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Yesterday richard.hirsch posted his observations and conclusions on all things cloud from SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando (Sapphire Impressions and SAP’s Cloud Strategy (1): Musical Chairs and SaaS Chastity Belts   .) Not surprisingly it is a well-thought out blog and it is obvious that a lot of reflecting and thinking went into his post.

While I have to say that his observations are spot-on and fully backed-up with references to further info on the wide list of topics he adressed I do not always agree with his conclusions. Yet it underlines that such feedback is truly of indisputable value as it reveals where SAP's public messaging may be missing the point or needs further polishing. Let's face it: if someone like Richard, who is knee-deep in the whole cloud space, still has open questions or draws hasty conclusions, then SAP may need to fine-tune the communication. Or, by the words of Seth Godin:

You will be judged (or you will be ignored)

Those are pretty much the only two choices.

Being judged is uncomfortable. Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation... all of these, combined with not enough time (how could there be) to truly know you, means that you will inevitably be misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected.

The alternative, of course, is much safer. To be ignored.

Up to you.

[Seth Godin - You will be judged (or you will be ignored)]

So, personally I'd opt for the first choice and - starting today - I'd like to do my little part to help start establishing 'open communication', because when it comes to SAP NetWeaver Cloud and being an 'open platform' SAP is well-advised to also embrace the social aspect of it, which implies to being open and approachable.

The role of SAP NetWeaver Cloud

While it's true that at SAPPHIRE NOW the emphasis was on the bigger picture of SAP's Cloud strategy, the role of SAP NetWeaver Cloud is indeed many-fold. Enterprise Integration is just one important aspect, yet expanding our ecosystem and embracing SMEs is equally important. Given the customer audience in Orlando and the need to clarify the aligned cloud story (now that SuccessFactors has joned the SAP family) the focus was clearly on SaaS. But don't mistake that as a sign that PaaS is not as important. Let's recap on what has been said before we dig deeper:

Yes, currently the most pressing questions seem to revolve around the question on how SAP NetWeaver Cloud fits into the big picture and here Lars presented the slide shown above highlighting the integration aspect of the platform. For me it sounds reasonable to address the inherent questions of the people on-site at SAPPHIRE NOW, which for the most part comprises of the ecosystem that got us to this point.

It also seems to makes sense to highlight how SAP intends to use SAP NetWeaver Cloud to integrate SaaS application according to the 'SAP runs SAP' philosophy, because usually that's the first question people have: "'So how does all of that fit together then?" I'd file it as doing our homework first, before starting to address new customers... I'd also call it good business practice to treat regular customers prior to new ones, after all - without the established ecosystem we would not be where we are right now.

The importance of these SaaS applications in SAP’s overall success makes this strategy understandable. Of equal importance is that the NetWeaver Cloud team must remember that its long-term survival depends on creating a broader developer base than that associated with use cases based primarily on the needs of the Cloud Business Unit.

[Richard Hirsch - Sapphire Impressions and SAP’s Cloud Strategy (1): Musical Chairs and SaaS Chastity Belts   ]

Be rest-assured that the team is fully aware of this! In fact, it's the one aspect that really underlines the full potential of the platform. For me, Neo (there, I said it!) is the designated technology to really help SAP to expand its user-base, simply because it's cloud-ish. The platform is based on Open-Source software, which makes it easy as never before to get started AND get tangible results in little time. Users do not need to cope with a steep learning curve, but can build upon the frameworks and libraries they already know. There's plenty of documentation, examples and best practices out there to help people get started. Given the fact it's Java-based makes it a viable choice for all the Java developers out there.

Plus, along the road we also envision other programming models to run on the platform such as JRuby, Grails or Scala. There has been demos and proof of concepts for these scenarios in the Labs already, and the only reason why we have not yet started to spread the word about this more prominently is that we want to take it one step at a time. But trust me, we sure got some aces up our sleeves and we will roll them out as we move along... (on a personal note: that is the hardest part of the job of advocating for the platform, that there's so much going on internally that makes you frickin' excited, yet to remain silent until the time is right!)

So it may seem like that aspect is not a priority for us, but that's not true. It's just that it seems to be smarter to focus on taking one step after the next. If you try to do too many things at once, you risk doing nothing right. Others may be talking loud even though they have nothing to show yet. We opted for another approach. We want to get our act together and let our work speak for itself as we believe that actions speak louder than words.

The road ahead

So, maybe it makes sense to share with all of you our approach to win developers' hearts for the platform in order to avoid further confusion on that matter. It's a three staged process:

  1. Internal - We rolled out Neo within SAP first and it has been spreading like a wildfire! Turning around what some of the critics have been saying about SAP (= lacking any kind of cloud DNA before the acquisition of SuccessFactors) I have no doubt that we're up to something BIG with Neo, because if we managed to get people inside the company to embrace the platform I wonder what people will say that do have a cloud DNA. Those few externals like the SAP Mentors who have been privileged to attend SAP's internal Developer Kick-Off meeting and the accompanying DemoJam this year will know what I'm talking about...
  2. Current ecosystem - The next step is to share the exiting news with our established ecosystem. I already stated why it makes sense to treat them first, but there's more to it: SAP understands that nothing beats customer testimonials in conveying the value of the platform. This is why it has been decided to go for a closed BETA. First we want to make sure that we get quality feedback from trusted partners and customers on where there's need for improvement before going public. The first impression is important and so the team wants to make sure we are in good shape before getting on stage at prime-time.
  3. Expanding our ecosystem - That's the next step and we have already started setting the tracks! But let's be frank: doesn't it make sense to first see how our current ecosystem adopts the platform before reaching out to those who may never have heard about SAP or may doubt that SAP is serious about Java, the Cloud, embracing SMEs, etc ?

I have no doubts that SAP NetWeaver Cloud will be winning new fans beyond the current ecosystem for many reasons. Besides all the features that are must-haves for a Platform-as-a-Service let me just give you three differentiating factors that should attract new customers and partners:

  1. HANA (ladies first!)
  2. OnPremise connectivity
  3. the SAP Store and access to an established ecosystem

So with that being said let me conclude by saying that the vision and strategy of SAP NetWeaver Cloud is definitely much broader than just integration scenarios for large enterprises. If you're interested in more details just stay tuned :wink:

PS: A few days back we announced the free trials for SAP NetWeaver Cloud - and taking effect immediately - every SCN user can register for the trial within minutes in a full automated process! Interested in test-driving the platform? Please go to SAP HANA Cloud Platform Developer Center

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