Database Wars II: Different Players. Different Field. Different Result.

Eric Lai

Did you ever lay awake at night pondering why the expression is “knowledge is power,” not “data is power”? Yeah, me neither. But then I started thinking about the press conference that SAP is holding tomorrow.

As you might have read in the New York Times, Reuters, or Bloomberg, SAP (my employer) plans to announce some product news on Tuesday around mobile and data management software.

It’s a follow-up to our December announcement when we said we planned to become the no. 2 database vendor by 2015.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison thinks that we have to be “on drugs” to think we can play on its home turf.

Note to Larry: SAP is already no. 4 in databases, on the strength of a trio of Sybase products: ASE, used in just about every Wall Street firm; the market-leading columnar database, Sybase IQ; and the quietly popular (and versatile) SQL Anywhere.

And if you look at where data management is headed, SAP has already made other gains, and is poised to make even more.

Some historical perspective. I started writing about technology in the mid-90s, during the tail end of the decade-long first Database War. Oracle was emerging as the top dog in a pack of vendors that included IBM, Ingres, Informix, Sybase and Microsoft (which was still licensing SQL Server from Sybase at that time).

Powerful and huge, Oracle’s relational database was the perfect technology for that era. Big muscles were in. High school jocks chewed steroids like candy. An ex-bodybuilder (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was the most famous man in the world.

Challengers thought the way to beat Oracle was by getting bigger and stronger than it. So they all tried to prove they could store more rows of data or crunch transactions faster. As with bodybuilding and steroids, this fixation on performance led to artificially-enhanced benchmarks all around, which led to a distrust of benchmarks that lingers to this day.

Also, this strategy didn’t work. Take the last serious challenge to Oracle, the object-oriented database. Object-oriented, and, later, object-relational, databases were indeed more powerful at storing fast-emerging Web content such as videos, images etc.

So object-oriented vendors nerdishly talked up their speeds and feeds advantages. Besides running headlong into the emerging cynicism about benchmarks, there were two other problems with that strategy. For all its hype, the Web was – and is – just a niche of the broader enterprise market. And object-oriented vendors failed to cater to “bread-and-butter traditional business-data processing applications where high performance, reliability, and scalability are crucial,” former Informix CTO Michael Stonebraker said at the time. “Companies are justifiably loathe to scrap [relational] systems for a different technology, unless it offers a compelling business advantage, which has rarely been demonstrated by object-oriented databases.”

The Game has Changed

This leads me back to my original question, why nobody says “Data is power.”

That’s because raw numbers mean nothing. Numbers need to be sifted through, analyzed for patterns, applied to the right problems and displayed to the right level of detail for the viewer.

Only then can we humans can glean knowledge useful for making intelligent decisions.

This has always been true. But it’s become critical in the last decade, now that we can gather billions or trillions of data points in a short amount of time.

Here, SAP is already the leader. According to Gartner, SAP leads the $12.2 billion global Business Intelligence, analytic applications and enterprise performance management (EPM) market with 24% share, vs. Oracle’s 15.6% share.

The needs within data management are shifting, too, away from monolithic, over-built products towards efficient, focused solutions tailored for the problem to be solved.

This parallels what’s happened in popular culture. Gargantuan, oiled-up muscles seem stupid. What people care about is practical strength, such as a strong core, and lean, Bikram-toned torsos.

Take T-Mobile, which wanted to create personalized deals for its 30 million American customers by mining data from store cash registers, text messages and call centers. Using the HANA in-memory database, T-Mobile was able to slash the time to create tailored customer offers to 3 hours from one week.

That’s a reduction of 98%. And it’s a performance boost that a conventional relational database topped by an in-memory layer would be hard-pressed to achieve.

Don’t believe the FUD. HANA may be in-memory, but it “is a full, ACID-compliant database, and not just a cache or accelerator,” says SAP Executive Board Member in charge of Technology, Vishal Sikka. “All the operations happen in memory, but every transaction is committed, stored, and persisted.”

Analysts like Richard Sherlund of Nomura Securities call HANA “not just a new database” but “a new secret sauce to be leveraged in important new ways.”

How? Because SAP’s goal isn’t just to deliver HANA to market, but to ensure HANA (as well as ASE and IQ) support all of SAP’s key applications like Business Warehouse, BusinessObjects and its flagship ERP.

That turns HANA into a “disruptive technology that can accelerate growth for SAP, differentiate the SAP ERP, BI and BW, and make the company’s products stickier,” says Bernstein Research’s Mark Moerdler. He predicts HANA could be a $4.4 billion business by 2015 (it reaped 160 million euros ($212 million) in its first six months, well above its 100 million euro target).

That may sound daunting. At the same time, there are 110,000 companies that today run an Oracle database with an SAP application. HANA, or ASE, or IQ together provide multiple, potentially cheaper alternatives for each of those enterprises. In this way, we avoiding the mistake our predecessors made.

And SAP is going one further. We and our partners are building hundreds of mobile apps that deliver the right information to the right users at the right time in the right fashion (graphical dashboards that let users drill down with a swipe of a finger). Charite Berlin hospital is already equipping its doctors with a patient dashboard that pulls up real-time data using HANA.

The world has changed. We are drowning in data. Is your current database the best choice for keeping you afloat? There might be a better choice. Without giving anything away about Tuesday, that’s what SAP is delivering.


Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

Eric Lai previously worked in Enterprise Mobile Solutions Marketing at Sybase, an SAP company. His specialties include blogging, journalism, social media, marketing communications, content strategy and writing and editing.


awareness , News

Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


Why New Technology Has An Adoption Problem

Danielle Beurteaux

When 3D printing became a practical reality, in the sense that the actual printers became more efficient, less expensive, and more accessible to the average consumer, there was an assumption that the consumer 3D printing market was going to take off. We’d all have printers at home printing…. what? Our clothes? Toys? Spare organs?

That has yet to happen. 3D printing company MakerBot just went through its second employee layoff this year, driven by a market that’s developing much slower than predicted.

That same thinking is in play with a somewhat more prosaic technology – digital wallets. Apple Pay was released this year, as was Samsung Pay. There’s also Google’s Android Pay. During an earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We are more confident than ever that 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” But that expectation has yet to be realized, at least vis-à-vis consumers.

Consumers aren’t using any of the digital wallets en masse. According to Bloomberg, payments made via mobile wallets – all of them – make up a mere 1% of retail purchases in the U.S. The reason is that consumers just don’t see a compelling reason to use them. There’s no real reward for them to change from SOP.

Both these instances highlight a problem with assumptions about mass adoption for new technology – just because it’s cool, interesting, and accessible doesn’t mean a market-worthy mass of people will use it.

Who is more likely to use mobile wallets? Emerging economies without a stable financial and banking systems. In those environments, digital payments present a more secure and quicker method for purchasing. These are the same areas where mobile adoption leapfrogged older technologies because there was a lack of telecommunications infrastructure, i.e. many never had a landline phone to begin with, and they went directly to mobile. The value-add already exists. (But there are also security issues, to which consumers are becoming more sensitive. A hack of Samsung’s U.S. subsidiary LoopPay network was uncovered five months post-hack. Although one was expert quoted as saying the hackers may not have been interested in selling consumer financial info but instead in tracking individuals.)

Here’s some interesting data and a good point made: mobile payments are most popular in situations where the buyer already has his or her phone in hand and the transaction is made even quicker than swiping plastic. For example, purchases made for London Transit rides are responsible for a good portion of the U.K.’s mobile payments.

Mass technology adoption is no longer driven simply by the release of a new product. There are too many products released constantly now, the market is too diverse, and the products often lack a true raison d’être.

Learn more about how creative and innovative companies are finding their customers. Read Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers.


Mobile Marketing Continues To Explode

Daniel Newman

If your brand isn’t among those planning a significant spend on mobile marketing in 2016, you need to stop treating it like a fad and step up to meet your competition. Usage statistics show that today people live and work while on the move, and the astronomical rise of mobile ad spending proves it.

According to eMarketer, ad spending experienced triple-digit growth in 2013 and 2014. While it’s slowed in 2015, don’t let that fool you: Mobile ad spending was $19.2 billion in 2013, and eMarketer’s forecast for next year is $101.37 billion—51 percent of the digital market.

  1. Marketers follow consumer behavior, and consumers rely on their mobile devices. The latest findings from show that two-third of Americans are now smartphone owners. Around the world, there are two billion smartphone users and, particularly in developing regions, eMarketer notes “many consumers are accessing the internet mobile-first and mobile-only.”
  2. The number of mobile users has already surpassed the number of desktop users, as has the number of hours people spend on mobile Internet use, and business practices are changing as a result. Even Google has taken notice; earlier this year the search giant rolled out what many referred to as “Mobilegeddon”—an algorithm update that prioritizes mobile-optimized sites.

The implications are crystal clear: To ignore mobile is to ignore your customers. If your customers can’t connect with you via mobile—whether through an ad, social, or an optimized web experience—they’ll move to a competitor they can connect with.

Consumers prefer mobile — and so should you

Some people think mobile marketing has made things harder for marketers. In some ways, it has: It’s easy to make missteps in a constantly changing landscape.

At the same time, however, modern brands can now reach customers at any time of the day, wherever they are, as more than 90 percent of users now have a mobile device within arm’s reach 24/7. This has changed marketing, allowing brands to build better and more personalized connections with their fans.

  • With that extra nudge from Google, beating your competition and showing up in search by having a website optimized for devices of any size is essential.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) helps people find you online; SEO integration for mobile is even more personalized, hyper local, and targeted to an individual searcher.
  • In-app advertisements put your brand in front of an engaged audience.
  • Push messages keep customers “in the know” about offers, discounts, opportunities for loyalty points, and so much more.

And don’t forget about the power of apps, whose usage takes up 85 percent of the total time consumers spend on their smartphones. Brands like Nike and Starbucks are excellent examples of how to leverage the power of being carried around in someone’s pocket.

Personal computers have never been able to offer such a targeted level of reach. We’ve come to a point where marketing without mobile isn’t really marketing at all.

Mobile marketing tools are on the upswing too

As more mobile-empowered consumers themselves from their desks to the street, the rapid rise of mobile shows no signs of slowing down. This is driving more investment into mobile marketing solutions and programs.

According to VentureBeat’s Mobile Success Landscape, mobile engagement—which includes mobile marketing automation—is second only to app analytics in terms of investment. Mobile marketing has become a universe unto itself, one that businesses are eager to measure more effectively.

Every day, mobile marketing is becoming ever more critical for businesses. Brands that fail to incorporate mobile into their ad, content, and social campaigns will be left wondering where their customers have gone.


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photo credit: Samsung Galaxy S3 via photopin (license)

Daniel Newman

About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist