January 16, SAP AG (NYSE: SAP), the leading provider of enterprise
applications, in its intent not to be left behind in the rush for the enterprise
infrastructure and integration platform El Dorado, further outlined its open-standards-based
infrastructure blueprint that should eventually enable technical interoperability
and should drive collaborative business in an admittedly heterogeneous IT world.
The vendor announced its Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA),
the blueprint for complete, services-based architecture business solutions,
which should eventually allow companies to drive additional business value from
existing increasingly legacy-status technology investments, and enabling, possibly
for the first time, enterprise-scale usage of Web services.
By combining SAP's business process and industry solution expertise with the openness of Web services and other commonly adopted technology standards, SAP's new enterprise architecture blueprint is aimed at providing companies with a template for the creation of fully integrated IT environments built entirely on services-based business solutions that would extend across systems and beyond business four-wall boundaries. Going forward, all SAP solutions will reportedly be developed using the ESA blueprint, and are expected to set new standards in usability, scalability, adaptability, and extensibility.
The ESA outlines how an integration and application platform is used to orchestrate business processes by means of packaged composite applications across and/or atop existing systems leveraging Web services. Gradually building up on an arsenal of technologies the vendor has introduced so far, the ESA will reportedly introduce a new layer of flexibility to manage all aspects of a given business process, including people (all roles participating across the value chain), business systems (be they SAP or non-SAP), and information (structured or unstructured). Services-based architectures have been increasingly recognized in the 2000s as the way to solve the growing integration challenge.
Looking back, SAP's 3-tier client/server architecture introduced in 1992 soon after became the industry 'de facto standard,' providing the fundamental structure upon which client/server systems enabled information and process integration at the user, application, and data levels. The 3-tier client/server architecture remains a highly-scalable framework which provides the foundation for SAP business solutions today at more than 19,000 companies worldwide. While the 3-tier client/server architecture then abruptly replaced existing mainframe based systems, the ESA is instead devised to allow companies to gradually add important new levels of flexibility while allowing customers to maintain and build upon their existing solutions investments through Web services.
claims to have already begun to deliver on the promise of ESA with the first
shipments of SAP xApps, a new breed of packaged process-oriented
composite applications that snap-on to existing diversified IT environments.
The first SAP xApp cross-application, Resource and Program Management
(xRPM), was shipped globally to customers in December 2002,
with many additional xApps scheduled for shipment in 2003. However, xRPM will
not be the first deployed xApp, given TransAlta has already
deployed the xApp Visual Information for Plants (xVIp),
developed by independent software vendor NRX. In a demo given
during the recent SAP TechEd conference keynote address, xVIp
was shown integrating financial, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and asset
lifecycle management processes using structured and non-structured data from
SAP and non-SAP applications. Developed by SAP and partner companies, xApps
target specific business process needs -- such as advanced product portfolio
management, plant maintenance management, and post-merger integration -- by
delivering new functionality leveraging information and services that come from
a variety of systems located both inside and outside the enterprise.
Going forward, the ESA will reportedly provide the framework for all development and delivery of new capabilities across the SAP solution portfolio. For example, these will include new integration scenarios within the SAP solution suite, new capabilities delivered on top of a SAP industry-specific solution, functionality extensions to SAP's core ERP solutions, and new levels of flexibility to enable custom development projects.
is Part One of a three-part note.
Two will discuss the Market Impact.
Three will present Challenges and make User Recommendations.
the same day SAP announced SAP NetWeaver, the first enabler
of the Enterprise Services Architecture. SAP NetWeaver is an immediately available,
services-oriented platform for all SAP solutions, which should allow organizations
to integrate people, information, and business processes across technologies
and organizations. Additionally, SAP aspires to take the technology high ground
by designing SAP NetWeaver to be fully interoperable with Microsoft
.NET and IBM WebSphere (one of the leading Java 2
Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based platforms), providing customers with flexibility
to manage heterogeneous infrastructures. To that end, SAP, IBM, and Microsoft
have recently established a joint collaborative technology support centers which
will staff and support the companies focus on customer projects around the usage
of SAP NetWeaver and its integration with IBM WebSphere and Microsoft .Net.
was one of the first companies to deliver a technology platform to enable collaborative
business when it introduced mySAP Technology in 2001 (see SAP
Opens The 'Miss Congeniality' Contest). The advanced iteration of SAP's
technology stack, SAP NetWeaver should now serve as the backbone for the SAP
suite of solutions, delivering possibly a complete, open, and flexible infrastructure
that allows companies to realize additional value from existing IT investments.
