SAP and Enterprise Trends Podcasts from Jon Reed (@jonerp) of diginomica.com
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 3. Follow Jon as he tries to get some straight answers on the upcoming NetWeaver releases and looks more closely at the Business Process Expert skill set of the future.

As always, Jon tries to not only identify the key technical trends, but to move the conversation into the question of skills - who will fill these new SAP roles, and what types of backgrounds will they need?

Jon asked SAP executives these questions. Listen to the podcast series to find out the answers he was given and what he thought of those answers.

Day 3 of the podcast series is Jon's review of his attempts to get SAP product reps on the same page with the exact release dates of NetWeaver 7.1 and what functionality will be included in each incarnation.

Jon found more mixed messages than agreement, but he was able to learn some information about the upcoming NetWeaver 7.1 components (PI, ESR, CE) and what their release dates are likely to be. He also asked a lot of questions about the future of ABAP, and found out the ABAP is indeed included in a number of NetWeaver components, and so is far from dead.

Jon talks about the innovations he encountered on Day 3 in the NetWeaver BI space, including the integration of Web 2.0 mashups using SAP BI and best-of-breed content providers. Jon shares some of the tools needed to do this work that might be worth adding to the skill set including MDX and the BI XMLA connector. He also talks about the power of Visual Composer as proven in the hands-on demonstrations he attended in this area.

Fresh off an evening at a hosted bar event where the best conversations always happen, Jon shares what he learned from the SAP customers at the event about where they were at with their implementations and whether they viewed eSOA as real or hype. Jon talked about the kinds of skills these companies are hiring, how much they train internally and the challenges they face hiring consultants on the open market.

Towards the end of the Day 3 wrap, Jon explains his new belief that there are really three types of SAP customers right now: eSOA leaders, eSOA followers, and those who could care less. Jon talks about the challenges a market faces when customers have such different needs.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed03.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:48am EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 2. Follow John through his frank reactions to the keynotes and press conferences, and get his quick reactions to the closed interview sessions Jon conducted, such as his group interview with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka.

As always, Jon tries to not only identify the key technical trends, but to move the conversation into the question of skills - who will fill these new SAP roles, and what types of backgrounds will they need?

Jon asked SAP executives these questions. Listen to the podcast series to find out the answers he was given and what he thought of those answers.

For the Day 2 podcast, the longest day of TechEd and the longest podcast in the series, Jon reacts to the executive keynotes and closed interview sessions he attended.

Editor's note: In the Day 2 podcast, Jon expresses some confusion that some attendees had about SAP Business By Design (BBD) and whether it was replacing A1S or was a separate product. It was later confirmed that BBD is in fact the same product as A1S, which is known as BBD going forward.

Reactions to Day 2 include:

- Responses to the keynote by Peter Zencke and friends, including the surprising emphasis on BBD as a big news item of the day.

- Jon talks about how this whole idea of "business network transformation" is really the same "extending the enterprise" talk SAP vendors have been pushing since the '90s, but that eSOA may finally give some technical teeth to the vision.

- Jon covers the latest SAP product innovations pushed during the keynote, including the SAP switch framework, the ES Workplace on SDN, and the ESR (Enterprise Services Repository). He also talks about the modeling tools that were demonstrated and the potential impact of the new Visual Composer, the new CE (Composition Environment), and the Eclipse development environment. Jon also notes the surprising lack of BI talk during the keynote, except for the BI Accelerator.

- Jon shares his reaction to the press conference after the keynote, where he posed the question of how the skills gap acknowledged by Peter Zencke was going to be filled. The executives on the panel noted an immediate demand for SAP Enterprise Architects and Business Process Experts. Jon gives his take on what he thought of these answers.

- Peter Zencke talked about how SAP customers are using SDN for training, and Jon notes the emphasis SAP is giving on training that goes beyond the classroom.

