Notebook: Enterprise Execs Reveal More at Vortex

By Jim Louderback  |  Posted 2004-10-06 Print this article Print

Another day brings another quartet of strategies at the Vortex conference, this time from IBM, EMC, SAP and Microsoft.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Another day, another set of new buzzwords, as the parade of top IT execs continued. The most interesting vision came from SAP AG, which laid out a very clear strategy, differentiated from other top IT vendors. According to Shai Agassi, an executive board member at SAP, the company is focused on what it calls "applistructure," or the merging of applications and infrastructure. The company believes that this platform is the future—and it expects to capture a 25 percent combined share within a few years.
Agassi contrasted his companys approach with that of Oracle, which believes in combining the database and the infrastructure, and IBM, which is trying to merge applications with system software.
The only other company that sees the world like SAP does? "Microsoft is claiming to play that game," Agassi said. "Theres a network called MBF [Microsoft Business Foundation], and there is a claim that they will build a collection of objects … but it will take a lot of time." SAP, on the other hand, has "done the long, tedious, painful effort around the world in a hundred countries," he said. "Weve localized in each one of those countries. Weve done it in 25 industries with the pain of understanding the difference between a financial services and toothpaste company." Although the companys NetWeaver application-server platform was launched just this year, Agassi claims that 5,000 companies will be running it next year—or about 10 percent of its installed base. And unlike in years past, "We dont steamroll our partners. Wed like them to succeed as much as possible." So why does SAP still have a rapacious reputation? "Some of them do self-inflicted damage and then come back and blame it on us." Read more here about SAPs plans for NetWeaver. Agassi went on to describe how the company is encouraging system integrators and ISVs to develop canned business processes that will run on SAPs platform. "We dont know how to do it. There is a space in there for startups that want to do (i.e. sell) another five (copies), or 50, and then not do 500, but do another 50 for the same audience. And build a catalog for the oil industry or the telco industry." When it comes to the war over data and business processes, Agassi defined three critical battles: who owns the data, who owns the metadata (i.e. the definition of a "customer" or an "invoice)," and then who owns the meta-metadata (or the repository). He said the master battleground that everyone wants to win will be fought around three asset areas—financial, manufacturing and product—and three relationship areas—employees, customers and suppliers. Certain companies are already doing a good job in some of these areas. Ariba has a strong position in manufacturing, and is taking a leadership position in customer data, but SAP wants to own it all. And SAPs position is that theres value in getting it all from one place. Agassi was extremely negative about Oracles chances in the marketplace, characterizing the PeopleSoft move as "a great mistake." Thats because SAP stands to gain as many PeopleSoft customers as Oracle does in the long run—without the multibillion-dollar price tag. SAP sees the database, and by extension Oracle, as a commodity. "That layer [database] is truly commoditized," Agassi said. "The stickiness that has remained isnt a feature; its a knowledge stickiness. Its how many Oracle DBAs in the market that have a comfort zone with Oracle. How long does that go before a MySQL with the right capabilities, or DB2 or SQL Server, comes in and completely depresses the prices in the market?" Next Page: An IBM vice president calls for "integration on all levels."

With more than 20 years experience in consulting, technology, computers and media, Jim Louderback has pioneered many significant new innovations.

While building computer systems for Fortune 100 companies in the '80s, Jim developed innovative client-server computing models, implementing some of the first successful LAN-based client-server systems. He also created a highly successful iterative development methodology uniquely suited to this new systems architecture.

As Lab Director at PC Week, Jim developed and refined the product review as an essential news story. He expanded the lab to California, and created significant competitive advantage for the leading IT weekly.

When he became editor-in-chief of Windows Sources in 1995, he inherited a magazine teetering on the brink of failure. In six short months, he turned the publication into a money-maker, by refocusing it entirely on the new Windows 95. Newsstand sales tripled, and his magazine won industry awards for excellence of design and content.

In 1997, Jim launched TechTV's content, creating and nurturing a highly successful mix of help, product information, news and entertainment. He appeared in numerous segments on the network, and hosted the enormously popular Fresh Gear show for three years.

In 1999, he developed the 'Best of CES' awards program in partnership with CEA, the parent company of the CES trade show. This innovative program, where new products were judged directly on the trade show floor, was a resounding success, and continues today.

In 2000, Jim began developing, a daily, live, 8 hour TechTV news program called TechLive. Called 'the CNBC of Technology,' TechLive delivered a daily day-long dose of market news, product information, technology reporting and CEO interviews. After its highly successful launch in April of 2001, Jim managed the entire organization, along with setting editorial direction for the balance of TechTV.

In the summer or 2002, Jim joined Ziff Davis Media to be Editor-In-Chief and Vice President of Media Properties, including, Microsoft Watch, and the websites for PC Magazine, eWeek and ZDM's gaming publications.


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