SAP's Metamorphosis: Embracing the Cloud and Openness

NEWS ANALYSIS: At its Sapphire Now conference, SAP announced mobile security products based largely on partnerships and offered in a cloud-based environment.

Cloud computing

ORLANDO, Fla.—Manage the security of mobile devices for about $1 a device in the cloud? There was no bigger indication of how much cloud, mobile and big data have changed the technology landscape than SAP's announcement of a series of mobile security products based largely on partnerships and offered in a cloud-based environment running on Amazon Web Services. SAP, once known as a go-it-alone company operating in a closed proprietary environment, has embraced cloud computing and openness with fervor.

The mobile security products in large part had their genesis in the $5.8 billion 2010 acquisition of Sybase, but mobile has now been infused throughout the company to the point where mobility was a major focus of SAP Co-CEO William McDermott's keynote at this year's Sapphire Now user conference here (May 14-16). But it was the announcement of the 1 euro (about $1.11) pricing for mobile-device-management per device per month that illustrated the change at SAP and enterprise computing.

SAP (and its bitter rival Oracle) never discuss pricing, and CIOs can spend Excel hours trying to untangle software licensing and maintenance fees. I wrote an article championing Amazon Web Service's decision to focus on pricing at a recent Amazon conference, and it is great to see SAP picking up the thread. Talking about new products and services without detailing what users can expect to pay for those capabilities is an anti-publicity magnet.

The per-euro pricing was part of a wider security offering from SAP and uses Amazon Web services to offer customers scalable mobile-device-management capabilities without bearing the costs or lengthy time associated with deploying an on-premise solution. The SAP Afaria cloud edition is aimed at providing corporate technology departments with a management solution for organizations embracing the bring-your-own-device model for employees.

In addition, SAP announced a partnership with security vendor Mocana, which uses "app-wrapping" to offer corporate and third-party application security without engaging in extensive code rewrites. The partnership with Mocana further illustrated SAP's willingness to look beyond its corporate confines.

The Sapphire conference was kicked off by McDermott's keynote describing SAP as a "B2B2C" company incorporating the consumer focus as a strategic thrust. The addition of the "2C" was more about enabling customers to make new consumer offerings than SAP becoming a consumer company. In describing that change, McDermott leaned heavily on sports metaphors and later brought out CBS sportscaster James Brown, National Basketball Association Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank for emphasis and to introduce a new sports and media vertical operation at SAP.