- Fresh back from his interview session with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka, Jon shares Vishal's take on SAP as a development platform, and whether he thinks ABAP is dead. Jon explains why Vishal thinks core functional and technical SAP skills will become commoditized. He shares Vishal's memorable quote on eSOA: "eSOA is a way to explain to management what APIs are." (Vishal was basically noting the eSOA simplifies the integration discussion in a way that management can understand and appreciate as a business case.

-Jon also talks about Vishal's point that "service-enabling" the entire SAP product line is a complex undertaking. For example, the Financials area of SAP is a high-stakes area that can get an executive in a jail cell if the right regulatory and compliance procedures (SAP GRC) are not followed. Jon explains why Vishal still believes in the power of eSOA despite these security challenges.

- Jon wraps the Day 2 podcast with reflections on a presentation from Cardinal Health on hands-on SAP eSOA lessons. Jon notes that the speaker, Brent Stutz of Cardinal Health, makes a good summary of "lessons learned" from eSOA, including doing the work of defining who owns the data. Jon also notes the point made during the session that SAP developed its Enterprise Services roadmap by taking the TOGAF industry standard SOA roadmap and adding some business processes to it.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed02.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:42am EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 2. Follow John through his frank reactions to the keynotes and press conferences, and get his quick reactions to the closed interview sessions Jon conducted, such as his group interview with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka.

As always, Jon tries to not only identify the key technical trends, but to move the conversation into the question of skills - who will fill these new SAP roles, and what types of backgrounds will they need?

Jon asked SAP executives these questions. Listen to the podcast series to find out the answers he was given and what he thought of those answers.

For the Day 2 podcast, the longest day of TechEd and the longest podcast in the series, Jon reacts to the executive keynotes and closed interview sessions he attended.

Editor's note: In the Day 2 podcast, Jon expresses some confusion that some attendees had about SAP Business By Design (BBD) and whether it was replacing A1S or was a separate product. It was later confirmed that BBD is in fact the same product as A1S, which is known as BBD going forward.

Reactions to Day 2 include:

- Responses to the keynote by Peter Zencke and friends, including the surprising emphasis on BBD as a big news item of the day.

- Jon talks about how this whole idea of "business network transformation" is really the same "extending the enterprise" talk SAP vendors have been pushing since the '90s, but that eSOA may finally give some technical teeth to the vision.

- Jon covers the latest SAP product innovations pushed during the keynote, including the SAP switch framework, the ES Workplace on SDN, and the ESR (Enterprise Services Repository). He also talks about the modeling tools that were demonstrated and the potential impact of the new Visual Composer, the new CE (Composition Environment), and the Eclipse development environment. Jon also notes the surprising lack of BI talk during the keynote, except for the BI Accelerator.

- Jon shares his reaction to the press conference after the keynote, where he posed the question of how the skills gap acknowledged by Peter Zencke was going to be filled. The executives on the panel noted an immediate demand for SAP Enterprise Architects and Business Process Experts. Jon gives his take on what he thought of these answers.

- Peter Zencke talked about how SAP customers are using SDN for training, and Jon notes the emphasis SAP is giving on training that goes beyond the classroom.

- Fresh back from his interview session with SAP CTO Vishal Sikka, Jon shares Vishal's take on SAP as a development platform, and whether he thinks ABAP is dead. Jon explains why Vishal thinks core functional and technical SAP skills will become commoditized. He shares Vishal's memorable quote on eSOA: "eSOA is a way to explain to management what APIs are." (Vishal was basically noting the eSOA simplifies the integration discussion in a way that management can understand and appreciate as a business case.

-Jon also talks about Vishal's point that "service-enabling" the entire SAP product line is a complex undertaking. For example, the Financials area of SAP is a high-stakes area that can get an executive in a jail cell if the right regulatory and compliance procedures (SAP GRC) are not followed. Jon explains why Vishal still believes in the power of eSOA despite these security challenges.

