In a new initiative aimed at boosting SMB sales, IBM and SAP have partnered on Project Kobi to speed up the implementation of SAP's ERP All-in-One on IBM's System i servers.
Craig Zieseniss, System i brand manager at IBM SA, says Project Kobi cuts down All-in-One implementation time from weeks to literally hours.
"SAP is viewed by a large sector of the SMB market as hard to implement, expensive and complex," Zieseniss says. "However, IBM and SAP believe this perception is inaccurate and based on SAP's strength and reputation in providing solutions for immenseley complex enterprise environments.
"It was decided that System i was the optimal hardware platform given the consistency of the software and middleware stack across all the models of these servers," he says. "That made it realistic to create standard, pre-configured images of SAP software which could be rolled out on servers according to the needs of individual customers.
"Pre-loaded infrastructure ensures quick and safe implementation without unexpected disruptions," Zieseniss says. "With the SAP applications ready to get to work in a matter of hours, a fast return on investment and fast imp[lementation at minimal cost and risk can reduce the overall project cost of SAP implementation on System i."
Derek Kudsee, channel executive at SAP, says Project Kobi "absolutely supports" the organisation's stated goal of securing 100 000 customers by 2010 – a SAP initiative that hinges on the SMB market.
"This is a very ambitious [goal] for a company coming out of the mainframe environment," Kudsee says. "And it is about us changing the our very nature as an organisation – partnering with partners like IBM to take on the volume market.
"The future of the volume market is not what we see today, so we are taking initiatives like Kobi and working with our VARs to drop in solutions at their customers," he adds. "If we look where IT is moving to, where the volume market is moving to, we need to understand appliance computing. It's like a washing machine – you put dirty laundry in, add detergent, and get clean laundry out. If you want to sell to 100 000 customers, you have to adopt this kind of model."
Frank Zimmer, from the International IBM SAP Competency Centre, says that while there are upwards of 3 000 SAP applications running on System i, IBM has not really reaped the benefits of this.
"We have been able to follow SAP's business trends, but we actually haven't increased market share," Zimmer says. "There really is huge market potential running SAP on System i, but how do we get there? It requires a game change. The sales cycles are too lengthy and too complicated and that is the reason for Kobi.
"The perception is that SAP solutions are too complex and only for large enterprises," Zimmer says. "Kobi is designed to overcome and address these issues."
Zimmer says that Kobi has simplified the implementation process of SAP on System i by reducing it from three or four weeks down to a matter, in most cases, of 17 hours. This, he says, has a number of benefits.
"VARs create a tape that is re-usable for multiple installations and restorable in one day," Zimmer says. "Saving on implementation time allows VARs to take on more volume; pre-defined, proven configurations reduce risk and ensure customer satisfaction; there is more flexibility, therefore more time to consult in other areas; and it provides access to new market segments – it opens doors to new accounts."
Adds Zieseniss: "We are working with resellers to provide complete offerings that include all the software, services, hardware, maintenance, support and finance for a three-year total cost of ownership package which is very attractive to SMB-type customers.
"We're making All-in-One offerings which are much more than just the ERP solution," he says. "In short, Project Kobi is awesome. I've had so much positive response from SAP and the SAP resellers as this is a solution which really addresses what customers are asking for."