But SAP also faces the marketing challenge of telling a cohesive story with all these moving pieces, Reed said. "If you create a platform, to make it easy for customers, it's got to make all kinds of sense to them."
In addition, SAP will have to explain how the PaaS strategy works alongside its push into packaged SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications with moves like the acquisition of SuccessFactors.
"That's what I'm looking to get at Tech Ed, a more coherent sense of what they're doing," Reed said.
SAP, like Oracle, is also coming a bit late to the PaaS party, according to another observer.
"The cloud-only providers have one great advantage: simplicity," wrote Frank Scavo, principal analyst with Constellation Research, in a recent blog post. "Everything Salesforce.com builds is on its Force.com platform. Likewise, enterprise cloud leaders such as NetSuite and Workday grew up with single platforms. Their platforms are relatively easy to explain and easy to understand."
"SAP, on the other hand, has a variety of on-premises and cloud systems," he added. "Furthermore, it has built or acquired a variety of database products and mobility applications and platforms. The SAP cloud platform must now deal with all of these products."
Scavo was recently briefed on NetWeaver Cloud by SAP over a two-day period, and it took a while for him to fully grasp the strategy, he said in an interview Thursday. "They do not have their story clearly messaged."
While it shows promise on many fronts, NetWeaver Cloud is likely to be of interest primarily to existing SAP customers and partners, according to Scavo.
Moreover, far fewer companies today are using PaaS compared to SaaS, Scavo said.
However, "long term, the big selling point for SAP is they've got tens of thousands of customers," he added.
It's conceivable, therefore, that NetWeaver Cloud could become attractive for developers who aren't in the SAP world and want to develop entirely new applications on the platform, hoping to sell into that customer base, much like has happened with Force.com, Scavo said. "It looks like SAP has a complete vision for PaaS, and we'll see if they execute on it."
Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com