- Jon wraps the Day 2 podcast with reflections on a presentation from Cardinal Health on hands-on SAP eSOA lessons. Jon notes that the speaker, Brent Stutz of Cardinal Health, makes a good summary of "lessons learned" from eSOA, including doing the work of defining who owns the data. Jon also notes the point made during the session that SAP developed its Enterprise Services roadmap by taking the TOGAF industry standard SOA roadmap and adding some business processes to it.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed02.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:42am EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from SAP TechEd '07, Day 1. Start out with Jon on Community Day and follow him through the   "eSOA in Action" workshop and guest keynote from Tim O'Reilly on Web 2.0 and its impact on SAP.

For the Day 1 podcast, Jon gives his take on "Community Day" as well as his reaction to the guest keynote by Web 2.0 superhero Tim O' Reilly.

Topics in the day one podcast include:

- Jon's reaction to the Community Day session on "eSOA in Action." Jon talks about the different groups of SAP customers and their different reactions to the eSOA material. He also notes the new eSOA skills certifications SAP will be providing in the areas of Business Expert, Technical Expert, Developer, and Enterprise Architect.

- The general reaction to O'Reilly's keynote and the impact of Web 2.0 on the SAP world. Jon talks about how SAP has responded to Web 2.0 by creating "communities of innovation." He also explains O'Reilly's view that companies who don't get on board with Web 2.0 are going to be left behind. The importance of business intelligence and data as an asset and a "barrier to entry" are also covered.
Direct download: pcast_1007_teched_reed01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:40am EDT
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To get a closer look at the ERP 6.0 upgrade process, Jon conducted a wide-ranging podcast interview with Rohana Gunawardena, SAP Practice Director of Exium, Inc. Rohana is an SAP Financials expert and a respected speaker on topics such as SAP Global Rollouts.

During the podcast, Rohana gives us the inside take on the ERP 6.0 upgrade cycle, lessons learned from global rollouts, the new GL, and many other vital topics to SAP consultants.

Rohana has an opinionated and well-formed take on the SAP market, and his different takes on the future of SAP outsourcing and the impact of NetWeaver are worth hearing. Rohana also touches on the keys to being a successful SAP consultant, and he provides a memorable look at why cultural issues are so important to address on global SAP projects.

In this thirty minute interview, Jon and Rohana touch on many key topics, including:

- Rohana's upcoming talks on "Successful SAP Global Rollouts: Jump Start" and "Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Out of SAPNet" that he will be presenting at the co-hosted Managing Your SAP Projects 2007 and Global SAP Environments 2007 conferences from October 22-24 at the Miami Beach convention center.

- How Rohana made his move into SAP and how his consulting role has evolved into his current position.

- Why Rohana made the unusual choice of committing himself to multi-year projects and what he sees as the advantages to working on projects over multiple years. Rohana talks about the way that he has become a more well-rounded consultant through long-term projects, and he explains one of the biggest benefits of a long-term consulting role: being nominated to handle more complex and "mission critical" projects.

- Lessons Rohana has learned from global SAP rollouts, and why the "human side of SAP implementations" is crucial to project success. Rohana shares an example of a cultural issue that flared up on his project and how his team resolved the problem and got a diverse, multi-country team on the SAP page.

- Rohana's experiences upgrading to ERP 6.0, and why he thinks that the overall upgrade process to ERP 6.0 is not as difficult as some make it out to be. Rohana compares the 6.0 upgrade to other SAP moves of the past, including from 3.x to 4.x and from 4.x to 4.7.  

- The impact of SAP's New GL and why it is a significant functional enhancement.

- The significance of grasping the overall business processes that SAP addresses, and why understanding the integration points between SAP modules is so important to SAP consulting.

- How Rohana defines the ideal SAP consulting skill set, and why he thinks an 80/20 mix between technical and functional skills is more marketable than a 50/50 SAP "techno-functional" skills mix.

- Why ABAP programming know-how is important - even to SAP functional consultants.

- Jon asks Rohana why he thinks there could be an outsourcing backlash, and Rohana provides an overview of economic and labor supply issues in India that could make outsourcing more expensive and less appealing than in-house options.

