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SAP claims SOA future is here

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Sapphire SAP has called time on SOA and outlined changes to NetWeaver for broad use of composite applications, deeper integration with Microsoft, and Web 2.0.

Chief executive Henning Kagermann rallied 15,000 delegates at SAP's customer and partner conference today. He claimed SOA would be largely delivered in 2007 and that NetWeaver and mySAP ERP 2005 are poised for mass adoption, with NetWeaver uptake more than doubling in the next year. SAP expects 4,000 customers on NetWeaver during the next 12 months.

Kagermann told delegates: "This is the year when we finally deliver on our promise and will deliver enterprise SOA. The entire product portfolio with the exception of Business One is on a business process platform."

Kagermann was speaking no-doubt with a wary eye on Oracle, which has promised to deliver its SOA strategy for applications and middleware in 2008. Oracle has been generally trash-talking SAP's revenue and market share to undermine its presence in the eyes of press, analysts and customers.

According to Kagermann, Oracle is "consolidating the past" while SAP is building for the future.

Of course, SAP - with other ERP giants - has a dubious past on enterprise-wide implementations of new architectures. The 1990s are peppered with ERP and business process re-engineering horror stories of missed deadlines and busted budgets.

SAP customer Hershey Foods became a poster child for failure after a $115m SAP implementation ran late and saw the snacks giant miss the Halloween sales bubble in 1999 and get eaten alive by competitors.

Recognizing this while urging customers to again trust SAP and adopt the SOA version of its platform, Kagermann blamed past failures on "too many upgrades" and lack of product maturity. Things will be different this time, thanks to greater management experience and standardized connectivity, he said.

"We can manage the transformation much better," he promised.

SAP will bring the proof of concept it established in NetWeaver and ERP to the full SAP applications suite, he said. Suggested updates will be delivered incrementally through what SAP is calling "value packs".

Also, features in SAP's forthcoming A1S package - for companies with between 50 and 500 employees - will be fed back into the full suite where appropriate. There will be synchronization between packages and updates.

SAP last year committed to no new major revisions of its underlying ERP platform until 2010, with new features delivered in six-monthly value packs.

"After 2008 we will bring those innovations to the market side by side. We will deliver new highly innovate process extensions based on the new model... we will make it available and scale to the large clients without disrupting the core platform," Kagermann said.

A1S, he added, would be "easy to consume, quick to install," on demand only and limited to clients and industries that don't consider a traditional, integrated suite.

Composition will be improved through SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE), tools based on Java Enterprise Edition 5.0, and NetWeaver Process Integration (PI). This will be a standards-based bus to connect composite applications, features a UDDI 3.0 registry, and that SAP called an "evolution" of its previous NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (NetWeaver XI). Both are expected in 2007.

In a significant expansion of its partnership with Microsoft, SAP announced two planed versions of Duet - providing data and workflow integration between SAP and Microsoft Office and launched barely a year ago. Duet 2.0, due in 2008, and Duet 3.0, due after the next release of SAP's Business Applications Suite, will bring in Microsoft's SharePoint Server for collaboration, virtual workgroups, content sharing and workflow organization.

SharePoint will underpin SAP's plans to support more ad-hoc, and unstructured forms of working, hinted at Monday, on top of its structured workflows and data and information storage. SAP Tuesday demonstrated what's planned, with an Outlook 2007 email being used to kick-start a quick, team-based project to find new suppliers by searching, finding and communicating with employees that have relevant knowledge, and generating RFQs and purchase orders from lists of suppliers already housed in existing SAP ERP systems. Users would drag-and-drop lists of suppliers between applications through the Duet interface, generate windows that are pre-populated with information, assign tasks dynamically and view supplier data.

Duet 2.0 and 3.0 will also feature a bigger set of scenarios, the name for workflow integrations between Office and SAP, and let customers build their own scenarios. Version 2.0 will use SharePoint extensions with SharePoint becoming a full-featured part of the Duet fabric in version 3.0, Microsoft business division Jeff Raikes told press after Kagermann's keynote. "SharePoint will become a foundation element," Raikes said. ®

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