At its Sapphire user conference in New Orleans earlier this month, SAP AG brought home the idea of building a service-oriented architecture, or SOA, with its applications and its NetWeaver integration stack. The Walldorf, Germany, company has gambled that its SOA vision, called the Enterprise Services Architecture, will drive customers using its legacy R/3 client/server suite of ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications to the new MySAP suite. SAP CEO Henning Kagermann talked with eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson at Sapphire about the work that still lies ahead for the company.
With the road map youve laid out for an SOA, its clear not all the work is done yet. Can you drill down on what SAP needs to do on the NetWeaver integration side and on the application side?
The most important part is that next year we have this Enterprise Services Repository. From the application side, the key piece is to deliver the services because [they are what] goes across all applications. Then the third step is to force applications to use these services because once the applications are providing these services, we are open, and people can use them to build applications on top or extend SAP, which is most important. ... Its quite clear that some development work needs to be done at the application layer.
When you say to force the applications to use the services, what does that mean?
It means that, today, SAP applications and components interact. Today, it sometimes is done with a clean interface, sometimes not with a clean interface, just by calling to another application. And using services could mean that these applications, when they want to interact, they will look to the repository to access services. Its a cleaner way for integration internally. But its not here yet.
Can you drill down on functionality in MySAP ERP 2004 and 2005?
In 2004 is the first time that ERP comes on NetWeaver.
That is one of the biggest challenges weve had. If ERP comes with NetWeaver, it runs in a portal. If it runs in a portal, there are some rules that have to be defined, so if you enter the applications through the portal, its not the same as with just the transactions. There is more to be done.
So, therefore, the user interface looks different—not completely, but in some areas—and they can use the business intelligence which is embedded in NetWeaver. They will also use a few mobile Scenarios, like mobile asset management, which is also in NetWeaver. So what they will do is use some of the capabilities of NetWeaver to improve the application in [MySAP ERP] 2004. Then, all the new functionality comes, like Internet sales, RFID [radio-frequency identification] enablement, etc.
In 2005, the key point is to do more of that—to have a complete set of rules, for example. We also have some interactive forms in 2004, and there will be more in 2005.
Ive heard that a third of SAP users are on MySAP ERP and two-thirds are on R/3. How important is it to move those R/3 users forward, and do you think the SOA message is enough to persuade them to do so?
They will move anyhow. I think SOA is part of the message, but it will take some time, no question.
It takes longer than some people thought, which is OK, because people can now [evolve]—its not just a replacement, where you replace an R/3 with a MySAP ERP user. Thats easy.
But the suite is much larger, and if they come from R/3, they come to such a suite now. Many people are using the CRM [customer relationship management] functionality or supply chain or whatever first and keep R/3 as an ERP system. And move later. Thats fine with me.
You seem pretty confident that building an SOA is the right direction?
[SOA] is not a buzzword. We know what to do and how to do it. The idea of SOA, of services, encapsulated objects and services [is not new].
The technology is there. The performance is there. The standards are there. And we have enough experience from the applications—we know what type of services are required and how to design more generic services.
I feel quite confident.