- Rohana explains why he thinks NetWeaver is a bit overhyped in today's market and why many software companies, including SAP, push new functionality for marketing purposes while the real work remains focused on existing releases, and in SAP's case, in core functional processes rather than hot new eSOA technology.
Direct download: pcast_0907_sap_reed_rohana01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:15am EDT
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To get an inside view of the evolution of SAP Business Intelligence, Jon tracked down senior SAP BI consultant and ProKarma SAP Solutions Director Pat Pesa.

Pat has one of the most compelling takes on the potential of BI to transform the enterprise. Listen in as Jon and Pat go through the evolution of the BW product from the earliest releases to NetWeaver BI.

Along the way, Pat shares the reasons that BW projects fail and the tactics needed to make them a success. Pat goes into detail regarding the skills consultants need to be successful in the SAP BI market and how they might break into BI from a range of technical backgrounds.

In this forty minute look at BI consulting trends, Jon and Pat cover key topics such as:

- How Pat broke into SAP and found his way into BW consulting roles.

- How SAP managed to move beyond the criticism from data warehouse experts, who initially viewed BW as a "joke." How SAP made BW a quality product with a proven value to SAP customers.

- Pat highlights how the work companies had to do with early releases of BW, building ETL, Extractors, and InfoCubes, has changed. Now BW is a fully-loaded product with plenty of business content.

- The current applications of BI 7.0, from web reporting to faster analytical environments, from Integrated Planning to Enterprise Data Management.

- Why BI was important to SAP's push to move beyond a transactional system to an "intelligent" program that allowed companies to leverage their ERP data for better reporting and decision-making.

- The keys to a successful BI implementation, which include: assessing your information requirements, understanding where the data needs fall within your organization, smart use of blueprinting, and quality documentation.

- Why the "siloed" BW implementation approach didn't work, and why the BI "enterprise-wide" data management approach is much more effective.

- Pat's take on why most successful BW consultants come from technical backgrounds, and how functional consultants can be effective in their work dealing with the BI team.

- Pat explains why he thinks the convergence of functional and technical SAP skills sets is not the ideal skill set for BI work, and why technical folks are generally better suited to BW project roles.

- How data warehousing experts can fit into BW/BI projects, and the range of SAP technical skills that are applicable to BI projects. Pat also describes the kind of ABAP knowledge needed to be effective in BW. Jon gives his take on the ideal technical/functional skills mix for SAP consultants.

- How the SAP ecosystem makes products like BI easier to implement than SAP projects used to be.

- The impact of NetWeaver on BI, and how BI have moved beyond basic BEx reporting to web-based reporting. How Portals, iViews and SAP MDM tie together to improve the user experience in BI.

- Why eSOA is an "enabling technology" that will allow SAP customers to innovate in ways that will help SAP customers to think in terms of business strategy and not in terms of their technical releases (R/3, BW, etc.)

- Whether BI is effective in more diverse environments where non-SAP data is a key part of a company's data management challenge. How companies can structure their BI data integration around the SAP Financials functionality when SAP Financials serves as the system of record.

- The future of information management in SAP, and why the underlying "source system" that a company's data is on will no longer be the defining factor. Pat explains why this shift allows NetWeaver to flip the "source system" approach on its head and allows business users to define their processes without worrying about which systems their data resides in.

- How Pat balances his own career between practice lead functions and hands-on work, and why it's important to him to remain involved on the technical side of SAP.
Direct download: pcast_0807_sap_reed_pesa01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:08am EDT
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In this interview with senior SAP consultant Suresh Sreenivasaiah, Jon and Suresh get to the roots of the opportunities in the SAP Retail consulting arena.

Co-sponsored by B2B Workforce, this podcast takes a closer look at why SAP Retail consulting is picking up steam and the skills that companies need to achieve success in their SAP Retail implementations.

Jon also asks Suresh to give his perspective on why SAP’s Retail solution has become so successful after a rocky start. Suresh shares with JonERP.com members the "best practices" he has seen on multiple SAP Retail installations.

In this thirty minute interview, Jon and Suresh cover key topics including:

- How Suresh got his start in SAP and how he was able to break into SAP Retail consulting in the late ‘90s.

