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| SAP Executive Advisory (JANUARY 2005)|
IBM and SAP: Commoditize this!
by Joshua Greenbaum
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When IBM unveiled the latest update to its On Demand software strategy at the end of 2004, SAP was in a familiar position: relegated to the IT side of the "business transformation and IT" dilemma facing enterprises today. Innovation, according to IBM, takes place at the "higher" business process level where, by implication, SAP has no business.
There has always been a problem with this worldview and, in light of SAP's push toward business process modeling and NetWeaver, it's become even more shortsighted. IBM contends that the key to success comes from middleware -- WebSphere, Lotus, DB2, Rational.
With IBM competing in SAP's own customer base to define the parameters of next-generation innovation -- and cash the checks that SAP thinks should have NetWeaver written on them -- it's important to understand the difference between IBM and SAP.
In the IBM world, business processes -- the building blocks of innovation -- are created out of a consulting project that uses underlying applications the way a bakery uses flour -- a raw material with a purely commodity value. In the SAP world, business processes are part of the core functionality of mySAP that, along with new processes and services, form the building blocks of next generation applications.
IBM's worldview is an attempt to gild the lily by making middleware look more strategic than it is. It's one that only makes sense if you're a company that eschews packaged apps. The real value-add is in packaged business processes that can be reused at will -- either by a SAP NetWeaver or whatever IBM decides to call its services architecture. Those packaged processes -- many of them already sitting in mySAP waiting to be service oriented -- represent the building blocks of innovation. The middleware layer that IBM proposes is much more like the flour in your bread. If you want the whole loaf, you're better off talking to SAP.
About Joshua Greenbaum|
Joshua Greenbaum is a market research analyst and consultant at Enterprise Applications Consulting. He has more than 15 years of experience in the industry as a computer programmer, systems analyst, author, and consultant. Prior to starting his own firm, Enterprise Applications Consulting, he was the founding director of the Packaged Software Strategies Service for Hurwitz Group, which focused on technology, infrastructure and business issues in the enterprise applications market.
| Executive Question of the Month: |
How will NetWeaver work with legacy solutions?
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|Q: SAP has a strong commitment to making NetWeaver the be-all and end-all of software architectures, which means it has to play well with legacy solutions. There are a lot of issues to consider in the integration of NetWeaver to the world of legacy applications, however, and SAP's commitment won't be realized overnight. The key NetWeaver components like Exchange Infrastructure, Master Data Management, Business Warehouse, the Portal and the Web Applications Server are designed to facilitate the integration of legacy systems. And depending on the requirement, they do a decent job today and will do a better job tomorrow. But if you're looking for an easy way to wrap your legacy systems in some Web services wrapper and use them in a NetWeaver-driven services architecture, that's much more of a "tomorrow" function than a "today" function.|
This was first published in October 2004