SAP Components to Link Applications

'xApps' development is at core of company's B2B integration effort.

SAP AG is striving to convince core enterprise resource planning customers that its the company to turn to for business-to-business initiatives, from internal integration to external collaboration.

At the core of that effort, announced at the Sapphire user conference here last week, is the companys Cross Applications, a new breed of software that aggregates and automates information across applications.

"We want to go beyond accessing systems on the Internet," said SAP CEO Hasso Plattner in his keynote address. "We want to build on top of the apps we have today—new applications. We want to exploit the technology we have for collaboration. We want to build systems that enable engineers to work on systems simultaneously on a portal."

Cross Applications—or xApps, as theyre known at SAP—enable users to leverage technology stacks by moving beyond CRM (customer relationship management) or supplier relationship management through componentized software. Those components will link heterogeneous applications, such as Siebel Software Inc.s CRM or PeopleSoft Inc.s human resources systems.

SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, has identified about 200 potential xApps as a sort of road map for development and is working on four: Sourcing, which is in beta now; Resource and Program Management, which will ship later this year; and Employee Relationship Management and Mergers & Acquisitions, which are under development.

SAP is working with service integrator Accenture Ltd., which built and is selling industry- specific functions such as collaborative and supply chain xApps for the oil and gas industries.

Being developed in SAPs Collaboration Area, xApps use technology from the companys MySAP Technology platform, such as the softwares exchange integration component, portals component and Web Application Server. xApps also incorporate a component of SAPs Business Warehouse software that provides information integration.

Some users here saw xApps as akin to EAI (enterprise application integration) software.

"You have to wonder what xApps are. Is it XML? Is it management of messages?" asked Bruce Decock, vice president and CIO at LSI Logic Corp., in Milpitas, Calif. "It seems more PowerPoint now, and .Net is becoming real."

While acknowledging that other software makers, including EAI and business process management vendors, are also on the cross-application track, analysts say SAP is taking the right steps in assuring its future in e-business.

"Theyre absolutely moving in the right direction [with xApps]. These are applications you sell to a line of business," said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, a research company in Daly City, Calif. "Line of business has discretionary income, where IT doesnt. IT has reached a saturation point."