SAP Looks to Keep Oracle at Bay

As the enterprise software giant confronts an increasingly powerful and resourceful foe in Oracle, it is looking to its users and partners to help it maintain its standing in enterprise software.

As SAP AG confronts an increasingly powerful and resourceful foe in Oracle Corp., more than ever the company is looking to its users and partners to help it maintain its footing in enterprise software.

At its TechEd user conference in Boston last week, SAP announced its Enterprise Services Community Process, a developers forum focused on defining enterprise services and their underlying processes that will help build a stronger foundation around SAPs infrastructure. Partners can use the services to build applications based on NetWeaver, the underlying technology stack for SAPs Enterprise Services Architecture.

The ESCP forum is geared toward developers in two distinct communities—ISVs that build applications to sit on top of NetWeaver and technology vendors that build technology underneath NetWeaver—according to SAP spokesperson Bill Wohl. But the general consensus among users and analysts is that SAP, like its ever-encroaching rival Oracle, will want to move partner development efforts beyond their installed base.

"Hyperion is really sensitive to customers desire to optimize their investment, whether its SAP, Oracle or a custom transaction application," said Robert Gersten, chief development officer with Hyperion Solutions Corp., in Santa Clara, Calif., which partners with both SAP and Oracle. "But we believe a strategic goal for both companies will be to open up well beyond their own stuff in the next few years."

At its OpenWorld conference in San Francisco last month, Oracle announced the "revitalization" of its developer community, now called the Oracle Application Integration Initiative, around its Fusion Middleware technology stack, according to Doug Kennedy, vice president of worldwide alliances and channels at Oracle, in Redwood Shores, Calif.

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In his TechEd keynote address, Shai Agassi, president of SAPs product and technology group, said that part of the battle among SAP, Oracle and Microsoft is going to come down to which ecosystem developers want access to.

The issue that SAP will have going forward is dispelling the notion that it is not an open community—and that it wont compete unduly with partners.

"SAP has been very sensitive about joint collaboration," said Hyperions Gersten. "While theres competition in certain areas, SAP was very closed about this type of collaboration in the past, and thats changed dramatically."

AMR Research analyst Jim Shepherd said that Oracle would be the first to admit its partner program is not as well-organized as it should be.

"Establishing Oracle Fusion Middleware is vitally important for Oracle," said Shepherd, in Boston. "They cant buy companies in every vertical."

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