"There are many things happening here that are good for users, good for the IT profession, good for business. It's just good, good, good," Pierce says. "You know, what's slowing this adoption are all the priests of the past -- all the preservationists. All the interests that are built up around the edifice that is enterprise software. ... Cloud computing is a dream come true."
Got data? Making sense of it all
Since the dawn of automated, electronic capture of corporate financial, operations, supply chain, HR and sales information data -- what's become, more or less, ERP -- companies have cumulatively spent billions, if not trillions, on managing and trying to extract value from their vast data repositories.
Accenture's Jim Hayes, the global managing director of its Oracle practice, says companies know what they want to do -- they see the value of business intelligence and analytics output for their users -- but they've often been stymied. "We know how to do transaction processing. We know how to close the books, capture orders, do pricing, allocate stock and support business with ERP," he says. "But the real promise was: How could we take this data and turn it into information? A lot of clients were asking about how we could help them unleash the value of that data. And then the [economic] meltdown happened. All of the sudden, there was a dramatic shift to: cost reduction." And many of those "unleashing the value" projects, he adds, have been put on hold.
Enterprises today are deluged with terabytes of data: their own internal data; customer and partner data; as well as new "unstructured" data flows -- from Internet-based social networks and mobile devices. But guess what? We ain't seen nothin' yet. During the next five years, Gartner predicts that the amount of enterprise data will grow by a jaw-dropping 650 percent. And the vast majority of that data will be unstructured, meaning not included or tied to any particular database, Gartner points out. This head-scratching growth, noted David Cappuccio, Gartner's chief of research for the infrastructure teams, "is going to cost us dearly if we don't pay attention."
Philip Say, vice president for SAP Business Suite, says that this area is, in fact, "one of the most exciting areas of innovation" going on at the company. "The depth, the volume, the detailed sophistication of all the data being generated -- from enterprise systems, e-mail and other corporate systems -- it's as if we're reaching a point where it's almost unmanageable for the end user and there's no question for the enterprise," Say adds. "As we look to the future, this is one of the more vibrant areas SAP is investing in."
Say points to the acquisition of Business Objects and those analytics applications, tools and developers working on solving this challenge. He also notes SAP's new in-memory tools and techniques that aim to manage huge chunks of enterprise data in fast, intuitive and easier ways than in the past. "This is ushering in a new definition of what we mean by ERP," Say adds.