Breaking Bad SAP HANA Boss Vishal Sikka Resigns

Great new technologies need genius innovators and passionate advocates.

Think Steve Jobs and Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, Larry Ellison and Oracle, Mark Benioff and Salesforce … and then there’s Vishal Sikka and SAP HANA.

While Sikka might not have created HANA in a garage or a dorm room, he was in a leadership position at SAP, in charge of innovation, when it was born. And from then until now, he has been its biggest champion, running around from city to city and client to client, promoting it with passion that is unmistakable and contagious. HANA flows through his blood.

Now he's walking away. Sikka resigned yesterday, triggering a flurry of questions and compliments on Twitter.


He was So Enthusiastic

Just over a month ago, at the Adobe Summit, Sikka spoke passionately about HANA.

“We’re building a next-generation cloud all powered by a little product called HANA. … It’s the fastest database system in the world,” he said.

And later, referring to Adobe Marketing Cloud’s relationship with SAP HANA, Sikka spoke about the in-memory database’s prowess with pride, “No matter how big that big data is, it's dead unless it gives our customers a holistic look at what is going on with their customers and creates an engaging experience for the end user.”

A few weeks earlier he had beamed when he spoke about how SAP’s Analytics team had won the “moonshot challenge.” The team, together with partners BMMsoft, HP, Intel, NetApp and Red Hat had developed the world’s largest data warehouse — 12.1 petabytes. It was recognized by Guinness World Records as such and is four times larger than the prior record.

“HANA beats the pants off of any database,” Sikka said when he spoke about it. He could not have been more enthusiastic — or proud.

Next he announced that HANA was coming to the Cloud.

It’s hardly the behavior of a guy who’s about to quit his job. 

So What Happened?

But that’s precisely what Sikka did last night, citing personal reasons for his immediate departure.

And while some in the media are speculating that Sikka left SAP because he wasn’t really that into his work (citing a nasty car accident several years ago), the more probable reason is that Sikka was about to be passed over for promotion into the top job.

It is expected that, after a shareholder vote later this month, Bill McDermott will become SAP's sole CEO.

Looking Ahead

Unless Sikka was offered the top job and turned it down, the news of his resignation will be upsetting to some, including investors. It's difficult to imagine how anyone could do much better than he did in building the fastest growing product in SAP’s history, which generates $1 billion or more in annual revenue.

We’re all eyes and ears, so keep us posted on Vishal Sikka sightings, from wherever you are in the world.

Title image from 2011 SAP Annual Report.