SAP’s “River”, Among Other Advances into Cloud Computing

SAP, a leading ERP provider, is readying “River,” a cloud-computing platform that supports simple extensions to its on-premise ERP system. This is one among several cloud projects that SAP plans to release in the future.

Carbon Impact 5.0, the first River-based application, is slated for release next month, and will be run on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. SAP’s Carbon Impact series is software to help companies reduce energy costs and emissions.

Vishal Sikka, CTO at SAP, stated that River is meant to be a simple development platform, with applications that only have a few dozen screens and can be easily put together or extended. However, Sikka has also said that SAP has put “a significant amount of work” into data security and authentication, which “have been missing in many cases in the cloud atmosphere.”

River will be opened up later to other partners and ERP structures. “The first [application] is on Amazon, but the platform is designed to run on multiple clouds. Over time it will run on multiple clouds including our own,” says Sikka.

SAP has been working on River for the past eighteen months.

More complex cloud applications will be based on the platform behind BusinessByDesign, SAP’s on-demand ERP suite for middle-sized businesses. BusinessByDesign will have a wider release later this year.

Despite these forays into cloud technologies, SAP remains conservative. Sikka says that SAP does not plan on running ERP systems from public clouds anytime soon. “Technology’s just not at a point where you can run a mission-critical application on a public cloud,” he says. “There isn’t one contributing factor to it, but really several.”

Sikka alluded to familiar concerns such as data privacy, integration, and regulation. However, he also cited a perceived upside to cloud computing as another potential issue: the ability to scale resources up in down in accordance to demand.

“Mission-critical enterprise applications have lots of ways in which they tax the underlying resources of a system,” says Sikka. While on-demand applications such as’s CRM are more manageable, SAP’s Business Suite is too complex. “You’re running analytical things, you’re running long-running things, you’re running complex things like demand planning, workforce planning, things like that,” says Sikka. “A very uniform composition of simple hardware resources may not be the right [approach].”

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