The stack wars involving Oracle Corp., SAP AG, Microsoft Corp. and IBM are heating up as each develops new products to unify applications and provide a more comprehensive software infrastructure.
IBM and SAP, for example, are collaborating on a version of IBMs DB2 database that is optimized for SAP, a move designed to provide PeopleSoft Inc. and J.D. Edwards & Co. users of IBMs AS/400 with an infrastructure choice beyond Oracles platform. Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., acquired PeopleSoft in December; PeopleSoft acquired J.D. Edwards in 2003.
A DB2 database optimized for SAP, expected with the next point upgrade of IBMs software, could also put IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., in a position to tap some of the 65 percent of SAP users who run their applications on Oracles database.
Simultaneously, SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, is talking about the evolution of its NetWeaver integration platform. Despite announcing its ESA (Enterprise Services Architecture) framework and underlying NetWeaver technology stack just over two years ago, SAP is planning to introduce its Business Process Platform at its Sapphire user event this spring. The platform looks to provide a component repository with reusable objects and a platform for developing applications.
"What SAP is in the process of doing with MySAP products is ... breaking that set of applications down into a large number of objects," said AMR Research Inc. analyst Jim Shepherd in Boston. "The idea is that SAP, or SAP customers or partners, could then assemble those components into an infinite variety of systems."
John Wheeler, CIO at Nova Chemicals Corp., runs his SAP applications on an Oracle platform. Currently upgrading to R/3 5.0, which includes the NetWeaver stack, Wheeler is not looking for the next wave of evolution with the Business Process Platform.
"I am not sure what value that brings to us," said Wheeler in Calgary, Alberta. "We have a high emphasis on systems in relationship to the processes they support—keep it simple, keep it integrated. Thats the kind of business we are."
Wheeler said he would have to be persuaded to switch from running his SAP applications on Oracles database to an IBM database.
"[Oracle] takes advantage fully of all database technology. Their ERP system is very aligned with the tools they use. SAP never did that. They isolate from the database," said Wheeler. "You dont have the ability to use Oracle tools to manage [SAP]; you have to use SAP, so its not truly rational. Im not sure what that IBM relationship means. It would have to be a clear benefit, and I dont see that for me in the near future."
Where an SAP-optimized database could pick up sales is with new implementations, according to Gartner Inc. analyst Donald Feinberg.
"IBM is going to use this new release to win a lot of SAP platform positions," said Feinberg in Stamford, Conn. "Microsoft has been actively pushing that for the last year now. Whats interesting is when people call me theyre calling about a platform decision for SAP. Theyre not asking about Oracle; theyre asking about IBM and Microsoft."
SAPs Business Process Platform strategy brings the company even further down the road now traveled by Oracle, with its Project Fusion, and Microsoft, with its Project Green.
Fusion, which will combine Oracles three application suites and provide a new underlying architecture, is expected around 2008. Microsofts Green, which brings together the Redmond, Wash., companys four application suites under a single code base with an underlying .Net infrastructure, is expected in the same time frame.
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