Business Process Platform Is Goal for SAP Offerings

MySAP tools first for release on business process platform.

SAP AG will ship all its products on NetWeaver by years end, and it plans to move all its offerings to its business process platform by 2007, giving users more flexibility to customize their software and integrate it with non-SAP products.

SAPs plan to deliver its Enterprise Services Architecture, which will merge the Walldorf, Germany, vendors existing application integration and application technologies into a business process platform, is an extensive one, and it may be several years before customers fully adopt it, Henning Kagermann, SAPs CEO, said here during the companys Sapphire user conference last week. But, by next year, the new business process platform will be available, and MySAP applications will be the first products to be released on it.

Those applications will, in effect, be broken down into their component business processes, and by utilizing NetWeaver, customers will be able to reassemble the components to meet their needs, SAP officials said here.

"Whatever size company you are, you can be assured we will deliver a solution according to your needs," Kagermann said. "Well build large ecosystems around the platform and accelerate business innovation. We will deliver on this promise."

In SAPs vision, business applications will give way to plug-and-play networks of application services that companies of all sizes will be able to employ, Kagermann said. "If you can easily plug your business processes into the new network, you are competitive, youre not dependent anymore," he said.

Kagermann said SAP will let other business application vendors, including competitors, plug into its business process network, describing this as "positive competition" and "co-evolution" that will foster innovation. Despite the companys grand plans, by Kagermanns own admission, it could take awhile for many SAP customers to reap the benefits of the new business process platform.

Kagermann said he expects itll take until 2010 or 2011 before the vast majority of customers have migrated. In fact, SAP has extended its maintenance for existing applications for up to eight years from the typical three.

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"The real question for us is, Since we still have a life cycle of different products today, will they extend their maintenance beyond eight years?" asked Colin Lawrie, manager of the SAP R/2 Center of Expertise at the ExxonMobil Business Support Centre Canada ULC, in Toronto.

Lawrie said that ExxonMobil, in part because it is the result of a merger between two large oil companies, has a hodgepodge of SAP applications in place, ranging from R/2 to R/4x. While he said he saw benefits in migrating to the next-generation platform, he said it could take a number of years just to get a change-management system in place and to replace the existing applications ties to legacy systems.

For newer SAP customers, the next-generation business process platform seems to be a bigger draw. Borg-Warner Automotive, an automotive parts manufacturer, currently runs SAP software in just five or six of its 60 North American plants. The company is standardizing on MySAP applications for all its global operations, in part because it felt SAP could best serve its global business and in part because of the companys technology improvements, said Greg Billingsley, IT project manager at Borg-Warner, in Muncie, Ind.

"Theyve come a long way with MySAP," said Billingsley. "They have packaged best-practices templates and process maps. The software works more out of the box than it did before."

At the Sapphire conference, SAP announced that several infrastructure software developers—including Adobe Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., IBM, Microsoft Corp. and Symantec Corp.—were building new products on SAPs Enterprise Services Architecture.

Most partner products will be delivered this year. The infrastructure partnerships are the first of what SAP officials said will be hundreds of third-party ISV products built on SAPs Enterprise Services Architecture.

"All this together is the manifestation of the next big thing," said Shai Agassi, president of the product and technology group at SAP. "We hope this is the foundation for hundreds of ISVs to build solutions and innovate around this."

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