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Protocol | Enterprise
Your guide to the future of enterprise computing, every Monday and Thursday.
Image: Kristine Wook / Protocol

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s SaaS.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s SaaS.

Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Monday: why enterprise tech firms are so eager to help with the vaccine rollout, Christian Klein on his tough road ahead transforming SAP and the new skirmish in the open-source community.

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The Big Story

Software to the rescue?

The global vaccination effort is proving to be just as difficult as everyone predicted — but name a software firm, and it's probably trying to help.

Even setting aside the challenges of actually shipping and storing the temperature-sensitive treatments, each state in the U.S. is managing its own distribution efforts, creating a patchwork system that complicates nationwide tracking efforts. Compounding that problem, issues with the underlying data are sending health officials in places like California, Texas and Virginia scrambling to figure out just how many people have been vaccinated.

What's startling is the scale of what's still to come: Right now, just a small segment of the world's population is being dealt with. Expand it out to the nearly 15 billion vaccines that will need to be administered across the globe over the next year, to people who need to be tracked to know who has received it, and the world is facing "the greatest workflow challenge of our time," according to ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott. It's why the company is launching a new product to help enterprises and governments manage the task:

  • Released on Monday, the Vaccine Administration Management System, built on ServiceNow's customer service management platform, is designed to help providers schedule appointments and notify potential recipients when vaccines are available or their population is eligible to receive it, among other services.
  • Much of the system is automated, so when an eligible individual enters their basic health information, it then schedules both the first and second appointments at the most sensible location and sends that information to the provider — which seems much more intuitive than using Eventbrite.
  • Some ServiceNow customers, such as the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and NHS Scotland, are already using existing technology from the company that is customized for vaccine efforts.
  • The new release follows other coronavirus-related application releases from ServiceNow in 2020, such as an emergency communication system, which is in use by customers including the Washington State Department of Health.

The products will be improved over time, a reflection of the sense of urgency to get the systems out into the wild as soon as possible.

  • ServiceNow's current version of the Vaccine Administration Management System, for example, doesn't let users independently create logins for the platform, posing a potential hurdle for municipalities that want to use it. That is set to change on the next release, scheduled for two weeks from now.
  • "It's high engineering, agility, so we can constantly keep hearing what customers are requesting … and build something that is truly useful and relevant," said Abhi Rele, ServiceNow's director of outbound product management.

Part of the reason for deploying these tools is demand among corporate clients for a central system to oversee the vaccination status of their own employees, ServiceNow GM Mike Luessi told Protocol. It shows that, while the early vaccine rollout has been a government-led initiative, enterprises also anticipate a need to manage it internally.

  • "Customers across the board are going to want to leverage these capabilities and then do the ongoing vaccinations within their workplaces," Luessi said. "What they really want are modular pieces that fit in. They truly want something that sits in the middle that can [serve] as a system of action."

The business opportunity here is evident. You can tell by looking at all the other enterprise tech firms that have moved quickly to release new products to help aid in the COVID-19 response.

  • Earlier this year, Salesforce released, a platform that helps customers with contact tracing, return-to-work plans and other pandemic-related challenges. It's currently in use by 43 states, according to the company. Salesforce did not respond when asked how many private enterprises are also employing the tool.
  • And 30 government entities, running the gamut from international to federal, state and local agencies, are tapping technology from the company to help specifically with vaccine administration, per a spokesperson.
  • Just this morning, Google explained how its tech was being used by other companies to improve vaccine distribution.
  • Other top-tier providers such as Amazon, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Workday, as well as a slew of smaller organizations, are also touting their services.

Will software emerge as the ultimate savior when the dust settles on the pandemic? Probably not. But that's not the ultimate goal for the providers: Instead, the pandemic served as a major leap forward for the industry more broadly that could prove lucrative for years to come.

  • Early on, companies and governments around the world very quickly realized the need to pivot to the digital world for … everything. And that's a demand that providers gladly stepped up to fill.
  • Now, many of those same entities are once again turning to those vendors to help with the vaccine distribution, another example of just how pervasive software is in today's world.

It's nearly impossible to envision a scenario where these ongoing digitization efforts don't continue, if not accelerate, for some time yet. And that's music to the ears of sales teams across the software industry.

— Joe Williams



For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

From Protocol | Enterprise

Trouble in open source: Elastic ramped up its feud with AWS, taking Elasticsearch and Kibana off of the permissive Apache 2.0 license and forcing AWS to fork the two projects. Legal experts think there may be a trademark case to be made, but whether it's worth the trouble remains an open question.

The German renaissance: In one day, Christian Klein became the sole CEO of SAP and a father (the latter, for the second time). That sort of trial-by-fire is something he's got to get used to: Klein has a tough road ahead in transforming the software vendor for the cloud era, but he has a strong vision and some early wins under his belt.

Uphill battle for the Alphabet union: The Alphabet Workers Union represents just 710 of the company's more than 200,000 employees in the U.S. That's a big problem, Anna Kramer reports, as recruiting additional members could prove challenging.

Coming Up This Week

Fourth-quarter earning announcements are already in full swing, but things ramp up for the software industry this week.

Jan. 26: Microsoft and AMD earnings

Jan. 27: SAP CEO Christian Klein hosts "RISE with SAP," Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins speaks at Bloomberg's "The Year Ahead" conference, ServiceNow earnings

Jan. 28: Atlassian earnings

Jan. 29: SAP earnings

Oh, and a little request: Send me any hot takes or research notes, as well as any noteworthy upcoming events that you know of, to include in future newsletters. I'm

In Other News



For Raj Hazra, who is senior vice president of corporate strategy and communications at Micron, there has never been a more thrilling time than this golden age of data. In this interview, Hazra describes how "we are now at the doorstep of taking things that we thought were science fiction and making them real, and it's only going to be exponentially faster going forward". Read more from Micron's Raj Hazra.

Thanks for reading. We'll be back with Protocol | Enterprise on Thursday.

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