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NetWeaver for free? Not quite

NetWeaver might be included free of charge in major SAP upgrades – but it will likely cost you to use it.

SAP's NetWeaver platform is now included within mySAP ERP or mySAP Business Suite offerings -- at no additional cost. But is NetWeaver free?

Not if you want to maximize its potential, industry analysts agree. SAP customers should be aware of the potential licensing costs that come with integrating NetWeaver with legacy systems, including charges for resource adapters, said James Kobielus, an analyst with Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, who recently authored a NetWeaver report.

"It's true than when you upgrade, yes, you get NetWeaver. It's there -- in the box," Kobielus said. "Now, though, you have to pay for every resource adapter. And Master Data Management, an additional NetWeaver feature -- comes at an additional cost."

SAP has been upfront about the costs, but there are several "gotchas" within the NetWeaver licensing strategy, Kobielus said.

Still, Kobielus recommends that most SAP customers migrate their existing R/3 systems to either mySAP ERP or the full-blown business suite in order to take advantage of the NetWeaver platform.

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The core components of the NetWeaver platform -- including SAP Enterprise Portal, BI and XI, which is SAP's integration broker -- are included in mySAP ERP and mySAP Business Suite purchases.

Yvonne Genovese, a Gartner Inc. research vice president, said most customers expect to pay for resource adapters: "SAP announced NetWeaver as an integrated platform with a single price back in June. Some customers do make the assumption that "single price" means everything. But in my experience there are few of these customers."

Also, some customers assume that having a systems integrator like IBM write the adapters using WebSphere is a less expensive route, Genovese said. "In fact, they are still paying for the adapters, but not as a standard software product that gets updated with each product version. The advantage to packaged adapters is that the vendor assumes the responsibility of keeping them updated -- and the user pays a one-time charge for acquiring them."

SAP customers have had to absorb an enormous amount of information regarding new products and licensing in recent months, said Joshua Greenbaum, principal analyst with Berkeley, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting.

"SAP hasn't been hiding anything about these costs, but I know that there are customers who feel that they are suddenly facing unexpected costs," Greenbaum said. "The adapter costs are part of a relatively standard practice in the industry of passing along third-party costs to customers."

Kobielus did give SAP points for being "very close" to allowing NetWeaver to be licensed as a standalone technology, and for welcoming other vendors into its technology stack.

"I don't see SAP being arrogant in this space," Kobielus said. "They have partnered with Microsoft and Sun. If you want to use NetWeaver and run a Microsoft portal -- or a Sun portal --SAP says 'Do what works for you.' "

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