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Salesforce upended the traditional market for customer-relationship management software led by Oracle and SAP more than a decade ago, and it hasn’t looked back. Now SAP thinks it’s time for customers to consider a new approach to managing their sales and marketing activities, hoping to convince its database customers who have stayed to give it a shot.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott (left) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discuss the partnership between the two companies in 2017. (Microsoft Photo)

SAP C/4HANA is a new collection of sales and marketing management software unveiled Tuesday morning at SAP’s Sapphire conference in Orlando, Fla. In one of the more honest (yet still self-serving) quotes I’ve ever seen included in a press release, SAP CEO Bill McDermott said “SAP was the last to accept the status quo of CRM and is now the first to change it.”

The idea seems to involve convincing SAP customers that still use its database and enterprise-resource planning software to avoid defecting to Salesforce, which has posted steady gains over the last several years thanks to its flagship web-based salesforce management software. Salesforce has also been adding marketing and management software to its portfolio over the last few years, but it doesn’t have the big database or ERP software products that make up the bulk of SAP’s revenue.

SAP doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often in the enterprise computing world as other companies in this market, probably because its age and European heritage make it unfamiliar to Silicon Valley types building businesses in the cloud era. But there are still lots of customers running SAP’s databases both on their own managed servers and in the cloud. At Build 2018 in May, Microsoft’s Mark Russinovich, who will be speaking at our GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit June 27th in Bellevue, Wash., explained how Microsoft built a custom server configuration for Azure customers that wanted to run SAP’s memory-intensive HANA database on its cloud.

Microsoft also introduced several new computing instances designed for SAP users Tuesday at Sapphire, offering up to 12TB of memory for SAP customers in one instance and rolling out several others certified to work with SAP HANA. Microsoft and SAP signed a collaboration deal last fall to work together on helping SAP customers using their own servers move to the cloud.

Amazon Web Services got in on the act as well, announcing a new partnership with SAP’s U.S. subsidiary that provides database services to government customers. SAP NS2 customers using the secure version of the HANA database can now run that database in AWS’s GovCloud service, which has been certified as good enough for government work. This could be another boost for AWS as it looks to capture the Department of Defense’s big JEDI cloud computing contract, in that departments that want to use SAP’s databases for their applications have a secure place on which to run it.

And Alibaba also announced Tuesday that it now supports SAP users on both Linux and Windows through its cloud services, as part of a multiyear partnership between the two companies to support SAP users in China looking to run on Alibaba’s cloud.

Editor’s Note: Salesforce is a GeekWire annual sponsor.

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