As I begin getting ready to get ready for this year’s SAP SAPPHIREevent, the biggest SAP-focused event of the year, I can’t help but think of the routine that is almost on auto pilot now: hotel reservations, travel plans, registration, set up, booth schedules. While the masses take the same shuttles over to the same convention center, we all will be wondering about the “surprise” this year. Will it be noteworthy enough to make even the most hardened SAPPHIRE veteran nod his/her head approvingly and say “now THAT is interesting”.

Then, I heard it. “We are a database company”. That quote was from SAP’s Steve Lucas at a news conference in San Francisco April 11th. Is that a bold statement? Does it signal a paradigm shift at SAP? Or is it even a big deal?

It’s a pretty big deal. It may not be as dazzling as a caterpillar’s transformation to a butterfly, but it matters. It isn’t just the declaration itself but the actions that back it up. There is an amicably contentious relationship between SAP and Oracle, but these types of market reaching announcements, pitting the two goliaths head-to-head, have been more bluster than substance in the past. SAP has now drawn the competitive line in the sand.

Although currently sitting in a fairly distant fourth place, SAP announced their intention of becoming the number two database player by 2015. This could appear to be more of the same aforementioned bluster if not for the previous day’s news release of their outlined database and mobility strategies as well as the $500m financial incentive to switch.

There are those who would argue the strategy is overly ambitious considering the competitive environment and they don’t just mean Oracle. Microsoft is in a great position to gain momentum to sell more database licenses against both companies. Dynamics AX has shown to be attractive and scalable to mid-sized business at a highly competitive price point, and running SQL Server is the only option. It’s also worth noting SQL Azure, Microsoft’s cloud database, is being warmly received and nothing on SAP’s roadmap today addresses this issue.

There is no doubt this will be a considerable challenge for SAP. Making the case for swapping enterprise databases will be much harder than the anticipated short term successes of new customer deals and no one can say with any certainty how this will look years from now. But at this moment, I’m nodding and thinking “yes, that IS interesting”.

If you are attending SAPPHIRE, AT&T Hosting, Applications, and Cloud Services is exhibiting and will be moderating an interactive microforum of IT decision makers on the future of IT and what it means for their SAP applications. You may find it interesting as well.

Are you planning to go to SAPPHIRE? If so, we’d love to connect with you at the event. Even if you’re not going, reach out and let us know how we can help you with your managed SAP hosting needs.