- How SAP Retail triumphed over its rocky beginnings through developing industry best practices. Suresh’s "keys to successful SAP retail implementations," including the importance of quality resources, master data, user interfaces, application integration, and best practice reviews.

- The main consulting roles on SAP Retail projects and the skills consultants need to have to make a contribution to Retail projects. Factors such as retail industry experience, SAP Retail solution skills, finance, procurement, and Retail ABAP are considered. Suresh notes the various "entry points" into SAP Retail consulting.

- Jon gets Suresh’s take on why there is more emphasis on industry-specific SAP skills by hiring managers than ever before, why companies are emphasizing this point, and why there is a tension between what companies are looking for and the availability of qualified consultants.

- Why an industry focus has helped Suresh to succeed as an SAP consultant.

- How Enterprise SOA and NetWeaver are impacting SAP Retail consulting, including issues pertaining to BI, Portals, and reporting.

- The importance of quality master data for SAP Retail installations and how SAP’s own Master Data Management (MDM) solution might fit into a Retail solution environment, and whether you must have MDM installed to have an effective SAP Retail installation.

- What skills Suresh is looking to acquire next and why the RFID skill set is compelling to him in the context of his retail specialization.

- What "scommerce" is and why Suresh is excited about its potential in the SAP marketplace in terms of visibility and point-of-sale solutions.

- Given that there are limited training and certification opportunities in SAP Retail, what are the entry points into SAP Retail consulting and how can consultants get involved? Suresh answers that question and explains how retail experts without SAP background can also break into the field.
Direct download: pcast_0807_sap_reed_suresh01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:24am EDT
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In the kick-off to his new podcast series hosted by SearchSAP, Jon interviews Dan Lubin, Director of Information Technology at Abiomed, about the lessons learned during Abiomed's SAP All-in-One implementation.

Hosted by Jon Franke of Search SAP, this podcast is a straight-talking review of the "human side" of Abiomed's SAP implementation.

Listen in as Jon Reed asks Dan Lubin how Abiomed managed to implement SAP in 28 weeks, overcoming team burnout and hitting all their milestones.

In this thirty minute interview, "the two Jons" and Dan cover key topics such as:

- The scope of Abiomed's SAP implementation and how this Danvers, MA company leverages SAP for its international medical device business.

- The winning formula Abiomed used to staff its SAP project, and how it combined external consultants with internal team members.

- Why offshore resources are important for Abiomed and other midsize companies to fill skills gaps on their SAP project, and how Abiomed used an onshore/offshore mix to meet their "blended rate" cost targets.

- Why the typical functional consultant tends to have too narrow a skill set for Abiomed's project and what the skills profile of their ideal functional consultant looks like. The importance of understanding the integration points between modules is emphasized.

- How users honestly responded to the new SAP environment and what Abiomed did to ensure that users were on board with a more standardized and structured approach to handling their business processes via SAP.

- What the Abiomed team did to overcome burnout and help users get through the most labor-intensive parts of the implementation cycle.

- What types of SAP full time employees were recruited to the project and what kinds of expertise they brought with them that rounded out the Abiomed team in areas such as security, validation, and testing.

- The "lessons learned" from the SAP implementation and why internal investment in project management is crucial. The results of following (and not following) SAP best practices, the impact of training and why the mundane but vital task of user documentation is of critical importance.

- Tips for success: Dan clarifies the difference between knowledge transfer and training and explains how to approach both from the standpoint of managing a budget and making sure that knowledge transfer is an organic result of a well-run implementation.

- Would Dan implement SAP again? Dan clarifies a quote Jon cited from SAPPHIRE, challenging Jon on its accuracy, and explains why he would absolutely do the SAP implementation over again and why Abiomed has gained so much from its SAP install and the user community "ecosystem." Dan closes by noting the anticipation for the pending Abiomed European implementation.
Direct download: pcast_0707_sap_reed_lubin01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:20am EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from the floor of SAPPHIRE 2007, Day 2 and Day 3. Follow Jon's unscripted, instant reactions to the press briefings and executive interviews he conducted on the final two days of the conference.

