SAPs Business Process Expert Community to Support SOA

The company will announce the new community at TechEd as part of its efforts to build an ecosystem around its NetWeaver platform.

At the launch of its annual TechEd conference in Las Vegas Sept. 12, SAP will announce a new community to support the IT industrys move toward service-oriented architectures. The community will stress process integration.

SAPs Business Process Expert community is intended to be a collaborative environment where business process experts can share information, experiences and best practices to leverage SAPs ERP (enterprise resource planning) software and NetWeaver platform, the company said.

The whole concept of business process modeling, management, integration and analysis has really taken off over the past couple of years, as companies become more familiar with—and start to utilize—the methodology behind SOA that calls for the integration of services to build composite applications, which are compilations of service-enabled application components that are pulled together to enable a specific business process.

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SAP, along with its rivals Oracle and Microsoft, is heavily invested in SOA. SAP announced its ESA (enterprise services architecture) strategy in 2003, which includes componentizing its older applications and building a new suite of applications on its NetWeaver platform (which is evolving into a business process platform)—a plan that is expected to be completed in 2007. Oracle and Microsoft are also building out new application suites based on SOA that sit on their respective middleware platforms.

Part of SAPs ESA undertaking has been to build out an ecosystem around its integration platform—one it invites companies to standardize on for services integration.

SAP recently transferred one of its executives, Zia Yusuf, over to the chief ecosystem builder position.

Yusuf brings a good deal of experience to ecosystem building. His most recent effort at SAP has been the development of a corporate strategy—one that included SAPs ESA path and dovetails nicely with ecosystem development.

"The way to explain corporate strategy is around three key points: platform strategy, midmarket and business users," Yusuf said in an Aug. 31 interview with eWEEK. "How do you create a vibrant, profitable ecosystem around a platform? Imagine a set of three arrows in a circular pattern: adoption, co-innovation, modernization. They all feed into each other through different parts of the ecosystem and link to those three pieces of the platform strategy."

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As part of his charter to build an ecosystem around SAPs offerings, Yusuf and his team are responsible for several communities, including the Powered by NetWeaver group, which has about 1,400 ISVs involved. "The basic model there is you find the right number of ISVs and the right type of ISVs," Yusuf said. "I dont believe its a game about the volume of partners; its more about the partners who have volume. The trick is to find the right sort that binds us by horizontal area that really have the ability to innovate."

Secondly, Yusuf is responsible for SAPs software developer network, which has over 500,000 active members who add to discussions relating to SAPs NetWeaver platform. He is also behind the soft launch of the BPE community, which has been in preview for the past four months and has about 30,000 initial members.

The initial uptick is good news for SAP, which is in a fierce battle with Oracle, particularly, to maintain its lead as a top software provider—a goal that can only be achieved if other software developers, resellers and customers build around SAPs ESA strategy.

"A platform is only a platform if others use it—if there are ISVs on it, customers adopt it and there is a thriving activity around it," Yusuf said.

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