One of the best analogy for cloud computing would be Nick Carr's classic vision of cloud computing in the book The Big Switch where cloud computing is metaphorically compared with evolution of power distribution grids. In earlier history each household would generate power for their consumption which later evolved into a very highly efficient centralized power distribution grids. The cloud computing have evolved in similar lines from individual systems & data centers to centrally maintained efficient, sustainable data power houses. But this could be a very simplified metaphor for initial understanding.
Cloud computing in actual will be much different from power distribution grids. It involves data which are not the same for all customers, all the customers don’t have same voltage (aka requirements). Each customers requirements, processes & systems will be very different. A successful business application platform in cloud can be successful only if we can cater to these differences but in an efficient cost-benefit ratio.
The scenario is much complex for SAP with our competitors pitching their solutions as best of breed as answers to customers business problems. We are not far away from a world where customers have business solutions from many vendors integrated and working together in perfect harmony solving customer business problems no matter which technology, which platform or which solutions. Let us imagine following system landscape:
Such a business solution is a possibility & a rightful expectation from customers which SAP should address & solve. The argument that “Suite always wins” is very much true, but this could be well extended as “Suite always wins, but can also work with other best of breed solutions” could be a necessary commitment from SAP. We could imagine a business solution platform which centrally can provide real time, time critical business decisions with meaningful information from data integrated across many systems. This is in similar lines to what Microsoft does with Office for iOS, providing user an option to use their application in competitors platform.
Human resource or sales automation solutions might have huge differentiating factors so customer need not have bigger customization. But unique business process or customers intellectual processes cannot be catering by platforms which are not build for such customization & adaptability. SAP is the best organization which can understand this difference and foresee possible variation from customers. The SAP cloud platform build should be catering to this segment which provides this key differentiator from other vendors.
5 trends SAP should not miss:
Demand for cloud based solutions will only grow
Integrated best of breed solutions will be a norm in future
The line of separation between enterprise applications & consumer grade applications will only blur
Customers would like to see the value of investments not in years but months possibly in weeks
Developers will focus where there is a value for customers, leading to opportunities, leading to $$$
SAP should not only ride this trend but overtake this to become a leader in cloud computing for enterprise.
3 things SAP must do:
Build a robust cloud based business solution platform using open standards with in build support for integration with top business solution in each area
Lead the ecosystem in creating new generation business applications with beautiful user experience
Not only support but actively propagate integrated best of breed business applications to showcase value for customers
We are in a great position with our deep business expertise across industries (40 years of business knowledge) and a new generation platform (HANA) to solve these business problems. No other organization could possibly have both these assets together. Our success is in cloud (hand)!