SAP Opens The 'Miss Congeniality' Contest
On November 6, SAP AG (NYSE: SAP), the leading provider of business
software solutions, detailed its open-standards-based infrastructure that
should enable technical interoperability and should drive collaborative
business in a heterogeneous IT world. The foundation for all mySAP.com
solutions, mySAP Technology reportedly enables collaboration across
business processes and among users within and beyond company boundaries
by integrating applications and Web services from different vendors on
one common, reliable and open Web infrastructure.
the announcement Hasso Plattner, co-chairman of the executive board, CEO
and co-founder of SAP AG, basically reiterated his keynote speech from
SAPPHIRE, again addressing the need for software companies to adopt and
adhere to open industry standards, in the interest of customer needs for
integration and communication. The mySAP Technology infrastructure should
supposedly solve a long-standing dilemma for CIOs - whether to purchase
natively integrated applications from a single vendor or custom-integrated
applications from different vendors - by providing support for both approaches.
SAP touts that customers will benefit by reducing their cost of ownership,
adding flexibility to their technology infrastructure and protecting existing
investments, with no need to "rip and replace" current systems. mySAP
Technology consists of three elements driving collaborative business:
Web Application Server, exchange and integration infrastructure, and portal
infrastructure. All three elements reportedly enable compatibility with
technologies from other vendors.
SAP Web Application Server (WAS) provides Web services through
platform-independent, maintainable business Web applications and technologies.
These encompass Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and ABAP
as well as connectivity with other technologies such as Microsoft .NET.
In addition, with Web Dynpro, the Web Application Server provides
a Web development tool and runtime environment for professional Web business
applications addition. The portal infrastructure provides
user-centric collaboration based on data unification and role management
capabilities that deliver relevant information to users, easing navigation
and allowing people to work smarter. With a common, seamless point of
entry across disparate systems and information sources including any back-end
system the user will be presented with only relevant personalized information
and should therefore make the best decisions based on previously invisible
informational relationships. The exchange infrastructure
(EI) provides process-centric collaboration based on shared business knowledge
for designing, configuring, changing and executing collaborative business
processes. Its realm of operation is in tying together processes across
believes with mySAP Technology, customers should benefit from both the
strong heritage of SAP and the new world of open integration, as the traditional
strengths of scalability, broad functionality and mission-critical performance
provided by SAP are now extended to J2EE. mySAP Technology is envisioned
to reduce the pain of abrupt, disruptive shifts in technology with continuous,
evolutionary improvement. As a result of this evolutionary approach, customers
should be able to modify, enhance and adapt individual Web services without
changing other services, mitigating the need for the huge technology platform
shifts and upgrades of the past. This allows companies to protect existing
investments and add new functionality that can be easily designed, built,
deployed, accessed and combined with existing Web services and syndicated
across division, company and geographic boundaries.
has been following up on what it committed to at SAPPHIRE last summer.
The unveiled product architecture was devised as the technical underpinnings
of the "Five Pillar" strategy that SAP rolled out then (see SAP
- A Humble Giant From The Reality Land? Part 2: Expanding Functionality).
If those announcements sounded grandstanding at that time, then the latest
announcement would be the fleshing out of the vision. Having the largest
market share and the broadest offering among business application vendors
represents a double-edged sword, as it also brings with it many challenges
- e.g., new technology introduction and new application deployment, while
ensuring to spare existing customers from any shock-therapy-like changes.
SAP has not been known for speed, its holistic and meticulous approach
to new product delivery this time may give customers some breathing space
between adopting new software standards and solutions, while at the same
time upgrading and maintaining custom legacy environments. Oracle and
PeopleSoft, on the other hand, while gaining market shares with their
respective groundbreaking technologies at that time, have felt the displeasure
of client bases that were far from being ready to make a significant technological
leap. As a result, both vendors had to backpedal and rethink their older
product releases discontinuation strategies.
battle for ownership of the collaborative infrastructure platform has
been raging for some time now (see The
Application Server War Escalates). SAP's introduction of a Web Application
Server is a noteworthy move, as it has long been the remaining major piece
of the puzzle for its offering. The company has thereby made a major shift
from providing 'points of integration' solutions through business applications
programming interfaces (BAPIs) running over a proprietary remote procedure
call (RPC) protocol called RFC (Remote Function Call) to providing a strategic
integration platform for its customers, which allows it to offer possibly
a complete collaborative solution even when some of the component applications
are not provided by SAP.
