SAP would be extremely pleased to witness mass adoption of NetWeaver as a composition platform within an ecosystem of partners and ISVs. It's a daunting task and great challenges are ahead for SAP. But if we consider this to be a reality and to answer your question, I see two challenges: one on the standard side and the other on the service side. I'll even add one more challenge as a bonus.
On the standard side, you have standards organizations like W3C or OASIS that publish references or recommendations and you have SAP that implements them in its ABAP and Java platforms. The problem is that both are slow-moving organizations, and that translates into slow, incremental delivery of the standards specifications in the SAP platform with discrepancies between the ABAP and Java stacks or between one Service Pack and another. This challenge is inevitable for SAP with such a huge customer base and legacy to deal with.
On the other hand, the introduction of new standards like the ones related to SDO and SCA or new standards version like wsdl 2.0 poses a challenge to SAP and then consequently to its development partners. SAP has an army of standards architects sitting on the board of the standards organizations, product strategists/planners/architects/managers/developers to materialize the specifications into product releases. Its average development partner doesn't have that luxury. I'm not sure if SAP can do anything there, but it certainly poses a challenge to its development partners to sort this out.
On the service side, the biggest issue at hand will be the delivery of the promised services. No service, no SOA, no MDD. There will be happy partners and not so happy ones. First, you have the production problem (output/throughput of services). Just look at SAP ERP process maps. That's a gigantic work to service enable such an application. Which domain area will be service enabled first or last and when? Personally, I have no preferences. I hope by January or December 2007 all the modules of SAP ERP will be fully service enabled. I do even recall that SAP CEO Henning Kagermann promised by 2007 it will happen. Let's see how SAP delivers on that.
Then, you have the existential dilemma: Should I build my services or wait for SAP? SAP development partners are presented here with a big opportunity to develop services and composite applications on top of SAP products addressing innovative business processes. The challenge here for SAP will be to clearly state the boundaries of what the partners can develop versus what will be delivered by SAP. I believe the fundamental challenge will be how transparent and articulate SAP will be in communicating with its partners on such issue.
Ultimately, as far as I'm concerned, the main challenge for SAP will be to convince its customer base to embrace the NetWeaver platform and the flurry of composite applications the partner and ISV communities would have built around the SAP platform in light of the challenges mentioned above. That's when SAP would have to be very good at convincing its customer base to upgrade to its latest product and technology. And as per the latest announcement from the SAP executives at the Analyst Summit, 10,000 customers on the Business Process Platform is the goal for 2007. Looking forward to it.
This was first published in December 2006