NetWeaver, SAP introduces two capabilities that extend the technology stack
beyond the initial capabilities of mySAP Technology. First, the new composite
application framework built into SAP NetWeaver should enable SAP and its partners
to create the above-mentioned xApps targeting cross-functional business processes
through tools, frameworks, rules, and methodologies. These would include, for
instance, an object access layer that allows customers to abstract from the
underlying heterogeneity and to create a unified development and deployment
environment. Second, SAP NetWeaver also includes Master Data Management
(MDM) services, which is SAP's first standardized offering
designed to solve the widespread challenges of data integration from multiple
systems, physical locations, and diverse vendors. MDM should ensure information
integrity across the business network by allowing companies to consolidate,
harmonize, and centrally master data in heterogeneous IT environments. In addition
to these new capabilities, SAP NetWeaver is comprised of the following:
Multi-channel access with both Web and mobile access to business systems
in connected and disconnected scenarios;
Enterprise portal providing internal and external unified user interfaces
through a Web browser in role-based fashion;
Collaboration providing real-time and asynchronous communication between
people, in either a moderated or free-form fashion;
Business Intelligence (BI) providing the infrastructure for extracting,
aggregating and analyzing structured business information across the enterprise;
Knowledge Management (KM) that unifies multiple sources of unstructured
information, such as document management, file services, XML feeds, and so
on for providing and managing knowledge;
An integration broker -- for internal and external process integration, based
on XML messaging;
Business Process Management (BPM) providing design, development, execution,
monitoring, and management of business processes across the extended enterprise;
J2EE/ABAP -- provisioning of native, secured Web services implemented and
developed in J2EE or in proprietary Advanced Business Applications
Programming (ABAP) language and extensibility through
Microsoft .NET and IBM WebSphere;
Database and operating system independence since it is open and operable
on all relevant platforms; and
Life-cycle management providing development, composing and modeling, testing,
deployment, and management of the entire software landscape.
However, while SAP acknowledges the need for heterogeneous functional application modules, that would not necessarily be the case when it comes to the integration platform. Namely, the vendor touts that a key cost driver for business today is the challenge of integration, since in today's heterogeneous environment, a customer choosing a best of breed approach for its integration technologies (e.g., bringing together portal and BI from different vendors) is faced with the daunting challenge of integrating disparate technologies.
The customer must first make the technologies work with each other before any new business value can be realized, and, moreover, this integration challenge is faced not just at the outset, but must be managed over the life cycle of the solutions. Conversely, SAP claims that an integrated platform, such as SAP NetWeaver, significantly reduces cost of ownership by avoiding custom integration. When shipping business solutions that are powered by SAP NetWeaver, SAP pledges to pre-configure those solutions with business content such as user roles, taxonomies, reports, queries, and business process templates, all for the customers to be able to significantly accelerate their time to value.
SAP Partners Embrace NetWeaver
different types of SAP partners have reportedly embraced the SAP NetWeaver Platform,
and are announcing their own support for the platform and the Enterprise Services
Architecture. SAP system integrators who will be dedicating significant resources
from their integration, portals, BI, and Java practice areas, and train them
on SAP NetWeaver include: Accenture, BearingPoint,
Bristlecone, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Deloitte
Consulting (soon to become Braxton), EzCommerce
Global Solutions, IDS Scheer, and IBM Business
Consulting Services. Together, these SAP system integrators will reportedly
commit to training over 6,000 consultants on SAP NetWeaver.
order to drive adoption of SAP NetWeaver and support the development of new
SAP xApps, SAP is also working to foster and support a developer community that
will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and information between developers
inside and outside of SAP. The vendor will support this group in providing technical
articles, Web training, code samples, evaluation tools, special interest groups
and developer-specific events, in addition to detailed technical reference materials.
A multitude of SAP partners have announced their intent to build xApps, powered
by SAP NetWeaver. The list includes Accenture, Bristlecone,
Digital Fuel, IBM Business Consulting Services,
EzCommerce Global Solutions, Lighthammer,
NRX, TechniData, and Vedaris.
Independent software vendors (ISV) who will also add support for the SAP NetWeaver
platform include: Actional, Ascential Software Corp.,
Business Layers, Business Objects, Cognos,
Crystal Decisions, Digital Fuel, Documentum,
FileNET, FileTek, Interwoven,
Mercury Interactive, Seeburger, SeeBeyond,
Stellent, WebEx, and webMethods.
are reportedly three ways for customers to take advantage of SAP NetWeaver.
First, SAP is already delivering SAP NetWeaver to customers as the technology
platform that powers the full suite of SAP business solutions. Secondly, customers
can use SAP NetWeaver to solve specific integration needs (for example, mySAP
Enterprise Portal and/or mySAP Business Intelligence).
Finally, customers can leverage SAP NetWeaver as their strategic integration
and application platform to drive new value from their existing heterogeneous
systems (for example, a customer who wishes to integrate and extend a number
of existing systems on all levels). MDM services will begin customer shipments
in the third quarter of 2003, while SAP NetWeaver is shipping with SAP solutions
today. For existing customers, SAP NetWeaver will come as part of new releases,
and, as such, is not a replacement of technology, but rather part of a customer's
regular upgrade process.
concludes Part One of a three-part note.
Two will discuss the Market Impact.
Three will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.