EI (Enterprise Integration) supersedes SAP's proprietary enterprise applications
integration (EAI) architecture called Application Link Enabling (ALE)
that was mainly suited for asynchronous transaction process needs. Consequently,
at first sight, mySAP Technology addresses the major infrastructure requirements
of an exchange platform, including internal integration within a single
company and external between companies, business process workflow across
applications, identity/role management, and content management. The users
ability to dynamically write business process rules and to share them
internally and externally might give other vendors pause and force them
to come up with their solutions. There will also be complementary infrastructure
services for issues such as security and globalization, but these are
seemingly not strategic, though.
the leadership position and the consequent influence, SAP's decision on
any technology carries significant specific weight. To that end, having
a company with the stature of SAP supporting componentized Web Services
technology is likely to increase the concept's awareness and speed up
its adoption. SAP's endorsement of Web Services technology might help
it make up for its latency of endorsing the component (object oriented)
technology several years ago. Web Services have a potential of becoming
the latest evolution of application integration technology and/or a revolutionary
new application design model by enabling developers to create or enhance
applications by connecting granular components that are accessed via platform-independent
Web services leverage the aged concept of objects' reusability, they may
finally offer that extra mile by adherence to standards that are taking
hold (see The
SOAP Opera Progresses - Helping XML to Rule the World). Further, they
tend to be simpler in their nature, partly owing to the Internet standards,
and they also tend to be higher-level abstractions, which implies more
likely platform independence and "mixing and matching" opportunity by
decision to support more open standards - from popular programming languages
like Java to support for evolving standards such as eXtensible Markup
Language (XML), Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI),
and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) - should raise the bar for many
enterprise application vendors. Moreover, SAP's open preference for Java
could give the upper hand to the Java-centric Web services standards promoted
by Sun in its ongoing battle with Microsoft's .NET counterpart.
Although SAP will by no means shut the door to Microsoft, SunOne will
seemingly be supported natively, while .NET standards will have to settle
only for a support through an adapter/connector. While Microsoft
may regard this as a slap in the face, we do not foresee any direct clash
of the two software Godzilla's - the stakes are too high and will force
both companies to continue with their hot-cold relationship.
On EAI Vendors
it is also not very likely SAP will use this technology outline to aggressively
pursue application server or EAI markets, it will certainly make the respective
niche vendors' jobs of selling into fertile SAP client base very difficult.
Nevertheless, in the short term, it will not affect nor lessen the value
proposition of independent EAI vendors such as SeeBeyond, Tibco
Software or webMethods, or vendors that provide generic
application servers, such as IBM, iPlanet and BEA Systems.
In the long term, however, these will have to devise an answer to SAP's
business process level of integration and modeling, in addition to their
offerings' immaculate transactional performance.
Most likely, SAP will develop integration capabilities internally only
for selected most widespread 'alien' applications in the SAP-controlled
environment. Although the new architecture blueprint provides SAP with
a more open approach to integrating its applications with others, it is
also reinforcing SAP's ability to maintain account control in these multi-products
environments. The caveat remains that in the guts of the applications
much of SAP technology will continue to be implemented in its proprietary
Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) technology, but the provision
of XML interfaces and publishing applications as Web services should ease
the integration effort for SAP customers notwithstanding. However, the
litmus test of the mySAP Technology's collaborative innovativeness will
be in whether users can integrate J2EE-based applications into their SAP
environment without tweaking it again in ABAP. Otherwise, this will be
regarded as yet another sugarcoating of a proprietary unwieldy architecture.
challenge will also be the articulation of business benefits of its latest
technological infrastructure. There is still lingering market confusion
over mySAP.com's value proposition to both existing and potential customers.
As the market leader continues to evolve from functionally broad ERP-centric
processes and closed monolithic architecture, to processes that encompass
the entire value chain, with open architecture, it is of paramount importance
for it not to fall in the trap of yet again confusing the market with
a jumbled message. While indisputably a compelling proposition, the mySAP
Technology is based on still 'moving-target' technologies, with lesser
market awareness. The terminology and message simplification for average
customers still remains wide-open game.
SAP has embarked on a journey with no return ticket. This is by all means
good news for its customers that need to integrate their internal applications
with applications from other vendors and/or who need to exchange information
with their business partners that are not SAP shops. While SAP's new technology
blueprint is impressive, the market has often in the past witnessed how
long the road is between the vision and execution, SAP's huge resources
notwithstanding. Therefore, potential and current SAP customers with hefty
integration requirements should not depart from their short-term IT investment
strategies. They should also consider third-party EAI alternatives. Current
mySAP.com users should enquire about their license entitlement to mySAP
depth and breadth of mySAP.com's offerings should be attractive to a wide
range of companies, both industry- and size-wise. However, users should
question the company's delivery fulfillment of its strategy and appreciate
that migrating older instances of SAP R/3 to mySAP.com and/or integrating
mySAP.com components to other software will remain painstaking for some
time to come, despite SAP's commendable initiative in easing that.
anticipating projects only in a year time framework should ascertain the
announced technologies bearing in mind the maturity factor and while comparison-shopping
with other renowned available products. Early adopters should observe
the J2EE-based components performance compared to their ABAP-based counterparts.
While the coexistence of Java and ABAP is comforting for existing users,
they should anticipate the appropriate skill-sets of their developers.
Further, although the widespread acceptance of Web services implementations
will not happen any time soon, large global enterprises should start learning
the new protocols, standards and technologies in order to grasp the underlying
comprehensive recommendations for both current and potential SAP users
can be found in SAP
- A Humble Giant From The Reality Land? Part 5: Challenges and User Recommendations
and in 'Collaborative
Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: SAP AG.