On these last two days, Jon talked with a number of industry insiders and SAP executives and consolidated what he learned onto this podcast wrap.

A couple of major highlights included the backgrounds needed for consulting success in BI and RF/RFID, and the emerging NetWeaver "jobs roles of the future."

Highlights from Jon's uncensored and unscripted conference reactions included:

- Jon's reaction to the key themes of the big SAPPHIRE keynotes, including the shift from "disruptive innovators" to "innovation without disruption."

- Jon documents which SAP terms are in and more notably, which SAP terms are on the way out. Terms on the way out include: ABAP, Basis, and R/3, but also more surprising departures such as XI, mySAP, and ESA.

- Jon tracks the hot consulting areas emphasized during the conference, including emerging activity in the retail industry as well as xApps and selective SOA implementations.

- Jon's detailed review of a NetWeaver executive's review of the SAP job roles of the future. Jon describes the roles of "Composer," "Consolidator," "Repository Keeper," and "SAP Developer," and notes the skills and backgrounds that will be necessary to move into each of these new roles.

- Jon documents a couple more public admissions by SAP executives of pending skills shortages and Jon speculates on whether the skills gap is as big for SOA as the skills gap once was between mainframe and client-server technologies.

- Jon details the emerging RFID consulting role and the kinds of skills profiles that will find success on an SAP RFID implementation.

- Jon looks more closely at BI consulting and which types of functional and technical SAP consultants will succeed in BI and BW consulting going forward.

- Jon describes a rapid mySAP ERP 2005 xApp implementation, how it was accomplished and what kind of skills were needed to complete it.

- Jon also predicts how long the SAP upgrade wave will boost consulting and when we will return to a "winners and losers" consulting market like we had for most of this decade before the upgrade wave hit.

-  Finally, Jon wraps the podcast with another review of the hottest areas of SAP going forward (BI, Retail, SOA, functional and technical skills convergence, and HR and FI (but not classic back office HR and FI).

Editor's Note: at the 6:25 time stamp mark on this podcast, Jon Reed says that SAP now uses PI as the abbreviation for "Process Industries." In this context, he actually meant "Process Integration," the replacement for SAP XI.
Direct download: pcast_0407_sapphire_reed02.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:09am EDT
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This is Jon Reed's "roaming podcast" from the floor of SAPPHIRE 2007, Day 1. Follow Jon's unscripted, instant reactions to the press briefings and executive interviews he conducted on Day 1.

On Day 1, Jon conducted numerous interviews with SAP product managers. He also sat in on several press briefings including a CIO panel of SAP customers.

Jon reported back his insights from each event, and took an honest look at how the latest developments will impact consulting demand.  

Highlights from Jon's uncensored and unscripted conference reactions included:

- Why mid-market companies are looking at outsourcing and why they find that some SAP consultants are too specialized for their needs.

- How SOA has evolved from a "good idea" to a product that SAP's partners can truly sell and therefore truly endorse.

- Why "On Demand" Solutions like CRM On Demand are not as appealing to mid-market companies as one would think.

- The significance of leveraging "unstructured" data and how partnerships like Duet are focused on this area.

- Which SAP consulting areas seemed hot based on the day's interviews and why (hot areas included CRM, SOA, and BW/BI).

- Why functional and technical skill sets are converging.

- A NetWeaver executive who admits on the record that there are not enough of the "new wave" of techno-functional NetWeaver consultants to meet customer needs. Jobs like Composer and Repository Keeper may not have emerged yet, but the demand for those skill sets has.

- The need for consultants with more industry-specific know-how and more business process knowledge (and why the BPX community is a factor here).

- The problematic Microsoft partnership...all smiles at SAPPHIRE, but what happens when Microsoft wins a bunch of SMB business from SAP? Will Microsoft partnership ever deteriorate like the Oracle partnership has?
Direct download: pcast_0407_sapphire_reed01.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:04am EDT
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