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SAP's NetWeaver fuels RFID race

A new Forrester Research reports says that SAP is leading the RFID race, with Oracle Corp. and IBM nipping at its heels.

SAP's NetWeaver platform has the potential to push the company ahead of its competitors in the race to support...

large-scale radio frequency identification (RIFD) deployments, according to a new Forrester Research Inc. study.

Sharyn Leaver, a vice president and research director at the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm, said SAP's Master Data Management (MDM) software, which identifies and cleanses similar data objects across various systems, will help companies integrate RFID data across applications and manage RFID data exchanges.

"SAP shows strong potential with their initial offering and over time they'll be able to use their NetWeaver infrastructure platform and application suite to provide a more robust offering," Leaver said, who recently authored a report, "Evaluating RFID Middleware."

RFID technology, which uses microchips to track products and goods in the supply chain is beginning to take hold in the consumer packaged goods and manufacturing industries. Wal-Mart and Target have been running RFID projects with their suppliers to have RFID tags on pallets and cases shipped to them.

SAPbuilt support for RFID technology directly into its core product, R/3, introducing a software package last year that includes SAP's new Auto-ID infrastructure, SAP's event management and supply chain management software, and SAP Enterprise Portal.

While SAP's RFID package may be among the most elaborate, Oracle Corp. and IBM are right on its heels as they focus on managing the mountains of data produced by RFID readers, Leaver said.

"A lot of companies aren't looking to just take data and put in business applications; they want to put it in a data store that lines up perfectly with Oracle and IBM's strengths," Leaver said.

Oracle entered the fray in January, announcing that its warehouse management software would support RFID. This software will work in conjunction with Oracle's 10g database and 10g application server to handle the large volumes of transactional data produced by RFID readers.

IBM's offering builds on its existing WebSphere platform, which supports large-scale integration and application development projects. IBM's product uses filtering technology and uses data management to conduct analysis of raw RFID data.

RFID middleware must include a balanced combination of core infrastructure and packaged application features, including device management, integration, data management and analytics, Leaver said.

"It's super early. A lot of vendors don't have package products available yet," Leaver said. "For now enterprises should consider a vendor that offers a mix of core infrastructure capabilities and the ability to do data filtering and content browsing."

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