SAP AG announced the next iteration of its NetWeaver integration platform at the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday. A second event to announce NetWeaver 2004 is scheduled at SAPs campus in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday.
This latest version of NetWeaver, originally announced in January 2003, is the first version in which the components of the platform are integrated.
"This [release] is installable in one CD," said Shai Agassi, an executive board member of SAP who heads NetWeaver development efforts in Palo Alto. "We believe this has tremendous impact on the market for SAP customers and non-SAP customers … to reduce the total cost of ownership. It frees up a lot of money that was dedicated for integration."
This release also casts aside any doubts that SAP, based in Walldorf, Germany, is morphing into an infrastructure provider thats competing with the likes of BEA Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and IBM.
The NetWeaver 2004 platform is based on a service-oriented architecture and integrates SAPs combined ABAP and Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition Web application server, Mobile Infrastructure, Enterprise Portal, Business Intelligence, Master Data Management, Composite Application Framework, and its Exchange Infrastructure for integration.
NetWeaver 2004 also brings a handful of new functionality, including the ability for users to integrate RFID (radio frequency identification) data into SAP software using a new Auto-ID Infrastructure that automates communication to and from hardware devices; full support for Web services-based provisioning and consumption in the Web application server; and new ad hoc workflow capabilities in the Portal.
At the same time, a new business-process engine in the Exchange Infrastructure, called XI, facilitates process integration outside a companys four walls. SAP historically provided a messaging broker that provided business-process-management capabilities in the 2003 version of NetWeaver. NetWeaver 2004 adds end-to-end workflow models that are built and modeled visually and executed internally as well as externally—a capability that increasingly gains importance as companies look to accomplish B2B integrations.
At the same time, with the 2004 upgrade brings the first massive release of SAPs Web Dynpro technology, so that the tools that generate iViews can interact with other iViews—XML-based presentation components executed in the Portal.
Web Dynpro is essentially a Web transactional-application engine, developed by SAP and based on Java standards, that enables users to create optimized forms, according to Agassi. Part of SAPs application server, the Web Dynpro technology accompanies cluster-management capabilities, database-abstraction support and upgraded Java tools for large-scale development groups.
The 2004 release also comes with its share of enhancements, including a Business Intelligence business-planning and simulation capability, Business Explorer Broadcaster capability for automated distribution of information, a Java software development kit that facilitates custom development, and XML for Analysis interfaces.
The portal component was enhanced with support for more than 20 languages using Unicode Worldwide Character Standard, a system for processing and displaying written texts of different languages. It also provides support for Windows and UNIX operating systems and bundled knowledge management capabilities such as integrated search, classification and publication for navigation across document repositories, officials said.
The mobile capabilities are updated with a centralized alert infrastructure and better development and debugging features.
Despite its 14,000 separate component installations of NetWeaver, SAP doesnt expect the platform to be adopted overnight.
"This is a foundation for a shift that will take some time," said Agassi. "It takes market share from the three-tier client/server that took us through 10 years and into the next wave, that we hope will also take and carry [SAP] 10 years. We believe customers need to understand this evolution."
NetWeaver will serve as the foundation for mySAP Business Suite development in the future, including mySAP Enterprise, the predecessor to R/3. Given this, any mySAP upgrades will include the NetWeaver platform.
For those users still on R/3, NetWeaver is available at an extra cost, officials said.