Oracle bash SAP Cloud ERP


Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay

In the recent earnings call for Oracle’s Q3 FY21 results, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison once again went on the offensive against SAP when it comes to their ERP capabilities.

First, some background…

At the 27th Citi Technology Investors Conference in September 2020, SAP CFO, Luka Mucic, said that SAP hadn’t lost a single ERP customer to Oracle. This was in response to a question based on Larry Ellison’s claims during a previous Oracle earnings call that Oracle were making inroads into SAP’s top 10 customers and were moving into their top 50 accounts too. Mucic said:

We are not aware of any competitive replacement. We actually are aware of quite a few we have competitively replaced other ERP solutions from our traditional competition through S/4HANA recently

He then said:

 “I think also the relative growth that we are able to post versus that traditional competitor…actually speaks the clear language…perhaps at some point there will be more transparency given to us [as to] which customer…exactly [the] competition is talking about.”

and finished off by clearly stating:

“I have checked and we have not lost a single customer.”

SAP SE (SAP) Management Presents at Citi’s 2020 Global Technology Virtual Conference – (Transcript) | Seeking Alpha

Ellison stated:

In Q3 alone [Oracle] signed contracts, totalling hundreds of millions of dollars to migrate several very large SAP ERP customers, to Oracle Fusion ERP

And then, clearly in response to Mucic’s request for more transparency as to which customers are involved, he went on to list over 100 customers that have, or are in the process of, switching from SAP to Oracle Fusion ERP! Customers listed included:

  • TPS Company
  • G4S
  • First Solar
  • CEMEX
  • New Zealand IRS
  • University of The Andes
  • Postcon (2nd largest mail carrier in Germany)
  • Birmingham City Council (in the UK)
  • Fedex
  • Grupo Bimbo
  • Natwest Group
  • The largest private company in Belgium

And there were plenty more too.

These are all customers that Ellison claims have replaced all their SAP with Oracle, or they’re in the process of doing so. He had another section of the list for organisations that are purchasing Oracle ERP but still running SAP ERP too and said it is Oracle’s expectation is that “the vast majority” of those organisations will ultimately move entirely across to Oracle ERP.

He finished off by saying:

SAP, the once-dominant on-premise[s] ERP market leader is currently not competitive in the cloud ERP market. … SAP … never rewrote their ERP system for the cloud and it’s too late for them to start now

When asked why this SAP to Oracle migration is happening now, Ellison had more to say about SAP’s strategy:

SAP instead, embedded their own database called HANA and focused on this new database and never really rewrote their ERP code for the cloud. I mean, it’s just an unbelievable error. S/4HANA in the cloud is … not a cloud product at all. It is the 35-year-old … programming language called ABAP

and finished with:

“SAP really is more responsible for our leadership position than we are”

Conclusion

It’s difficult to know what the facts are here. SAP clearly stated they haven’t lost any customers to Oracle…but Oracle have publicly listed dozens of customers they say they’ve taken. They can’t both be right…but surely neither would have made such false claims? I can only assume there’s a way that they ARE both right…perhaps different definitions of what “losing” a customer is?

These two companies have long been rivals but things really seem to be heating up now. Whether this is because Oracle truly believe they’re the stronger option or this is a case of “the best form of defence is attack” remains to be seen but either way, this escalating ERP battle us sure to have an impact on customers.

If you’re an SAP ERP customer, can you use this to your advantage? Will the mere mention of looking at Oracle ERP prompt SAP to offer discounts and favourable terms in your next negotiation?

Maybe there’s no smoke without fire and Oracle really ARE miles ahead of SAP now (disclaimer – I have no idea!). If so, should you seriously evaluate them before moving to SAP S/4 HANA?

I’m intrigued to see the next steps in this conflict for sure!

Further Reading

Oracle Q3 FY21 earnings call transcript

CITI Conference transcript

New Microsoft Industry Cloud offerings


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Back in May 2020, Microsoft announced Cloud for Healthcare – their first vertical specific cloud offering and it launched in October that year. Microsoft Cloud for Retail was announced in January 2021 and now, following Ignite 2021, they have announced three more:

  • Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services
  • Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing
  • Microsoft Cloud for Non-profit

Why ?

One of the great benefits of public cloud – the ability to pick and choose from an almost endless array of options and combine them in a seemingly infinite number of combinations – can also be a huge weakness. For some industries, it’s more important to have an “Out of the Box” offering that does what they need and, most importantly these days, be super secure while it’s doing it.

Plugging various different cloud services together is often where security gaps start to appear – a slight misconfiguration here, a forgotten port there – and that can means certain industries are less enamoured with the cloud. Equally, from a portfolio perspective, knowing which different products do exactly what you need and which ones can be combined to help you achieve your goals can be perplexing and overwhelming.

