SAP Claims 'Security Breaches At Salesforce.com'

Last Updated Jul 23, 2009 11:05 AM EDT

Incredibly, SAP would still rather talk trash about software-as-a-service (SaaS) than bring its own innovative products to market.

During an interview on SAP TV (approximately 57 seconds into the video), SAP's CTO, Vishal Sikka, tried to portray SaaS as the "cheap" and unreliable bastard child of surviving dot-com era companies. Then, about two minutes into the sit-down, Sikka talks about "the problem of integrity. The other day, two days ago, Google mail went down for a long time. We have heard about security breaches at Salesforce.com."

Security breaches at Salesforce.com? This sit-down took place in April of this year, and I haven't heard of any breaches at Salesforce, not the other day, not in months, not in years. And don't take just my word for it. Earlier this year, Rebecca Wetteman of Nucleus Research told CNET Internet security reporter Elinor Wills that
the security concern with cloud computing is a cultural issue... So far, there haven't been any significant security breaches with an on-demand services vendor.
If Sikka has "heard about security breaches at Salesforce," he should enlighten the rest of us.

But accuracy isn't really an issue given that Sikka's purpose in this interview was clearly to denigrate SaaS. Maybe he thought that it wouldn't matter what he said because the interview was for a cheesy internal video. Apparently no one told him it would be posted to YouTube.

Earlier in the interview, he stated that SaaS creates additional islands of data which "make the integration problem worse for our customers, not better." That doesn't make the remotest bit of sense to anyone who deals with business software; there are going to be integration issues with any other software, whether on-premise or hosted in the cloud. The relevant issue is who helps you deal with it better, and in this case it looks like it's Salesforce, which has made it easier for its customers to integrate its systems with those of SAP by supporting data integration vendor Informatica's data connector since 2007.

In Part 1 of that same sit-down with SAP TV, Sikka tried to create buzz around a highfalutin' idea he dubbed "timeless software" which, supposedly in contrast to SaaS, allows SAP to deliver "innovation in a way that is not disruptive to our customers." So far, of course, SAP has proven itself incapable of bringing products to market in a timely manner, whereas Salesforce.com introduces new features every quarter. I've reported that those updates have created weekend outages in the past, but the bigger picture is that Salesforce has proven itself far, far more adept at innovating without disrupting its customers' business processes than SAP.

Sikka's rant about integration isn't isolated to that one sit-down either -- he repeated this canard to Stacey Higginbotham during GigaOM's June 2009 Structure 09 conference in San Francisco, saying SaaS creates "fairly significant integration problems for their IT departments to deal with."

SAP has been desperately trying to show that it's turning over a new leaf when it comes to focusing on customer needs in general, and SaaS in particular, and as I've noted in earlier posts, has been innovative in certain areas. But while I could see Sikka as a rogue elephant in the organization, his remarks are familiar to anyone who has covered SAP for any length of time, and are probably an accurate reflection of a corporate culture that wishes it could go back in time and crush SaaS in the cradle, before customers got crazy ideas in their head about customer service, continual improvements and subscription pricing.

Failing any real progress, it seems that SAP prefers denigrating its rivals to trying to match or surpass them.

[Image source: Michael Marlatt via Flickr]
  • Michael Hickins

    Michael Hickins has written about technology and business for BNET, InformationWeek, InternetNews.com, eWEEK -- where he was executive editor from 2007-2008 -- The Curator, Pseudo.com, Multex Investor, Reuters, and Conde Nast's WWD.com. Hickins is the author of The Actual Adventures of Michael Missing, a collection of short stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1991. He also published Blomqvist, a picaresque novel set in 11th century Europe, in 2006. Hickins remains passionately interested in the intersections of business, technology, politics and culture, and endures a life-long obsession with baseball. He is married with two children and lives in Manhattan.