IBM, SAP Ready Integration Software

The two software giants are extending their respective efforts to link heterogeneous applications.

IBM and SAP AG are extending their respective efforts to link heterogeneous applications with new integration offerings.

IBM next month will announce two new WebSphere Business Integration software components, called Collaborations, that link applications in the financial services and retail industries.

Separately, SAP, along with its development partner Accenture Ltd., will roll out new Cross Applications integration technology at SAPs Sapphire user conference in Lisbon, Portugal, next week.

SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, introduced its first Cross Applications, known as xApps, earlier this summer at its Sapphire show in Orlando, Fla. xApps automate cross-enterprise business functions by linking SAP and third-party applications. They can be augmented through the addition of components, rather than through wholesale replacement.

Next week, SAP will announce a new Cross Application for enhancing employee productivity. Accenture, of Hamilton, Bermuda, will unveil five new xApps geared towards the energy and chemical markets.

Accentures Relationship Management xApp is geared towards the downstream retail energy market and automates day-to-day functions like pricing and fuel ordering. The Web Services for Chemical Distributors xApp provides distributors with the ability to create their own portal that pumps catalogs and content down to customers.

The Exploration and Production xApp enables collaboration, document management and information management among scientists to contractors. The Knowledge Management xApp for Chemicals automates activities that support information gathering, knowledge management, best practices and e-learning. The Desktop Link xApp helps IT support groups provide desktop support in large organizations.

Separately, SAP, which will focus on how customers are using technology to navigate in this trying economic climate at next weeks show, is expected to make some announcements around the four xApps announced in Orlando – Sourcing, Resource and Program Management, Employee Relationship Management and Mergers & Acquisitions.

Meanwhile, IBMs Collaborations, which work with the Armonk, N.Y., companys WebSphere Business Integration platform, are templates for automating specific vertical or horizontal business processes with defined business logic. They include best practices and industry benchmarks.

The new Collaborations will include one called Financial Markets, which looks at the new requirements around straight through processing, and one called Retail, which focuses on UCCnet synchronization.

In the fourth quarter, IBM will release a third Collaboration called Financial Networks, which looks to automate the requirements around SWIFT.

IBM currently has about 70 Collaborations across five vertical markets that independent software vendors and business partners customize.

"The whole notion of cross applications, we think of that as part of our business integration strategy," said Marie Wieck, vice president of development for business process integration products at IBM.

BOC Gases Inc. used SAP technologies and systems integration help from Accenture to develop a portal that its distributors can use to build a Web site for their customers. Danni Perri, e-commerce project manager at BOC Gases, said that integrating SAP applications is always challenging, but using a prototype xApp developed by Accenture provided a seamless experience for end users.

"We had to put a lot of effort into performance and getting everything to work, and work well together," said Perri, in Murray Hill, N.J. "This is SAP after all. Its like anything else, it takes longer. In hindsight, there is complexity there you hadnt anticipated."

Some industry experts call software that provides both integration and business process automation capabilities composite applications. Although SAP has a lead on the application front, IBM is headed in the right direction, said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn.

"Any vendor who is working in the enterprise portal space, or on Web services technology – and IBM is certainly strategic in both areas – will come up with a composite application strategy," Valdes said. "Portals and Web services form a technology foundation that you can view as satisfying many of the requirements of a composite application."