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SAP executives took the veil off SAP S/4HANA during an event in New York City on Tuesday, introducing the fourth-generation suite of business applications that will take advantage of SAP HANA’s in-memory and real-time processing capabilities.
While some important questions remain unanswered (we’ll be working on getting those answers throughout today and in coming days), SAP gave customers and industry watchers a decent taste of what’s in store.
Here’s an initial set of five instant reactions.
1. The Stakes Are Huge.
SAP S/4HANA is the company’s biggest product launch in 23 years and perhaps its entire history, according to CEO Bill McDermott.
“They are trying to move an enormous amount of software and customers to a new platform,” says analyst Frank Scavo, president of IT consulting firm Strativa. “If SAP does that it will be unprecedented. But they have to do it. If SAP doesn’t do this, it will die a slow death.”
2. You Want a Mea Culpa? You Got One.
S/4HANA will deliver a user interface based on Fiori, SAP’s heralded next-generation design paradigm. This simply had to be done, noted SAP Chairman and Cofounder Hasso Plattner at the unveiling: “Users told us, ‘Your UI sucks.’”
Fiori is SAP’s answer to those gripes with respect to both usability and delivery mode. Moving forward, “everybody knows that most of the transactions initiated by humans will come from mobile phones or tablets—not desktop computers,” Plattner added.
3. Customers Get a Choice.
McDermott took pains to state from the outset that SAP won’t put traditional on-premise ERP customers—which still make up the bulk of its installed base—on a forced march to S/4HANA. There will be public cloud, private cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment options available. “We’ll do it all,” he stated during his presentation.
The on-premise version of S/4HANA will allow for “unlimited individualization” of the software, according to a slide shown during Tuesday’s event. Customers will also have the ability to convert their installation to the cloud “within a very short period of time,” Platter added.
Those customers who want to stay on-premise, however, “can have the same cozy feeling their data is at home,” he noted.
4. Goodbye Consultants?
SAP product development chief Bernd Leukert demonstrated at length a new, guided configuration application customers can use to set up S/4HANA for their particular job role. The process seemed intuitive and—dare we say—easy.
The guided configuration application makes cost for setting up an S/4HANA system more manageable, according to Plattner. “Why the hell should anyone spend days, weeks with a consultant to set up one system?”
5. Core Questions Need to Be Answered
“SAP wants to make this a big launch but re-iterated a lot of what we know already [about HANA’s benefits for applications],” says Holger Mueller, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “The key statements of starting from scratch for a next-generation system have been made by Plattner and have been compelling, but how S/4HANA is different from Suite on HANA was not clear, and SAP will have to do some clarification work ahead.”
We’ll have much more on SAPS/4 HANA this week on ASUGNews.com, including details on migration paths, road maps and pricing. Now read ASUG CEO Geoff Scott’s commentary on the launch right here.