These pre-built cloud packages for different verticals aim to address both of those issues as well as introducing brand new features aimed at vertical specific issues.

Microsoft Cloud for Retail

A combination of Microsoft products including Azure, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Teams, Bing, Advertising among others, this is largely driven by changes brought about by COVID-19 and the (even greater) shift to online shopping. It focuses on areas of importance to Retail such as:

  • Personalising e-commerce for customers
  • Digital advertising
  • Worker collaboration
  • Anywhere purchasing
  • Customer service
  • Analytics
  • Inventory management

For more info, and to join the preview, check out the Microsoft Cloud for Retail website here.

Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services

This combines products including Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, and Power Platform in a solution designed to comply with regulatory and compliance frameworks in what is a highly regulated industry. It offers functionality in key areas including:

  • Customer acquisition
  • Customer support
  • Loan management
  • Risk management

For more info, and to join the preview, check out the Microsoft Cloud for Financial Services website here.

Microsoft Cloud for Manufacturing

This vertical offering combines Azure, Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365, Power Platform, AI, HoloLens and more to address manufacturing specific needs such as:

  • Frontline worker enablement
  • Health & Safety
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Supply chains
  • Selling in a digital world

The preview isn’t available yet (it’s expected by June) but for more info, check out the Microsoft Cloud for Retail website here.

Microsoft Cloud for Non-profit

This combines Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, Power Platform, and LinkedIn to help charities better connect with their supporters and volunteers, make better decisions, and reach their goals faster.

There’s not as much info available for this offering yet but you can see more here and register for a webinar to learn more about this offering on March 30th here.

Microsoft Product Terms, February 2021


Microsoft have stopped producing the standalone Product Terms document and have officially launched the Product Terms website as a replacement.

I’ve been a big fan of the Product Terms document for a long time and I’m not 100% happy about this change tbh! The ability to filter the site by program (EA, MPSA etc.) and product (M365, SQL etc.) will probably make it less confusing for many people – showing only the info that’s relevant to their search.

However, being able to see everything altogether was great for spotting any changes, missing bits etc. that Microsoft hadn’t highlighted and that isn’t as easy on the new site.

My initial concern was that not having a point in time downloadable copy would put customers and partners at a disadvantage, giving them nothing to reference in future conversations. However, having played with the site a little bit it turns out you can download a document from the site. It’s quite similar to the previous document although you have to filter by program, so you don’t get a document that allows comparison across the different licensing options.

The changes in February 2021 are:

  • Addition of Microsoft 365 F5 SKUs (more info here)
  • Planning Services & Training Vouchers SA Benefits have been removed
  • The free Audio Conferencing promos for EA/EES/CSP have been extended to June 30, 2021
  • Clarification that the Microsoft 365 E3/A3 Unattended license doesn’t require a Qualifying Operating System
  • Updates to terms for Azure Maps and Cognitive Services

Microsoft 365 F5 licenses


Starting February 2021, Microsoft have introduced 3 new “frontline” SKUs:

  • Microsoft 365 F5 Security ($8)
  • Microsoft 365 F5 Compliance ($8)
  • Microsoft 365 F5 Security & Compliance($13)

These are available as add-ons to the existing Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 SKUs and include “the majority of capabilities” from the E5 versions.

The Microsoft announcement is here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/licensing/news/new_f5_security_and_compliance_offer_for_frontline_workers

Microsoft Azure Purview


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The latest Azure offering, Purview, is a “unified data governance” service to help organisations manage data across their ever expanding environments – including on-premises, IaaS multi-cloud (Azure, AWS etc.) and also SaaS services. According to Microsoft, Azure Purview will offer automated discovery and classification of data, a map of where it all resides and how it relates to each other, easy searching to locate data, and an overview of how data moves across your organisation.

Given the increasing amounts of data we all create and collect, combined with the rising threat of cyber attacks – at a personal, corporate, and national level – this is a welcome introduction.

Pricing

Azure Purview is (almost) free to try until February 28, 2021 but we can already see an overview of how it will be priced going forward.

First of all, you need to provision the “Data Map” – this is priced based on 2 things…Capacity Units and metadata storage.

Capacity Units

This is a set of resources provisioned in order to keep your Data Map up and running. One Capacity Unit can support “approx. 1 API call per second” and is currently priced at $0.342 per hour.

Metadata storage

This stores the metadata associated with the scanned assets which enables the searching capabilities within Purview. Microsoft talk about this being in a “graph” format – so this appears to be another element of the “Microsoft Graph” being surfaced as part of a product. Pricing is yet to be announced but will be on a per GB basis…I can well imagine many organisations finding themselves with a HUGE amount of this metadata storage!

