SAP NetWeaver promises to untangle Web services

Enterprise software provider SAP repositioned itself as the Switzerland of the emerging Web services market Thursday though the launch of a platform that will bring together its portal, application server and analysis products.


NetWeaver, the package offers features that SAP said would make it easier for IT departments to integrate the disparate data that resides on multiple systems in many organizations. These include a “”composite application framework”” that can extend Web-enabled business processes across various departments like human resources, finance and marketing. Master data management services, meanwhile, will ensure data looks the same no matter where it resides in the enterprise.

Shai Agassi, executive board member of SAP AG, told a press conference that was Web cast from New York that NetWeaver represents the company’s most open architecture to date. Developers working within Microsoft’s .Net Web services framework, for example, will be able to use NetWeaver with Microsoft middleware tools, as well as those from IBM. A forthcoming line of applications called Xapps will work with programs other than SAP’s own R2 suite, which handle the back-office functions in many Fortune 1,000 companies.

“”Large enterprises require more than a set of standards, a set of acronyms,”” he said. “”They need a fixed blueprint with which you can take technologies into reality.””

SAP executives pointed to Bruce Decock, CIO at semiconductor manufacturer LSI Logic in Milpitas, Calif., as an example of a NetWeaver early adopter. Decock said LSI rolled out a portal for its employees last November, offering self-service options to its workers. This year, he said, the company is working on a “”talent management”” initiative where it will try to better match the skill sets of its approximately 1,700 engineers to the right customers. NetWeaver, he said, will allow LSI to handle those functions without a lot of additional development work. “”We don’t want to build those things,”” he said.

IDC Canada software analyst Warren Shiau said NetWeaver didn’t offer much in the way of new technology, but it sends a message to customers that SAP wants to allow an infrastructure that recognizes more than one vendor.

“”It’s a really good marketing announcement in the sense that this truly removes SAP from their past — the monolithic SAP past,”” he said. “”It just brings things to a complete about-face, I think.””

Joe Digregorio, who works in enterprise resource management (ERP) project development manager at SAP customer Pratt & Whitney Canada, said some of NetWeaver’s features could be useful in the company’s ongoing development work.

“”Anything to do with integration with other platforms across the board, yeah, we’d be interested in that,”” he said. “”If you’re trying not to duplicate data and make sure the interfaces are correctly done, and so forth. If there’s an easier way of doing it and it’s all structured within an SAP environment, great.””

Agassi said the support for third parties may come as a surprise to some industry watchers.

“”No matter how many times we tried to tell you guys that we are partners of Microsoft and IBM, it was hard to convince people,”” he said.

The Web cast featured taped statements from Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates, IBM’s director of strategy Bruce Herreld and SAP’s own chief executive, Hasso Plattner, who described NetWeaver as the firm’s most important launch since third-tier client/server software.

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