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Author's profile photo John Appleby

SAP Influencer Summit 2010: What’s really happening in Enterprise Mobility?

SAP Influencer Summit 2010: What’s really happening in Enterprise Mobility?

I promised to head out to the SAP Influencer Summit in Santa Clara, to talk about what’s really going on in Enterprise Mobility. SAP TechEd came and went in 2010 and no one really knew the real story.

One of the problems with TechEd was that there was a lack of senior content producers in the Enterprise Mobility area, which is what SAP have always been good at in TechEd. So I was pretty disappointed when they put Raj Nathan, EVP of Marketing for Sybase, on the keynote, rather than say John Chen.

Ironically although Raj has an engineering background, he moved to marketing and his keynote was very high level and didn’t provide much new content. Thankfully there was a deep-dive into mobile, which I then went into, and Nick Brown (VP Mobile & Analytic Applications) and Thorsten Stefan (Head of Mobile Solution Development) were present and we got the content we were looking for.

What encouraged me the most was that I asked around and it seems that people have been watching the Podcasts that I have made with JonERP and Kevin Benedict and they have been listening to our fairly views. And as you can see, they have been reacting accordingly.

Sybase Unwired Platform is the go-to platform

It seems like Marketing have been already playing with the name. Earlier in this year before the Sybase acquisition, it was Sybase Unwired Platform. Vishal referred to it as the SAP Unwired Platform at TechEd and it has later been referred to as the SAP Mobile Platform. Chances are it will be changed again, so don’t get too attached to this name.

Whatever it’s called, SUP is the go-to platform. There were some concerning messages around here like “we’ll just recompile the NetWeaver Mobile code into SUP”. It’s easy to make statements like that and also dangerous because it isn’t that simple. But this means that they at least want to bring the NetWeaver Mobile stack into SUP, which as I have written before is the right thing to do.

This then finally leaves customers with a single Middleware stack for Enterprise Mobility. And from what I’ve seen of the proposed architecture, it should be best of breed. It looks like they are finally getting there for code generation, though they still need to ensure the focus on usability as well as functionality because the generated apps so far look rough around the edges.

NetWeaver Mobile is Dead

The biggest problem with building mobile apps on top of the Sybase Unwired Platform right now is NetWeaver Mobile’s Data Orchestration Engine. It’s very clever and it can take objects from ERP or CRM and consume them as generated objects. Unfortunately the object generation engine isn’t that well written and is pretty buggy in the versions I’ve seen so far.

So when I saw the to-be marchitectural diagrams, which showed a distinct lack of NetWeaver Mobile, I questioned whether it had finally been sunsetted. The response was cautious, but the undertone clear. NetWeaver Mobile 7.3 will be released this year and it will be the last version – to provide support for existing customers and meet promises.

If I’m being honest, I totally agree that SAP should sunset NetWeaver Mobile, but they should do it now and not release 7.3. No official announcement has been made but 7.3 is likely to be supported until 31.12.2018 at the earliest (based on SAP’s usual support strategy) and this diverts valuable resources away from the porting of the generation engines to the SAP Mobile Platform.

Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM needs a rewrite

When the Mobile Sales app was written, the SUP 1.5 platform wasn’t available and so they wrote the mobile apps natively on each platform – for RIM, iPhone and Windows Mobile 6.0 so far. In addition it’s built on top of the NetWeaver Mobile / SUP platforms and so much of the work done so far will need to be refactored.

I’m hoping this will give them the opportunity to rewrite this as a lighthouse application on top of the new SAP Mobile Platform (or whatever it will be called). I’m sure that Bob Stutz (heading mobile apps) is thinking carefully on what mobile apps to invest his team’s resources on.

Gateway is core to Mobile Strategy

What’s interesting about Project Gateway is that it’s not a mobile platform, despite what people sometimes say. Gateway is a mechanism for lightweight connectivity into SAP without using proprietary controls. Since 2005 SAP has been building out the Enterprise Services Framework which allows complex integration between SAP and non-SAP systems.

The problem with Enterprise Services is that they are heavyweight and not well suited to lighter integration scenarios, especially to Mobile scenarios. Enter Gateway. Gateway provides a connection into SAP allowing lighter-weight RESTful Services which are ideally suited to mobile and other applications that need simple integration with SAP.

From what I can see, Gateway is progressing nicely and it is available for certain use cases already – though clearly they have not built out support for the whole Business Suite of business processes yet. I hope they will start to roll Gateway out early even if only some business processes are supported.

Gateway also poses an interesting license question, which hasn’t been resolved yet as far as I can see. SAP per-User licensing is expensive and even the cheapest Limited User licenses are >$100 per user. If you want a million users to connect in through your mobile app then that represents an undiscounted cost of at least $100m. Nice money if you can get it…

So Gateway needs a new license model. Maybe by concurrent connections, or by data volume, but either way SAP needs to get away from the idea that charging by User makes sense if they want to get to the billion-user mark.

