an eye on their bottom line.  Any of these would be reason enough to move slowly towards the cloud.  But alas, the likes of salesforce.com and Netsuite, goaded SAP to ski down the black diamond slopes of innovation, when they would have preferred to practice on the bunny slopes awhile longer.

I know that today SAP can hear the echoes of my Swiss ski instructor of 30 years ago as she watched my repeated futile attempts to make it down the bunny slope unscathed…”too fast, too fast, oh sheet!”

SAP is going to get this right.  There is no doubt in anyone’s mind.  Mr. Sikka should conserve his FUD spreading energy and channel it to more productive ends.

Here is the part of the article that became quite ironic for me:

“When you deliver sales-force automation from the cloud and there is a breakdown or failure, it is not a very big issue, he said. “But if you cannot make a payroll or you cannot close your books there are very serious consequences of it,” he added.”

How about order management delivered from the cloud?  Would Mr. Sikka agree that the inability to place and track orders would have serious consequences for a manufacturer?  I think he would.  By an extension of his sales-force automation logic, this application shouldn’t be on the cloud, and here is where the irony begins.

Over the past 15 months that we’ve been in production, I can’t recall a single unplanned outage of the b2b2dot0 service.  In fact, our fully redundant architecture enables us to perform all of our planned maintenance activities without impacting our clients’ availability as well.

Unfortunately, from our clients’ customers’ perspective, we were not available to them 100% of the time.  The two biggest reasons why:

  1. SAP was unavailable,
  2. Our client’s network was unavailable.

Consequently, over the past several months we’ve invested a good deal of our time and energy developing early warning systems to test for SAP’s unavailability.  We’ve also put in place functionality to gracefully prepare, and inform, our clients’ customers’ of these situations.

In addition, I’m not sure what percentage of our code base is directed at gracefully “covering up” bad data in SAP, but it’s not insignificant.

So here is a situation where the cloud offering is not only more reliable than the “on-premise” software, but because of our dependency on SAP’s availability and reliability, we go out of our way to be a good partner and cover up many of their weaknesses.

I’m glad that Mr. Sikka is spurred into action by the pressures of the marketplace.  I only have two recommendations for him:

  1. Don’t degrade yourself by engaging in a FUD war.  Your actions will speak louder than your words.
  2. Recognize who your friends are.  b2b2dot0 is actually the perfect example of your “hybrid” model.  We’re in the cloud and you are on premises.  Together we’re processing hundreds of orders a day, in half a dozen languages, from over 50 countries around the world directly into SAP in REAL TIME!  We add tremendous value to SAP with all the benefits of the cloud.

The cloud is here, it’s real and the prospects are sunny!

Sam