LAS VEGAS—The big take-away for users at this years annual TechEd conference Sept. 12-15 here is the fact that SAP is “stabilizing” its next-generation ERP suite—for the next five years.
Any upgrades to the MySAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) 2005 suite, announced in May, will come in the form of enhancement packages that customers can choose to implement or not—without touching the core MySAP ERP platform (which, it seems, is now the Business Process Platform SAP has been talking about).
The goal, according to Shai Agassi, head of application development at SAP, is to keep customers backbone stable while at the same time enabling innovation.
The enhancement packages will be topical releases that sit on top of the core MySAP platform and include things such as new composite applications, services and functional upgrades. The packages will not come randomly, but rather will have a specific topic—travel management or procurement, for example—and users can decide how they want to add them.
Agassi said that he envisions SAP introducing one or two enhancement packages a quarter, and at the end of five years users will get all of them in a single shot. To avoid complications with testing and upgrades, SAP is working on a test framework, similar to its Switch Framework, that will come out with the individual enhancement packages.
“If you did 20 different packages, you would have a hard time [with testing and upgrades], but if you did two or three, then moved on the next big release,” it shouldnt be an issue, according to Agassi.
The move to a stable application suite is, it seems, a way to assure customers (and partners) that upgrading to MySAP ERP 2005—a near migration in some cases—is a sure bet for the foreseeable future, one that can be done without the worry of having another major upgrade around the next corner.
“MySAP ERP 2005 will go for a very long time,” said Agassi. “Its the new R/3 4.6c.”
SAP announced several other initiatives to help customers move forward, with both MySAP ERP 2005 and SOA (service-oriented architecture) in general.
The SAP Discovery System is a sort of preconfigured SOA landscape—albeit SAPs version of SOA that utilizes its applications and integration platform—that developers and partners can use to play around with SOA concepts without touching production systems.
The SAP Discovery box comes with MySAP ERP 2005 running eight sample business process scenarios that are implemented as composite applications. It also comes with the current version of NetWeaver, a composite development toolbox including the SAP Composite Application Framework, NetWeaver Visual Composer, Developer Studio and the Enterprise Services Workplace. SAP-guided procedures and best practices are thrown in as well.
The scenarios that come with this version of SAP Discovery include procurement, travel expense exception, investment approval, request for new supplier master data, request for quotation approval, production order rescheduling, store-specific consumer price maintenance and strategic investment buy simulation. Over the next year, SAP plans to develop additional scenarios around specific industries.
To better help developers get a handle on composite application development—a big driver for SOA—SAP also announced that it has brought several tools under a single umbrella. The NetWeaver Composition Environment now includes SAPs Composite Application Framework tool for service composition, the Web Dynpro development environment that offers guided procedures for composite processes, and the NetWeaver Visual Composure tool for building and adapting composite views. The goal, officials said, is again to allow developers and business process people to innovate without having to touch their core application suite.
SAP has, by many accounts, been innovating at lightning speed over the past several years, much faster, some might argue, than its huge customer base. Of the companys 30,000-plus users, only about 2,100 have committed to MySAP ERP 2005; 107 companies are live now.
That doesnt worry Agassi, who said the company doesnt want every single customer to upgrade at the same time. Rather, SAP is counting on about 7,000 users upgrading to MySAP ERP 2005 every year. Doing that math, by about the time most of the users have upgraded, it will be time for the next big ERP release.