New SAP Web services platform supports .NET, WebSphere

SAP announced its new NetWeaver WebServices platform this morning in New York.

NEW YORK -- Headed into an increasingly heterogeneous and complex world, SAP today unveiled a new application platform

called NetWeaver that extends the mySAP technology stack and welcomes both .NET and Java.

Complete with videotaped testimonials from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and IBM's vice president of strategy, Bruce Harreld, SAP showcased the blueprint for NetWeaver at a morning press conference at the company's Greenwich Village offices.

"We think this is very big," SAP executive board member Shai Agassi told reporters and analysts.

"We are able to take our investments, huge investments, billions of dollars in investments, in applications," Agassi said, "and turn them into a highly granular set of services, and recombine them to various industries and various customers in ways that we could not do before."

Presenting NetWeaver as a business solution rather than a technological advancement, Agassi described the new technology infrastructure as an integrated Web services-based offering that is breaking new ground by being fully interoperable with .NET and IBM WebSphere.

NetWeaver, Agassi said, makes SAP "the first vendor to really deploy Web services at an enterprise scale.

Many of the components of NetWeaver are already known to SAP customers, including the company's portal offerings and its existing application server and business warehouse. NetWeaver also offers new capabilities, including a composite application framework and master data management services, Agassi said.

SAP describes the composite application framework as a factory in which business processes that leverage existing systems are built easily and quickly.

"NetWeaver is a platform that will evolve over the years to actually become our full integration and application platform for everything we do," Agassi said.

SAP predicted that at least 10,000 customers will have implemented NetWeaver by year's end.

Jeff Comport, a vice president and research fellow at Gartner Inc., said the new architecture presents an interesting challenge for SAP, which must fill the role of trusted advisor to clients who will likely be confused.

"The question is this: if SAP is so neutral, if it's offering so much interoperability, then what is the right balance for the SAP customer?" Comport said.

Comport's colleague, Gartner Inc. research director Derek Prior, said that in the past SAP has fallen short on its promise to be a trusted advisor to customers who need its guidance. This role, he said, will be crucial to the success of the company's new architecture. Prior added that, despite his concerns, the NetWeaver announcement was significant, and that customers stand to benefit greatly if NetWeaver fulfills its promise to leverage existing applications without having to touch them.

Industry analyst Joshua Greenbaum, principal with Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif., said he was impressed that SAP had managed to have IBM and Microsoft embrace NetWeaver.

"It's like General Motors saying, 'we don't care what kind of asphalt you drive on, just as long as you buy our car,'" said Greenbaum, referring to SAP's apparently generous attitude toward competitors.

IBM's Harreld said, via videotape, that the SAP platform is representative of the way the IT industry has shifted.

"It's time," he said, "for the IT industry to set aside parochial agendas and propriety technology."

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