March 20, 2023

Bits Blog: SAP Takes It All to the Cloud

Vishal Sikka, of SAP's executive board, was among those overseeing the rollout of a cloud-based product providing companies with fast computing and data retrieval.SAP Vishal Sikka, of SAP’s executive board, was among those overseeing the rollout of a cloud-based product providing companies with fast computing and data retrieval.

SAP, the German software giant, is making one of the largest pushes into cloud computing yet seen from a large incumbent company. It may even be destroying its own business, in order to build for a new one.

SAP is famous for developing enterprise resource planning, or ERP, software. ERP is used to control complex manufacturing, run corporate functions like financials, or manage a company’s systems of supply. A few years ago SAP introduced HANA, a product that combines fast computing and data retrieval to better analyze how well a company is working. The product has been a big hit, and SAP has been proclaiming it the company’s future.

On Tuesday SAP said it would offer HANA as a cloud-based product, providing companies with access for the cost of a license. Prices were not disclosed. SAP has established a network of seven data centers around the globe to support the endeavor, a company official said, and will begin by deploying 30,000 computers for the network.

“We will do cloud-based ERP on a massive scale,” said Vishal Sikka, a member of SAP’s executive board and one of the people who oversaw the project. Of SAP’s regular product, he said, “At some point in the future, complex implementations should go away. All of our products are moving to HANA.”

SAP, along with companies that have agreed to test the product, already has 750 terabytes of data in the system, enough data to fill 750 million good-sized books. The company expects to have twice that amount in the system by the end of the year.

That probably is not all that much data, compared with the amount SAP touches the old-fashioned way, with conventional computer servers inside companies, but it is a decent start. As SAP builds the trust of big customers with its cloud, Mr. Sikka said, SAP will become a giant.

“We have single customers running projects that are bigger than the entire cloud,” he said.

SAP has already been running both cloud and software as a service, or SAAS, projects, thanks to its acquisition of two companies, Ariba and SuccessFactors. With HANA in the cloud, however, SAP is moving much more into offering insight online, either directly to its customers, or as a service to end-users.

Mr. Sikka said SAP served some 220 utilities globally, who reach about 2.5 billion customers. The utilities could let the customers use HANA to model how much they were spending, and finding ways to cut their bills. “We realized we could do that for them with 2,000 servers,” he said.

Other uses of the data analysis tool might include real-time understanding of online customers, financial risk analysis or rapid insight into geologic information for energy companies, he said.

If SAP follows through on a fast build out to cloud computing, it could create some tension with Amazon Web Services, currently an SAP partner. AWS has recently made it clear that it wants to host a lot more corporate computing in its giant cloud.

And, as usual over the last couple of decades, the move will be viewed in terms of competition with Oracle, which is operating its own cloud services, but also offers a lot of servers and software for customers to buy and use inside their companies.

“Oracle – what can I say?” Mr. Sikka said. “The future is in open clouds, not proprietary hardware.”

Oracle didn’t see it that way.

“Technically speaking, neither is more or less proprietary than the other,” said an Oracle official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. “HANA is expensive and proprietary, it must be paired with a hardware system from the factory. We use standard commodity components, and engineer the hardware and the software., so we can deliver better performance.”

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Advertising: Returning to Industry’s Roots With Lessons in Branding

The class was held at the offices of the CreativeFeed marketing agency. About half the students were CreativeFeed employees while the rest were entrepreneurs more experienced in technology than in old-fashioned brand-building.

Mr. Berger, 62, retired from Euro last year after 25 years at the company, and has turned his attention to training the next wave of advertising and marketing employees.

The challenge is that with more agencies focusing on digital media, their employees need to come up with sophisticated algorithms and data analytics platforms to better tailor messages to consumers. Many agencies have reported difficulties in finding qualified employees to fill jobs that are technical in nature, but still creative. Old-fashioned branding may seem quaint, but Mr. Berger thinks it should not be ignored.

“I think that old school or new school, the most important school is understanding the power of a brand,” he said. “As technology and as media has become more fragmented, the importance of building a powerful brand has become more important. You only have a few places where you need to speak about what your brand is and you need to control that.”


In his class, Mr. Berger presented his students with a series of questions including identifying the major elements of a brand and whether a company can build a brand without advertising. He presented case studies on Volvo, Apple, Google and the entertainer Jay-Z, dissecting each brand’s elements, like the products sold, the brand’s values, and tone of voice.

“Half the class were entrepreneurs who started their own business,” Mr. Berger said. “Quite frankly, they have never had that kind of training. They come in, they hear about those pieces of technology, how you can reach this customer, and the most foundational part of it is never taught in school.”

Carlos Solorio, an entrepreneur in the class, is the co-founder of Arden Reed, a company that makes custom men’s wear, like suits. Mr. Solorio and his partner used Kickstarter to raise money for an e-commerce site and are also part of a start-up incubator program in Chile. Before entering the fashion business, Mr. Solorio was an investment banker specializing in Latin American mergers and acquisitions. He said he took Mr. Berger’s class to shift the current pitch for the Arden Reed brand from being solely about the fit of the garment.

“The customers I’ve spoken to sometimes mention the fit, but almost every time it comes down to the compliments they receive or what their wife thinks of them,” Mr. Solorio said in an e-mail. “It’s not that if fits, but that they feel more confident in a custom suit.” He hoped Mr. Berger’s class would help his company “key in on that emotion that someone purchasing Arden Reed wants to achieve and provide a consistent message around that.”


