Based on the strength of its NetWeaver integration software, SAP AG is trying to expand its identity beyond being strictly an applications provider to a broad-based platform provider.
At its TechEd developer conference here last week, the Walldorf, Germany, software company laid out the practical nuts and bolts for how customers can use NetWeaver and promised to expand its reach to include integration of non-SAP applications. "The biggest challenge is perception," said SAP executive board member Shai Agassi. "Our thought was We have great tools; lets keep it to ourselves. Thats changed over the last two or three years."
Part of the effort to reach out involves a new visual application development environment, which is code-named GUI Machine and will be part of NetWeaver Developer Studio. It enables users to graphically create SAP Portal iViews from back-end applications without creating any code.
SAP also announced an online Developer Network.
In addition, SAP is developing a set of integration standards that will be delivered through NetWeaver to help companies integrate SAP and non-SAP applications inside and outside the firewall. At the heart of this effort is Master Data Management 2.0, a tool for integrating data and business logic from heterogeneous applications. The upgrade, due this month, enables companies to consolidate, harmonize and centrally manage product and customer data. This ensures information integrity across the business network, SAP officials said.
Agassi highlighted upgrades to some SAP software that will be key to expanding the reach of NetWeaver. Enterprise Portal upgrades, for instance, will include support for Unix and Windows servers, as well as for IBMs WebSphere and Microsoft Corp.s .Net portal developer kits. Business Warehouse Version 3.5 will include real-time business intelligence capabilities, information broadcasting and streamlined alert messaging.
In addition, NetWeavers Exchange Infrastructure over the next year will get enhanced business-to-business support, integrated business process management and extended versioning support for metadata.
Daniel Pearson, who is replacing his companys IBM MQSeries middleware with NetWeaver, was generally enthusiastic about SAPs direction.
"In our current implementations, all outside integrations are taken care of by our in-house interfaces, where any discrepancies are coded by our team," said Pearson, basis team lead at Nestlé S.A., in Glendale, Calif. "As we roll out NetWeaver, discrepancies should be reduced."