SAP AG (SAP) plans to show this week it has learnt from a flawed venture into Internet-based software five years ago with its new strategy for cloud-computing, months after the $3.4 billion purchase of SuccessFactors Inc.
Investors’ attention at SAP’s Sapphire conference in Orlando, Florida, will be on Lars Dalgaard, the SuccessFactors founder who joined SAP’s global management board last month. Dalgaard plans to explain how SAP can generate 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in sales from software delivered over the Web by 2015 to help the Walldorf, Germany-based company reach its 20 billion-euro revenue target by then.
The market for on-demand software will grow five times faster than the traditional on-premise programs that are dominated by SAP, according to researcher IDC. With the cloud-computing market already crowded with providers such as Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), SAP will need to show how it can apply SuccessFactors’s strength in delivering cloud applications to its core money makers, programs that run routine functions like financial accounting and inventory management.
“To really make the cloud an opportunity rather than a threat they need to move their traditional functionality to the cloud,” said Leon Cappaert, who manages 400 million euros, including SAP shares, at KBC Asset Management in Brussels. “The worst-case scenario for SAP would be if a big cloud competitor rises that has all the functionality that SAP has built.”
Cappaert cited Salesforce.com, the biggest provider of online customer-management software, NetSuite Inc. (N) and Workday Inc. as the main rivals SAP has to tackle in that market.
SAP first got into cloud-computing in 2007 with its Business ByDesign software, which offered more bite-sized management tools to companies with 100 to 500 employees that couldn’t afford to set up their own servers and install SAP’s staple software.
The product, which cost $500 million to introduce, fell short of plans and was revamped and introduced again in 2010. By the end of last year, the on-demand software attracted more than 1,000 clients, still far less than SAP’s initial targets.
Companies are turning to cloud computing as a secure way to outsource data centers and reduce the need for pricey servers and other hardware. Forrester Research Inc. (FORR) last year estimated that the software-as-a-service market will grow to $133 billion by 2020 from $21 billion last year.
SAP’s confidence in SuccessFactors, which specializes in software used to manage employee performance, made it pay a 54 percent premium to SuccessFactors’s share price in December. SAP Co-Chief Executive Officer Bill McDermott called SuccessFactors the “crown jewel” in the industry and Dalgaard, a 44-year-old Danish-born executive who speaks eight languages, “the best cloud executive in the world.”
“It is critical for Mr. Dalgaard to demonstrate how he will integrate the SuccessFactors’s and other cloud applications into SAP’s core systems, without impeding SuccessFactors’s innovation,” Adam Wood, a Morgan Stanley analyst in London, wrote in a May 11 note.’’ As companies become more willing to run applications in the cloud, we believe the integration question could become more important.’’
McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, who have been running SAP as co-CEOs February 2010, also oversaw the acquisition of Sybase Inc., which added database technology and software for smartphones and other mobile devices to SAP’s product range.
At the three-day summit, SAP also plans to unveil applications for its Hana software, which lets clients rapidly analyze large amounts of data by bypassing slower hard drives.
Some of the most recent applications include sifting through cancer patients’ genetic information within seconds to help suggest therapies, a process that would normally take hours or days.
The German company said today its partner Utopia Inc. agreed on an alliance with MetaScale to offer software based on the Hana platform.
SAP is also using Hana to target the No. 2 spot by 2015 in the $22.5 billion database market that is dominated by Oracle, taking on providers including International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Teradata Corp. (TDC)
The Germany company wants to displace some of the Oracle database that’s sold alongside its applications and replacing that with Hana installations. Hana software to more than double sales this year from 160 million euros, SAP said.
SAP will also reinforce its mobile-software offering by making applications available via the cloud, Sanjay Poonen, the company’s head of global solutions, said in an interview. Plans include hosting mobile-device management system on Amazon Web Services, he said this month.
The German company today announced mobile apps include one that allow workers to file expenses on the go on devices including Research In Motion Ltd. (BB)’s BlackBerry and smartphones based on Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android platform.
Still, as SAP’s top brass gather in Florida, they need to reassure shareholders after first-quarter license sales, including Hana, missed estimates. So far, investor confidence helped send the stock 20 percent higher this year, compared with Oracle’s 5.3 percent gain. Salesforce.com, an early entrant into the cloud-computing market, has jumped 36 percent.
“SAP is one of the few stories within the European technology sector that investors are really excited about because they have these specific new product cycles which should help them support their growth,” KBC’s Cappaert said. “If Hana disappoints again and we don’t get positive signals from the conference, then the stock may be under pressure.”
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