SAP acquires Sybase - First impressions what this means to SAP Mobile Strategy

13 May 2010

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

Sybase is SAP's largest acquisition ever at an estimated $5.8bn - bigger than Business Objects, which was a mere $4.8bn. But, what does it mean to SAP customers and their strategy on Enterprise Mobility? This blog looks to provide some insight.

I was out to dinner with Sybase Inc's CTO for Enterprise Mobility, Jagdish Bansiya, a few months back and I remember asking him why SAP hadn't bought Sybase yet and what was behind the rumours in the analyst industry. He didn't really answer my question and it's no wonder why.

From a mobile perspective it asks some very serious questions. Mostly, it raises a question as to what the co-innovation strategy was all about and whether it still has any meaning. For those of you unfamiliar around this, SAP co-innovated with 3 partners around mobility. There's a good overview of what it looked like in my blog, Building a SAP Mobile Strategy. In essence SAP coinnovated with RIM around Mobile Sales for RIM - Sybase has since taken this on, Sybase around Mobile Sales for Windows Mobile & iPhone and ERP Workflow, and Syclo for Mobile Asset Management and CRM Field Service.

The problem with the coinnovation model was this. SAP customers are looking to build a mobile strategy against a MEAP - Mobile Enterprise Application Platform. The purpose of this is simple - build one mobile platform and then build all the apps you need on top of it. Consolidate cost and simplify infrastructure and hopefully on the way, support multiple device platforms e.g. Blackberry for your salesforce, and ruggest Motorola Windows Mobile devices for your field service agents.

But, if you need both (for example) CRM salesforce automation, and CRM field service, then you end up with 2 MEAPs - Sybase and Syclo both claim to be a MEAP as well as a co-innovator. And all that doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Throw into that things like mDSD - Mobile Direct Store Delivery. SAP have a product, mDSD 4.0 which is going into Ramp Up right now, based directly on the NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 platform. However this doesn't fit into either mobile co-innovation strategy! SAP suggest quietly that mDSD is being replaced after this release by something from one of the co-innovation partners, but which one seems unclear.

If you're as confused as I am right now, then you will understand how the confusion in the market stands to lead to confused customers and therefore extended sales cycles - reducing innovation and reducing the potential benefits. SAP know that they have to clarify their messaging in order to allow customers to buy, and the Sybase acquisition is a pretty clear indication of what is to come.

I've been working with Sybase SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) since the co-innovation was announced nearly a year ago and it is an excellent mobile platform. It supports RIM, iPhone and Windows Mobile on a single development platform and the CRM Mobile Sales app is architecturally a sign of things to come. It builds on SAP standard extensions to pull data in and out of CRM and ERP and is stable and scalable.

In order for SAP and Sybase "an SAP company" get it right, they will build out a portfolio of customisable apps covering the major SAP mobile scenarios and running on a variety of mobile devices. Plus support up and coming mobile platforms, for example Windows Mobile 7 and Google Android. If Sybase iAnywhere can continue to be relatively agile under SAP leadership and continue to produce product apace, SAP have made a very good decision indeed.

What does this announcement mean to Syclo? Time will tell - but Syclo has a niche in the energy industry building turnkey and customer specific mobile applications for very large number of users. It seems likely that Syclo will continue to do exactly this sort of application, and their ability to scale their Agentry platform out to work on more than just Windows Mobile will define their ability to compete in this market.

In conclusion SAP is in a really excellent space after this acquisition, but the clarity of messaging in Sapphire Orlando will be key to getting customers into the right frame of mind to build their mobile strategy going forwards. If you're in Orlando, I look forward to seeing you out there!

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About the author

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've always been passionate about new technology. I cut my teeth helping global financial services and consumer goods companies build data warehouses to manage their business - especially when they wanted to run faster.

These days, I travel weekly across continents, helping clients differentiate themselves using analytics technologies. This then involved building a team to design the solution, make it work and lead it through to successful completion.

I believe that in-memory computing is radically changing the face of business so you can ask me about SAP HANA, or about any other data platform like DB2 BLU, Hadoop or MongoDB for that matter.

I'm passionate that giving back to the community reaps long-term rewards and this has shaped the last few years of my career - being a contributor to knowledge sharing websites as an SAP Mentor; and a sometime advisor to Wall Street investors on emerging technologies and those companies bringing to market new innovations.

When I'm not busy designing in-memory apps, you may find me pounding the pavement to the beat of music in the hilly suburbs of Philadelphia, or traveling the world to meet new people and new cultures.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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