Scanning

When it comes to scanning your environment, this is charged at $0.63 per “v-core hour” that you consume whilst actively scanning. Microsoft state there will be no “incremental charges” for connectors to 3rd party datastores.

Almost regardless of cost, I think many organisations will find it hard not to use this service – given the worries, risks, and potential fines that data mismanagement can bring. Microsoft have made another strong move to position themselves as an integral part of the future of business. Even if everyone stopped using Windows and Office tomorrow, Azure Purview (and other new services) would keep Microsoft at the forefront of many an organisation’s mind for years to come.

Further Reading

Azure Purview page

Azure Purview pricing

Microsoft and Nutanix hybrid cloud


Microsoft have announced a partnership with Nutanix to help organisations develop multi-cloud and hybrid cloud scenarios. Nutanix clusters will be added into Azure datacentres – extending on-premises Nutanix environments into the cloud:

https://www.nutanix.com/blog/hybrid-cloud-solutions-with-nutanix-and-microsoft-azure

Software and nodes will be paid for via “Microsoft Azure Consumption Commitment (MACC)” or PAYG, as well as existing Nutanix licenses being portable into Azure. Azure Hybrid Benefits can be utilised on the “Nutanix Clusters on Azure” and Microsoft’s Extended Support Updates are available too. Additionally, via Azure ARC, various Azure services – including Kubernetes – can be run in on-premises Nutanix environments.

Microsoft are really working to extend Azure to as many organisations as possible – VMware on Azure, Azure Stack, Azure Arc, and now this. It seems very much the approach they took to Office software on mobile devices – if you allow people to use your service alongside those from competitors, you end up in a better position that forcing them choose one or the other.

The service is currently in public preview – more info is available here and you can sign up to the waiting list here.

Microsoft and TikTok – really?


https://pixabay.com/photos/tiktok-social-media-app-tik-tok-5323005/

This whole Microsoft buying TikTok thing strikes me as very strange…I don’t see that it would be successful for anyone involved. The rumoured price tag of $30 – $50 billion means it’s not something you can take a punt on – even with Microsoft’s revenues and profits, that’s not a trifling sum of money!

Xbox aside, Microsoft don’t have a great track record when it comes to consumer products – Skype brand recognition seems to have dropped off massively since MS’s acquisition, Windows Phone (as awesome as it was!) never properly made it, and earlier in 2020, Microsoft shuttered “Mixer” – their game streaming platform – less than 4 years after acquiring it.

While it’s fair to say that Microsoft are now (again) considered a “cool” company, that’s a relative statement…being “cool” to 30+ year old people in tech roles who use LinkedIn is not the same as being “cool” to teenagers!

Any attempts to “Microsoft-ize” the platform would surely be the beginning of the end of TikTok’s success – causing the big users (and thus their millions of followers) to migrate to the next platform (i.e. Triller) and reducing the available data…which may be the focus of the purchase. Even if they let it run as a totally separate entity, I can’t help but wonder if just the fact it’s owned by Microsoft would be enough to put the core users off?!

Distractions

Another problem with this purchase would be the distraction it causes. Microsoft have done a great job under Satya Nadella of becoming a “true” Enterprise company – very focused on business, their customers, their goals, and their roadmap. Bringing TikTok into the organisation will distract pretty much every aspect of Microsoft:

Leadership – potentially opening them up to a whole world of scandals and issues around content, censorship, election interference, cyber-bullying, data breaches and more. Things which surely Microsoft would rather stay clear of?

Staff with new colleagues and new (or unclear) corporate strategy. Will they be side-lined for this new consumer focus? Will this affect their career path or budgets or bonuses etc.?

Customers – what does this mean for Microsoft’s strategy going forward? I’m sure some execs will start to wonder if it’s a good idea to bet their 10-year cloud strategy on the company that owns TikTok – are they the fully committed enterprise partner they want and need? Will they try and merge TikTok with Microsoft 365 and/or Dynamics 365?

I also think it will give so much ammunition to competitors like Amazon, Google, Oracle, Salesforce. They’ll be able to market to customers playing on the change in Microsoft’s direction, their lack of focus on business needs and enterprise customers, and the idea of having TikTok videos within business communications.

While data is massively important these days, and Microsoft will clearly have one eye on the future of tech and the company itself, I’m of the opinion that buying TikTok would be a mistake. Yes, they’d have access to many many millions of consumers…but would Microsoft really be able to make much use of them? I can’t see that direct advertising would work at all so one has to assume it’s more about data mining a la Facebook – I’d suggest that staying away from being tarred with that brush would serve Microsoft well in the long run.