Enterprise Micro-Apps are coming

I like the term Enterprise Micro-Apps although SAP does not. Last month they called them Instant Value Apps and now they’re referring to them as something else. The point is the same. They are simple applications that are easily deployed (via Sybase’s Afaria management solution or the iTunes store for example) and work online only, connecting directly into SAP.

The very first ones require some custom code to be imported into SAP because they don’t use Gateway, although the impression is that they have already written some Gateway services for the apps and these will be released early in 2010.

HTML5 is being taken seriously

This is pretty common through SAP’s technology strategy and this runs into SAP’s mobile strategy. Details are a bit unclear but the roadmap shows that there will be a HTML5 rendering engine for SUP.

I’ve been pondering this and I’m not sure I see the value. There are some excellent HTML5 web frameworks like jQuery Mobile that support multiple devices well. These will integrate nicely with Project Gateway once that’s available and that seems like the right way to build out apps.

So I’m questioning in my mind why they would want to build out support of this into the SAP Mobile Platform – all that will do is introduce an additional layer of complexity into the technology and therefore make it more inefficient, and therefore bring better battery life. All I’d advise SAP to do on this is to make sure they build out the native device support and DOE first, as a priority.

Syclo and Enterprise Asset Management still uncertain

Syclo have offered me a call into their CEO Rich Padula and I deliberately waited until after the summit to do that. I’d like to hear what they have to say and to try to get past some of their marketing. Syclo are the go-to solution for SAP Enterprise Asset Management and Field Service apps and they have announced a compromise model that allows integration with the Sybase Unwired Platform.

The question remains as to whether SAP intend to compete against Syclo and their apps and this still seems likely, though it will take SAP a long time to get up to speed with the amount of IP that Syclo have built out. Let’s see what Rich has to say.

Conclusion – good messaging but there’s a lot of work to do

I’m really encouraged by SAP’s engagement at the Influencer Summit and they have laid out a roadmap that shows all the right things, and it is a roadmap that takes us to SAPPHIRE in 2011, rather than a 3-year roadmap, which is the right way to tackle Enterprise Mobility.

What this does mean is that there is a mountain to climb before SAPPHIRE and they need to get to work. There are a couple of things that made me think that they might just get there. First, when I talked about the Sybase consensus culture, there was a suggestion that senior management in SAP understood this and they were taking a JFDI approach, rather than getting mass consensus. Good

Second, I think they have made a lot more decisions than they have published and actually they are just publishing the stuff which is certain and laid out. There was undertones in the conversations that I had that they had made quite a lot of progress and there were mountains of developers being put together under the Mobile Business Unit with a real focus: deliver by SAPPHIRE.

So all positive news here but they will live or die by their ability to deliver. Let’s wait and see.

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      3 Comments
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      Author's profile photo John Moy
      John Moy
      John,

      Thanks for the great summation.  In particular I appreciate that you give your very honest views of where you think SAP is at with mobility.  I agree that SAP need to move fast to deliver here, because I can see evolution in mobility solutions (outside of the SAP ecosystem) is moving at lightspeed.

      Cheers

      John Moy

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      John,

      Thanks for sharing your take-aways and feedback from the SAP Influencer Summit.

      I'd like to clarify three things:
      1. the generation issues with SAP NW Mobile have been given a detailed look and have been fixed. Please implement SAP Notes: 1495928 & 1504273. These fixes are also part of the latest Support Package for SAP NW Mobile 7.10. This should solve a vast majority of generation related issues.

      2. Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM, based on the co-innovation platform brings out the best of both SAP NW Mobile and SUP. In fact, there are more apps that might be released in future on top of a newer version of this platform. So, as such, these applications do not require a rewrite, and will be fully compatible with the next-gen platform.

      3. Please wait until the final roadmap / architecture of the new mobile platform is published, before expecting the end-of-life for existing products. Though existing products may be integrated / re-branded in the future, there will be continued support for existing and new customers.

      I just wrote a more detailed post to clarify the status-quo and what to expect in the future. http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/weblogs?blog=/pub/wlg/22619 [original link is broken] [original link is broken]

      Cheers!
      Ramalingam Krishnan,
      Product Manager, SAP Mobile Platform.

      Author's profile photo John Appleby
      John Appleby
      Blog Post Author
      Hi,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, it's much appreciated. To quickly reply:

      1. Product Management always claim that the bugs are fixed in the latest version, they've been doing so since the beginning of time :=) - happy to take a look though and glad you all have been working on it.

      2. This was conjecture on my part and not SAP Product Strategy. But, I stand by my point. Customers do not want two middleware stacks and I see this as an opportunity to showcase the technology and provide customers an excellent migration path through to the new mobile platform.

      3. We were told reasonably clearly that NetWeaver Mobile 7.3 would be the last version, in an open forum. Are you telling me that SAP are now retracting this statement? I don't see this as a negative thing by the way, but rather as a positive thing given that there is clearly a roadmap for customers on NetWeaver 7.3 and that it is likely to be supported until the latter end of this decade anyhow.

      Regards,

      John