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Road to SOA: SAP to address customer pain

SAP is hoping a combined services and software package will put its customers on a smoother road to an SOA and a better understanding of its NetWeaver platform.

SAP is packaging software and consulting services to steer customers on a smoother path to a service oriented architecture (SOA) and ease the learning process of its NetWeaver development and integration platform.

SAP is further along in its SOA build out strategy than Oracle at this point.
Paul Hamerman,
vice president of enterprise applicationsForrester Research Inc.

SAP unveiled an Enterprise Services Architecture Adoption Program that will give customers a series of educational workshops and tools to build a roadmap for using NetWeaver to establish a complete SOA. The program is being offered in conjunction with SAP products that are built on NetWeaver.

The Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA) concept was introduced by SAP in 2003. It was used to showcase NetWeaver and how companies can upgrade their architectures in a step by step process to build an SOA.

The workshops will take into account specific company architectures and develop a tailored plan to move to an SOA. A total cost of ownership discovery session is also included.

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SAP is in a foot race with its competitors, Oracle Corp. and Microsoft, to develop products that support an SOA, according to analysts. Getting customers familiar with its NetWeaver platform and educated about its ESA strategy has been the theme emanating for several years from SAP's Waldorf Germany headquarters.

With a saturated ERP market, making inroads by developing an open architecture could create new business for SAP, analysts say. As Oracle Corp. combines the software code it acquired from its recent merger with PeopleSoft, developers on what Oracle calls "Project Fusion" must migrate the code to a more open environment, said Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"SAP is further along in its SOA build out strategy than Oracle at this point," Hamerman said. "Fusion is based to a large degree on the code that exists in the E-Business Suite, so developing an open environment will not be easy for Oracle."

By now people understand the value of an SOA and know that it's not easy and want guidance on how to do this.
Ori Inbar,
vice president of NetWeaver product marketingSAP

SAP hopes a better educated customer base will get more customers developing composite applications and SAP's Master Data management technology. Over the next three years, SAP will dramatically accelerate the revamping of its products, said Jim Shepherd, vice president of research at Boston-based AMR Research Inc.

"The vision of breaking the enterprise application suite into a portfolio of configurable process components has been a key part of SAP's strategy for many years," Shepherd said recently in a research brief to AMR clients. "The company believes it is very important to quickly complete the transition to an [SOA] before competitors like Oracle or Microsoft can bring their next-generation products to market."

Composite apps, called xApps by SAP, snap into place on top of the existing applications its customers may have, regardless of platform or vendor. Composite applications pull together relevant data from across a company's applications and should result in streamline business processes, said Ori Inbar, vice president of product marketing, for SAP NetWeaver.

"By now people understand the value of an SOA and know that it's not easy and want guidance on how to do this," