SAP has spent much of this year painting a broad vision of its plans for mobile applications, on-demand software and in-memory processing, but next week's TechEd conference in Berlin should deliver a much deeper dive for the vendor's worldwide community of developers and partners, observers say.
The biggest announcements should occur in a keynote by SAP CTO Vishal Sikka, which will also feature a look at the future of the company's NetWeaver middleware platform. The conference will be followed by a similar event the following week in Las Vegas.
Enterprise mobility is sure to be a key, if not the top theme at the conferences. SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott declared mobile devices to be "the new desktop" following the company's acquisition this year of Sybase, maker of a widely used mobile application platform.
In August, SAP promised a mobile platform that converges Sybase's technology with its own would be ready in nine months -- timing that seems to coincide with the company's annual Sapphire user conference.
While that work is presumably still ongoing, SAP should be able to give some valuable fodder to TechEd attendees eager for more details, according to Kevin Benedict, an independent consultant on enterprise mobility issues and an SAP "mentor," a title the company grants to particularly active community members.
For one, SAP can explain that developers can start using Sybase's Unwired platform today, and their work won't be lost once the back-end integration for the converged platform is complete, he said.
"The important part here is, how is SAP going to expose all of their business processes and services to outside SIs and partners?" Benedict added. "So it might be even more critical for SIs and partners to understand what the Sybase acquisition means to them, so they can align their architecture and development styles to align with [Sybase's platfom]."
Sybase has "traditionally been a very secretive and quiet company," not used to exposing strategies and road maps, he said. SAP's more open approach should help the partner ecosystem and customer base, according to Benedict.
The enterprise mobility market remains fairly nascent but is certainly heating up, according to a new report by Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman.
"Other than email and customer-facing mobile solutions, business use remains low -- use cases are limited primarily to field-based sales and service processes, and the applications are often custom-built to a single device platform," he wrote in part. "The opportunity to deploy mobile applications for enterprise business processes will change dramatically within the next two to three years."
SAP's on-demand application strategy will be another major focal point at TechEd.
The company is taking a multifaceted approach to on-demand software development. The platform underlying its Business ByDesign ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite for smaller companies will also be used to create line-of-business applications for large enterprises. SAP also has a platform code-named "River," for lighter-weight applications.
The Business ByDesign platform will gain the large enterprise capabilities next year with the release of feature pack 2.6, SAP has said.
On-demand software should get sufficient attention at TechEd, but attendees might also expect something splashy in the realm of in-memory analytics, said Jon Reed, an independent analyst and SAP mentor.
SAP is developing an in-memory database and has already announced plans to produce analytic appliances that harness in-memory processing. TechEd might be a logical place to show off the devices in action, Reed said.
For the most part, TechEd showgoers are there to gain practical information about how to get more from their SAP investments or sharpen their programming skills, versus soaking in splashy news announcements, Reed said.
Still, it's a sure bet that SAP will use the shows to deliver a message, namely that the company's various new technology efforts are morphing into a cohesive whole, Reed said.
"They're definitely salivating at the convergence of these themes," he said. "A lot of times, they haven't been perceived as being out in front. ... What SAP dreads is being tagged as legacy."
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com