SAP Hybris rolls out its modular microservices marketplace. Is this a better approach to building an ecosystem?

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The name may not roll easily off the tongue but SAP Hybris is hoping that YaaS, its new Hybris as-a-Service platform, will help it strike a blow to Salesforce.

Marketplaces and platforms are the holy grail for every enterprise vendor. Having seen the success of the Apple App Store (and, more latterly, Google Play) in the consumer space, enterprise vendors are racing headfirst to create their own destinations where customers can mix and match services from a number of different independent software vendors (ISVs). Hybris, the SAP division focused on customer-facing solutions, is rolling out its own offering: Hybris as a Service, or YaaS.

[Disclosure: SAP Hybris announced the general availability of YaaS at its summit in Munich. SAP Hybris contributed to my travel and expenses to attend the event.]

Hybris is betting big on YaaS and suggesting that the "first-generation" cloud marketplaces, in particular Salesforce's Force.com, are limiting in that they assert too much control over the ISVs in terms of languages and approaches to building products. YaaS, on the other hand, is built on top of the Cloud Foundry platform as a service (PaaS) and borrows much from the modern application development approach of using modular so-called microservices.

YaaS is, if you believe the buzz from Hybris CEO Carsten Thoma, more of a framework than a locked-down platform. Not only does it allow ISVs to chose their programming languages and frameworks, but it also has an element of on-platform tools and services to make life easier for the ISVs trying to build solutions on top of it.

Hybris was eager to differentiate YaaS from Salesforce's platform, telling another journalist that "[Force.com is] not a flexible, extensible platform. You have vendor lock-in, the platform technology isn't very contemporary, they've never really reconciled the different acquisitions they have made and they've basically taken what was on-premises software and created a cloud version of that. But not really evolved past that point."

Of course, it's a pretty brave competitor that suggests Force.com, with its amazing market success, isn't really delivering what customers or ISVs need -- but then, bluster and smack talk aren't exactly unusual occurrences in this industry.

Of course, the talk and the actuality are sometimes two different things, and in off-the-record discussions with ISVs and Hybris partners at the show, I heard some rumblings that Hybris is making it too hard for ISVs to actually bring products built on YaaS to market.

This is a mistake that has been made countless times before. Financial software vendor Intuit, for example, made this very mistake when it introduced its own platform five or so years ago. The Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) required ISVs to jump through some pretty big hoops in order to be certified to sell through the platform. It tended to take months for ISVs to get a product certified and approved -- this drag is a big de-motivator for ISVs to build products. It's one thing putting effort into the engineering and development of a product, but it's another to have to juggle seemingly pointless certification tasks.

The other interesting factor is how this plays out with the SAP mother ship's intentions with regards to PaaS. Could YaaS, or at least the YaaS approach, be broadened to cover the entire SAP world? That's an intriguing prospect that only time, or some industrial espionage, will answer.

It will be interesting to see the uptake for YaaS that Hybris gets and whether its approach toward certification and approval changes in light of ISVs concerns.

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