SAP Maps Out SOA Plans

The ERP specialist plans to define and publish a common language for doing business in a service-oriented world.

LAS VEGAS—Despite an overabundance of buzzwords and tired acronyms around service-oriented architecture, theres a definite revolution brewing in the software industry, and SAP AG plans to be at the center of it.

"SAPs strategy is based on strategic assumptions that every employee in every usage model is always getting data and interacting … [eventually] getting a different usage with processes," said SAP Executive Board Member Shai Agassi, during his keynote address Monday at SAPs annual Industry Analyst Summit here. "To do this, you need a well-defined set of APIs that is extracted from our applications—that becomes the language of business."

Working with partners, SAP plans to define and publish a common language—a lingua franca for doing business in a service-oriented world.

But thats only part of the story. Just past the halfway mark in its five-year plan to develop—and deliver to users—its ESA (Enterprise Services Architecture), SAP is fast and furious with much newer concepts.

For example, Agassi on Monday announced the inception of SAPs Industry Value Network for Banks—essentially the first verticalized approach to the companys Business Process Platform strategy. BPP, initially introduced about a year ago, will provide a services platform along with the requisite business logic to orchestrate services into composite applications based on business processes. The underlying technology for BPP is NetWeaver, SAPs integration and development platform—itself still in the process of development.

Now SAP is jumping a step ahead, talking about building out industry-specific process platforms.

The goal of the Industry Value Network for Banks is to define services that create that lingua franca for banks that enables them to "conduct" business processes across their IT systems—and to create composite applications based on a specific process, officials said.

As a result of its work around IVN for Banks, SAP plans to introduce in mid-2006 a repository for banks that encompasses the most relevant processes, coupled with guidelines for creating a flexible environment.

Working with IT banking architects and chief software architects from the likes of ABN Amro, Barclays, Credit Suisse and Standard Bank, SAP plans to define the banking-specific services required to SOA-enable the banking industry—and define those services that will become part of the banking repository.

And thats just the beginning. SAP has 28 industry-specific product portfolios.

/zimages/2/28571.gifAmberPoints SOA management looks outside SOAP. Click here to read more.

"Were coming out with Business Process Platforms for every one of our industries," said Agassi, who is the head of SAPs product development and technology. "The first one is banking. Thats a first of many. You will see more and more of these over the next year and a half."

To this end, SAP is turning to partners to build out composite applications. Its also looking to partners to expand its capabilities in new directions. Mendocino, for example, is a project SAP is working on with Microsoft Corp. to develop software that will allow users to integrate Microsoft Office products into SAPs applications. Ramp-up for Mendocino is starting this month with a number of users, and general availability is expected next April.

"We have in the past looked at the world through one user, going [into applications] through one portal. We have revised that," said Agassi. "The user experience will be one that the user is most comfortable with. For usage continuities we will have unified processes and a unified UI served through many, many user experiences."

At the same time, SAP is looking at new models for software delivery. At its Sapphire user conference last May SAP announced about 25 relationships with industry leaders who have agreed to build components of SAPs ESA into their products. Cisco Systems Inc., for example, is building SAPs ESA integration layer into its router.

In terms of a road map, Agassi sketched the companys plans for the near future. By the end of next year it plans to have a "significant number" of services in an Enterprise Repository that users can access to create composites—along with 1,000 prebuilt composite applications—and broad access for ISVs. The company also plans to make available a generic BPP platform, along with the mySAP suite, all in one offering.

By 2007, SAP plans to complete its ESA road map—and then likely concentrate on getting its massive R/3 user base upgraded to the newer platforms.

"We have a fundamental belief in the IT shop," said Agassi. "But our core belief is that the IT shop is not set up for the next generation of business. ERP [enterprise resource planning], CRM [customer relationship management], etc., its not going to work that way. … Why do you need to invest millions of dollars in your accounting system? Just because it hasnt been modernized."

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