SAP has added Hewlett-Packard to the list of top-line partners for SAP Portals, its wholly owned portal subsidiary,...
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and hopes the new deal will help expand the appeal of its enterprise portal software beyond the existing SAP customer base.
It's also working on its first Unix version of the software in conjunction with HP, which is expected out in the third quarter of this year.
SAP has a perception problem with its portals unit in that customers believe it's tied to SAP's mainstream enterprise applications. That's not the case, says Thomas Iseler, director of strategic alliances at SAP Portals.
"We're also targeting customers that have no SAP on the applications side, but use PeopleSoft, Oracle and others." That was the reason for the original spinoff, he says. But within a month, SAP promises to emphasize that further by changing the name of the unit to something not SAP-related.
SAP Portals comes out of the $400 million acquisition of enterprise portal vendor TopTier by SAP in March 2001. The buy was made partly to help SAP customers integrate their legacy systems onto the Web, but also as an expansion into collaborative technology for better integration with business and trading partners. SAP has since integrated its Markets and business intelligence product lines with the core TopTier technology.
The HP deal follows a similar announcement made in January with Compaq. Both have a large number of overlapping customers -- Compaq claims to have 15,000 SAP installations, while HP has 10,000. Interestingly, these two deals appear to somewhat devalue SAP's relationship with IBM, signed last April. IBM agreed then to integrate SAP Portals with its WebSphere Portal Server. But this is a technical integration deal, says Iseler, and "there is no formal agreement between SAP Portals and IBM."
SAP needs the support of big partners and systems integrators if it is to get its portal technology used seriously for large installations. Both Compaq and HP have a large user base of non-SAP customers that it hopes to tap into, and both are pushing larger-scale Windows 2000 installations. However, the lack of a Unix-based offering is becoming more evident. HP is helping with a version specifically for its HP-UX 11i flavor of Unix, but SAP says that, based on the demand, it is very likely to release other versions as well. HP claims to be the number one supplier of Unix-based SAP systems.
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The alliance will combine SAP Portals, including the business intelligence tools, with HP technology and consulting services. HP's main focus will be on bringing security management and high-availability experience and technology to the table. HP will also build up its global consultancy and implementation operation, including a new set of solution centers, with the first in Grenoble, France.
The major players are moving into the portal market, adding integration hooks to related software technologies in order to make their products more compelling. IBM, Oracle and SAP are now the industry giants, with Sun's iPlanet and BEA also competing. Of the independents, Plumtree (with its Microsoft deal and plans for an IPO) still looks to be the most viable, with Epicentric following. More consolidation among the smaller players is expected.
Early installations of portal software failed to live up to their promise, essentially providing little more than a Web user interface across applications. Now all the portal vendors are adding integration functionality. This trend favors the larger market players. But SAP Portals must change the market perception that it is just an extension of the mainstream SAP product line. Its forthcoming name change may help that process along.
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