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Researcher delivers first take on NetWeaver

Derek Prior, a Gartner research director, recently published a "First Take" on SAP's new NetWeaver platform, and highlighted its challenges and promise. Is NetWeaver good for everybody? Not necessarily, said Prior, who cautioned customers to ignore SAP's recent product name changes, and focus on what business processes they need to implement.

SAP has presented NetWeaver as a neutral alternative to IBM and Microsoft. NetWeaver also integrates with IBM's WebSphere (using J2EE) and Microsoft's .NET architecture. Still, Prior said that since NetWeaver runs only on SAP's proprietary platform, (the J2EE-based Web Application Server), he still considers NetWeaver as J2EE-centric.

There are four layers to the NetWeaver stack: enterprise portal; information integration (BW, KM and the new master data management products); SAP's Exchange Integration layer; and SAP's Web Application Server.

Much of SAP's installed base is already using pieces of the NetWeaver stack, whether or not they realize it. Prior answered questions for SearchSAP.com about NetWeaver, and Gartner's "First Take" on the platform.

Does it make sense to shift to NetWeaver as a strategic platform? Well, this is a big decision the client has to...

make. It's not that easy to answer. They have to look at their overall architecture and their existing environments. Then they have to decide whether they are going to build and customize most of their own applications. Here's the real question. Do you want to build composite cross-applications? Then it makes sense to use all of NetWeaver.

If you don't' need xApps you only need pieces of this stack. Indeed, most SAP customers probably have individual pieces. I would say one-third of all customers have got SAP's business warehouse. All will have the lowest layer of the stack, the Web application server, or its predecessor,. BASIS. We think about 1,000 of them have got the portal. But the newer pieces are the exchange infrastructure, knowledge management and the master data management. What do customers need to do?
They need to make sure they get the right advice in terms of how to use NetWeaver, and how it fits into their overall existing architecture. When you have instances of multiple BW's, all of these existing apps still represent a lot of work. So how do you really move forward bearing in mind you may have multiple instances. There are some fairly complex questions for customers to consider.


FOR MORE INFORMATION

Check out SearchSAP.com's FT on SAP weaves NetWeaver strategy.

To provide your feedback on this article, contact Ellen O'Brien.

What does SAP need to do now?
Overall, I think Shai Agassi (SAP executive board member) did a very good job of laying it out, and explaining the overall strategy. What they now need to do is cascade their message down through the field organization so that it can be clearly explained to customers. In the past, SAP has really had its challenges explaining complex issues. SAP is emphasizing neutrality. But where do they compete with companies such as IBM?
If you look at some of the upper layers of the technology stack, you can see that, yes, SAP is competing heavily with IBM WebSphere for the portal layer. There is definitely some competition there despite their stated neutrality. What is SAP's content master data management strategy?
What SAP is saying is that just about all enterprises have a real challenge in terms of managing their data. Customers have information that is needed by all their applications. But because the apps have their own version of master data, you have duplication, and you have not got synchronization. What SAP is saying is that they have products, and technology, and middleware, to do that. Is SAP really at the forefront of Web services?
SAP appears to be out in front here. Web services are emerging relatively slowly. Some of the standards are already there, but SAP is one of the leading vendors trying to develop their standards, and SAP implemented those standards through the NetWeaver layer.

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