Plattner Rouses the SAP Faithful

SAP chief Hasso Plattner told the audience at the Sapphire 2002 show that the enterprise software maker will reduce the complexity of its software and target better integration and collaboration.

ORLANDO, Fla. –Contrition is the word that came to mind listening to SAP AGs Co-chairman and CEO Hasso Plattner deliver the opening keynote address at SAPs huge user conference here today.

Sapphire 02 is about setting the record straight, righting past wrongs and demonstrating customer satisfaction through a bevy of customer presentations.

"The new, new economy is the biggest disaster of this century. That and the financial greediness [of many]," said Plattner. "We said technology is easier. Its not easier; it never works the first time. What the Internet age brought about is collaboration. Thats the great promise."

Plattner outlined several themes in his hour-long keynote, chief among them the SAPs goal to reduce system complexity and reduce overall cost of ownership of its systems. The German software behemoth is going about reducing complexity on several fronts. SAP will focus these next few days on outlining its SAP Business One offering that is essentially its answer to recent plays by Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp. into the small and mid-sized business sector.

Announced at the European technology show CeBIT earlier this year, Business One is a separate implementation of SAP that is, according to Plattner, easy to deploy, easy to learn and easy to maintain. It is geared toward the sales professional and can be installed in remote locations. Business One can access information from the main SAP system at headquarters and, more importantly, information can be rolled to a centralized SAP system.

"We can build systems that are much better [in terms of] requirements, that are as speedy as possible," said Plattner. "If we can do this locally, if we can handle a small amount of customers locally, that could be a huge advantage. We believe its a huge step forward."

Companies have talked to SAP repeatedly about the need for scalability of systems – and ultimately total cost of ownership, according to Plattner.

"Large companies struggle to distribute SAP down to smaller regions," he said. "What is the right way to implement systems? I dont believe we can really tell you that. We have never succeeded at that. There are no simple answers and these are complex implementations."

Another tack SAP, of Walldorf, German, is taking is the replacement of every single one of its user interfaces, with the ultimate goal of achieving speed and better ease of use of SAP applications. SAP will do this through its Web Dynpro, a presentation design and runtime framework that operates in the SAP Web application server.

"The most important piece of technology sitting on the [SAP] Web Application Server is the Web Dynpro," said Plattner. "For 30 years we are writing online software. We had to figure out a way to build online screen forms and how to drive information to the screens. Thats the Web Dynpro."

The idea with the Web Dynpro is it can be changed in design time as well as run time, reducing the need for upgrades to a new version of software in order to make changes, according to Plattner. With the objective that developers become faster by a factor of two and server load is reduced by a factor of two, SAP will work first to replace its Java user interfaces and tackle the remaining modules over the next couple of years. The first changes will be seen in the next iteration of SAPs CRM package, due the third quarter.

Platter asked for customers help in several areas: in cleaning up the SAP systems by removing unnecessary customizations and in convincing Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates to open up his Windows operating system.

"I believe we can drop 50 percent of functionality and no one will ever recognize it," said Plattner. "We have to clean this up. You are scared. We are scared. We dont want to be at a disadvantage if other companies come out with new software that radically ignores old versions. There is no history. We dont want to stop this, but we have to start the cleanup process." In regard to Microsoft, Plattner went for an even more direct plea.

"We have a critical situation here and most people are not coming forward. I will do it by asking Mr. Gates: What is allowed around Windows and what is not? There is a necessity that the Java machine has to become a critical component, " said Plattner.

Amidst audience applause, Plattner demanded, "Mr. Gates, tear that wall down. If you come too late, history will punish you."

What Plattner advocates is that all front ends to be built with a Java virtual browser. The answer, he said, is not Linux, since Microsoft is the largest software producer.

The idea of interoperability circles back on what could be one of SAPs biggest areas of software innovation: collaboration through integration.

"We want to go beyond accessing systems on the Internet," said Plattner. "We want to build on top of the apps we have today, new applications. We want to exploit the technology we have for collaboration. We want to build systems that enable engineers to work on systems simultaneously, on a portal."