Other options

Walmart have thrown their hat in the ring and are apparently looking to team up with Microsoft to purchase TikTok. This makes more sense than a solo Microsoft bid – US grocery retailers have been some of the leaders when it comes to mining and using consumer data with targeted vouchers/offers etc. This would give them a huge amount of extra data…for a new generation of consumers who, to a large degree, buy different things in different ways for different reasons than the generations before them.

Reports say that Walmart were already working with SoftBank to put a deal together but the US government pushed back due to a lack of cloud technology – hence the move to join with Microsoft.

Alternatively, Oracle are apparently also in the running to acquire TikTok. As much as I can’t really see it fitting into Microsoft, I definitely don’t see it fitting into Oracle. Again, I’m sure it comes down to access to data but I’m also sure that Oracle’s involvement would kill it even faster than Microsoft!

Who will eventually win out is unclear at the minute. The Trump administration has been oddly involved in this whole thing – in fact, they’re the reason it’s even happening – and that may influence the eventual new owner. Oracle have close relations with Trump – Safra Catz was on his transition team back in 2016 while Larry Ellison hosted (but didn’t attend) a fundraiser for Trump earlier in 2020.

The impact of Coronavirus on Microsoft Azure


There have been reports recently that some users in certain regions were hitting capacity limits in Microsoft Azure when trying to create new resources. Microsoft have shared some information around the impact the coronavirus epidemic is having on their cloud infrastructure:

  • 775% increase in cloud services (in regions performing lockdown)
  • Teams up to 44 million daily users, running over 900 million minutes of meetings and calls each day
  • Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) usage increased 3x
  • 42% increase in government use of Power BI for sharing COVID-19 dashboards

Some of these numbers are pretty mind-blowing and one can see how they might catch a cloud vendor by surprise.

Cloud Datacentre provisioning

Microsoft say they will be adding “significant new capacity” over the coming weeks to help support this increased use.

Something I’m sure Microsoft have considered is how much of this extra usage will continue?. What happens as things start to return to normal and some of this usage starts to drop off? They’ll be left with more unused capacity than their models anticipated – might this lead to them raising prices on certain Azure services in the future?

Prioritising certain services

Microsoft have detailed that they’re focusing the “highest level of monitoring” on services related to emergency services, medical supply management, healthbots, and more.

They have also introduced some temporary restrictions to help ease the load – free offers are being limited, to keep capacity available for “existing customers”, and certain resources are being “soft” limited for new subscriptions. Customers can raise support tickets to raise these soft limits, but Microsoft do say that other geographical regions may need to be used to help manage demand.

Teams changes

Microsoft have made a number of small changes to Teams in an effort to reduce bandwidth. They scaled back how often it checks for people’s “presence” (whether they’re online or not), reduced the video resolution, limited how quickly it shows if the other user is typing, and made OneNote within Teams read-only for non-education tenants. All small changes that won’t really impact users but, collectively, must make quite a difference to the bandwidth being used.

Further Reading

Microsoft update on cloud services continuity

Microsoft retire on-premises server certifications


Microsoft have been on a cloud push for 12 years now, since the launch of BPOS in 2008. They’ve been slowly “turning the ship” in various ways over the last decade, with the ultimate aim that as much of Microsoft is pointing at the cloud as possible. This is also a case of “trickle down (cloud) economics” – Microsoft are making their new direction reflect as much as possible within their partner base…and that change will then happen within Microsoft’s customers too.

Microsoft have made various changes to partner incentives, changed a few Software Assurance benefits related to training resources, and changed the Home Use Program – all aimed to drive cloud awareness in different ways. Their latest move is to retire all their on-premises server certification paths and exams related to the MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE qualifications that have been a staple of the Microsoft server world for years. The retirement date is June 30, 2020.

As you can see in this image from Microsoft, the recommended paths are now all cloud focused:

Microsoft alternative certifications
Taken from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/community-blog-post.aspx?BlogId=8&Id=375282

You can see a full list of what’s being retired, along with some FAQs, here – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/community-blog-post.aspx?BlogId=8&Id=375282

While not surprising given the focus on cloud, not just from Microsoft but across the industry, I do wonder if this is a little short sighted? There are still a LOT of on-premises servers in use and, with hybrid cloud being the de-facto way forward for most organisations, they will remain for a long time to come. Rightly or wrongly, this feels like Microsoft saying that they don’t care about on-premises anymore. I’ve seen MS people saying they’re still hiring lots of on-premises server engineers etc. and that may be the case, but this announcement will definitely be taken as a sign of their overall focus.

I’m often asked if Microsoft will continue to make on-premises versions of their software and, following this announcement, I can’t help but wonder if I need to rethink my answer…