SAP hears call for NetWeaver support

Enterprises using NetWeaver for the first time are finding some customized components can result in performance issues. SAP is working with Mercury Interactive Corp. to catch problems before they're put into full production.

As SAP builds its technology stack around NetWeaver, some experts say enterprises are going to need support to manage a more complex infrastructure, possibly resulting in bottlenecks and frustrated end users.

We can drill way down into individual lines of custom code to diagnose and correct a problem.
Rod Lehman,
senior director of alliancesMercury Interactive Corp.

SAP entered into an agreement with Mercury Interactive Corp. last week, to tie in the company's performance testing software with SAP support contracts. Companies signing a support contract with SAP will get a free load and performance test using Mercury's LoadRunner analysis software.

While the number of enterprises adopting and fully using NetWeaver remains relatively small -- about 2,000 -- Mercury executives said SAP learned its first lesson very quickly. Many enterprises signing on to SAP's NetWeaver initiative needed support in tying together various systems with the SAP stack without harming performance levels.

"Overall, all of the major software vendors are seeing increased complexity associated with their applications," said Rod Lehman, senior director of alliances with Mercury Software Inc. "SAP's vision with NetWeaver is getting basic packaged components from SAP and allowing customers to build custom components. This is very complex and requires end-to-end testing from a functional and performance point of view."

The joint agreement between Mercury and SAP couples Mercury's LoadRunner software with SAP's Go Live Check Service. Six to eight weeks before a customer deploys an application, SAP will perform a remote load test for that customer.

Before an application is rolled into full production, Mercury's LoadRunner application simulates users and different user environments in order to measure how an application will perform and its response time.

If a problem is detected, the issue is referred to Mercury, which will try to resolve each issue at a cost based on each individual circumstance. In some cases Mercury technicians will conduct site visits to remedy performance problems, Lehman said.

Performance issues are part of a larger trend, Lehman said.

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"We're seeing this not only with SAP, but Oracle, IBM and others are fighting for the whole middleware stack as well," Lehman said. "All of these players are also moving to Web services and service-oriented architectures, and this creates some potential complexity issues."

Most NetWeaver projects involve enterprise application integration, Java and systems architecture changes. SAP has been trying to simplify matters, turning its application suite into a portfolio of configurable process components, according to Jim Shepherd, vice president of research at Boston-based AMR Research Inc.

SAP's plan is to configure its mySAP and BusinessOne suites so they can be easily configured for the diverse industries and various sized companies that use the products, Shepherd said. To accomplish that, SAP is adding more than 1,000 developers in 2005 and seeking out agreements with vendors like Mercury to add better support for customers.

"SAP may have finally reached the point where it has the technology, resources and market conditions to take the leap," Shepherd said.

It takes customers time to understand the power and capability of NetWeaver, according to Lehman. Many run into configuration issues with the Web and application server that cause performance problems. Often the database server is also the culprit of the bottlenecks and needs to be tweaked to be appropriately indexed and optimized.

"We can drill way down into individual lines of custom code to diagnose and correct a problem," Lehman said.

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