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SAP, Microsoft commit to Web services partnership

Instead of fighting over the middleware space, SAP and Microsoft have hatched a plan to help users integrate their respective platforms.

NEW ORLEANS -- SAP and Microsoft announced today a powerful new alliance designed for integrating SAP back-office...

systems with the world's most prevalent desktop applications.

Highlights of the deal

SAP .NET Connector Version 2.0: SAP plans a new version of its .NET Connector that includes better language support or Visual Basic .NET and better integration with Studio. NET.

 

Sample smart client applications: SAP will deliver sample applications for developers to implement smart clients to access SAP system capabilities from Mircrosoft Office System applications and Visual Studio 2005.

 

Integration between NetWeaver, Exchange and SharePoint Services: In early 2005, Microsoft will release repository managers that integrate between SAP NetWeaver Knowledge Management, and Microsoft's WindowsSharePoint Services and Exchange Server.

Describing the newly enhanced partnership as evidence of their commitment to Web services, the two companies introduced a series of technology initiatives designed to leverage Microsoft's .NET environment while using SAP's NetWeaver platform to connect SAP applications to Office and other Windows applications.

Details of the new deal were delivered at SAP's annual user event, Sapphire, which kicked off yesterday at the Morial Convention Center. SAP executive board member Shai Agassi appeared alongside Eric Rudder, Microsoft's senior vice president of servers and tools, at a press briefing.

With almost two-thirds of SAP customers using Microsoft .NET platform, the companies are selling the partnership as a way for customers to enjoy "friction-free computing," Agassi said.

"What they [customers] want is not to have to figure out bridges or seams, or any of those things," Agassi said.

The next version of NetWeaver will support Web services protocols providing interoperability with .NET technologies such as Microsoft BizTalk Server, Agassi said.

"I think, really, if there is any doubt that Web services are going to form the future of enterprise computing, this should remove it," Agassi said.

As part of the agreement, Microsoft and SAP will work to define Web services standards, something that analysts predicted could get hairy as the companies seek to protect proprietary technology.

"They agreed to collaborate on standards," said Yvonne Genovese, a research director for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "They have not agreed to create new standards. This definitely does not mean that there is a new set of standards for SAP and Microsoft. That battle has not yet been started."

Genovese said she thought the announcement was significant for developers and chief technology officers alike.

"There has always been this big disconnect between the back office and the desktop," Genovese said. "There is all this white space. That's what I call it.

"I think this announcement could provide a real benefit to users," she said. "It's going to take a while, but it is real."

More than a year ago SAP introduced NetWeaver as the core of its long-term technology strategy. At the time, the company promised .NET and Java interoperability -- but until now there has been little advancement from the .NET side.

"I think, really, if there is any doubt that Web services are going to form the future of enterprise computing, this should remove it."
Shai Agassi
Executive board memberSAP

SAP's initial NetWeaver announcement was perceived by many industry analysts as a way for SAP to move into the middleware space, threatening IBM's WebSphere and its .NET competitor. With yesterday's announcement, IBM could feel the heat worsen, Genovese said.

"What this does is make Microsoft and SAP customers more dependent on those two vendors," Genovese said. "It's positioned SAP as a better partner to Microsoft than IBM."

The partnership opens up the possibility for users to develops xApps in Visual Studio, Agassi said, though the two companies have not yet hammered out necessary protocols.

The two companies will introduce a program for .NET developers, slated to start this summer, to help them customize and extend SAP applications using a newly improved SAP Enteprise Portal.

Although some of the new initiatives will begin immediately, Agassi said it would likely be "one, two or three generations of both of our shipments before transparency" exists between the platforms.

Microsoft's Rudder said customers are demanding the sort of integration capabilities the new partnership is designed to solve.

"Being a platform vendor, you never want to invent a platform alones," Rudder said. "And who's the most important ISV in the world? SAP."

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