Mr. Berger presented Apple’s history of television advertising including the “Think Different” campaign, which showed visionaries like Gandhi, Maria Callas and Jim Henson, and more recent campaigns that featured silhouetted figures dancing against colorful backgrounds while donning the white earbuds and devices synonymous with Apple products. “Apple has clearly said, ‘Here’s who we are and here’s what we stand for,’ ” Mr. Berger said.

While Apple’s products include computers, music devices and phones, the values of the Apple brand are not those products; they are design, innovation and functionality, Mr. Berger said. The tone of voice for the brand is cool, modern and enjoyable, he said.

Some students questioned the Apple brand, especially in light of the criticism the company has received over its labor practices in China and its closed-source operating system. One student even called the brand “arrogant.” Mr. Berger acknowledged the criticism but said that despite it all, the power of the Apple brand is undeniable. “The marketplace has spoken,” Mr. Berger said, “and they are the most valuable brand in the world.”

While Apple may have a strong brand message, the company still must get its product off the shelves and into the hands of consumers. Jay-Z, on the other hand, is an example of one of the newest forms of branding, the personal brand. “The human brand is the biggest evolution,” Mr. Berger said.

Jay-Z may have attached his name to music, clothes and big business deals like his stake in the Brooklyn Nets and the associated Barclays Center, but the reason he has been such a success is because of who the singer is. “The street cred that he comes from and doesn’t waver from, it’s probably been foundational to the brand he’s become, “ Mr. Berger said. “He’s a business and he totally understands that.”

Mr. Berger’s second class was postponed because of Hurricane Sandy, which gives students a few more days to work on their homework assignment: taking the tools they learned about brand building and applying them to a brand, even if that brand is themselves.

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You’re the Boss Blog: Trying to Be a for Employers and Employees

Site Analysis

What’s wrong with this Web site?

After Helen Rosen was laid off in 2008, she found herself frustrated by the job search process. Ms. Rosen, who had worked in the financial industry for 15 years, didn’t get the results she was hoping for from online job boards. In fact, she found the process of matching jobs to job seekers terribly inefficient.

“I quickly realized there was no good way for companies to get a good selection of candidates,” she said. “Hiring managers were drowning in an overwhelming number of candidates applying for each position and most of them were not suited for the positions they were applying for.”

Out of this frustration came the inspiration for a new Web company: Direct Approach Solutions. “My goals were twofold, altruistic and for business reasons,” Ms. Rosen said. “I wanted to truly offer a better way to match candidates to job openings that’s not being done, and I wanted to have and run my own business.”

Because Ms. Rosen’s background was in finance and not technology, she hired a software developer to create the engine and algorithm behind the site and to design the site as well. She says she is particularly pleased with the underlying software and believes that it does an excellent job of matching candidates and employers. “Having worked with many systems and processes over the years,” she posted on her site, “I was able to take the best attributes of job boards, recruiting firms and recruitment software to create this unique product that will provide companies with qualified candidates through precision selectivity. This, in conjunction with a team of professionals who will interact directly with companies and candidates to help ‘seal the deal,’ will help facilitate the hiring process.”

The concept behind the site is to use multiple matching points — education, specific skills, willingness to travel, industry experience, overall experience — to find matches between what employers require and what job seekers offer. Because Ms. Rosen considered matching employers and job seekers to be very similar to matching romantic hopefuls, she looked at sites like and for inspiration.

The site remains very much in the beta stage. To save money, Ms. Rosen decided to introduce it within a limited geographic area (the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tristate area) and with a limited selection of job opportunities (just the financial field for now). Job seekers can use the site free. Eventually, employers will be asked to pay $695 per posting, but during the beta stage they can post free of charge.

The site offers a detailed questionnaire for both job seekers and employers. Upon completion of the questionnaire, the application is considered for approval by Ms. Rosen. Approvals or rejections are promised within 48 hours. “First, I review all candidate profiles and résumés, as part of the candidate-approval process,” she said. “Not all candidates are approved. Then, I also review the employer’s profile and matches, and contact them to make sure that the matches are what they were looking for, and how we can modify the profile to get a better selection.”

The site tries to set itself apart on an internal page, “How We Compare,” that can be accessed through a top-level navigation link on the home page. The message stresses “precision targeting.” Other messaging elements include video on the homepage, where Ms. Rosen explains the theory behind the site, and a blog, where she comments on employment-related news stories.

Because of her lack of financing, Ms. Rosen is working with a bare-bones marketing budget and has hired a social media consultant to help her spread the word on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The most effective platform to date, she said, has been LinkedIn. Her search-engine optimization efforts have been rudimentary, and she has yet to try any paid search advertising.

Now it’s your turn to take a test drive. Please check out the design, the navigation, the registration process and Ms. Rosen’s social media and marketing efforts. Some questions worth addressing might include:

  • Does the site instill confidence?
  • Do you believe in the business model?
  • Do the design and navigation work?
  • Does the domain name work?
  • How easy was the registration process?
  • Do you think the site was introduced prematurely?

Next week, we’ll collect highlights from your comments, I’ll offer some of my own impressions, and we’ll get Ms. Rosen’s reactions as well.

Would you like to have your business’s Web site or mobile app critiqued? This is an opportunity for companies looking for an honest (and free) appraisal of their online presence and marketing efforts. The process may not be painless, but it can be helpful.

To be considered, please tell me about your experiences — why you started your site, what works, what doesn’t, why you would like to have the site reviewed — in an e-mail to

Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design, development and marketing company based in New York.

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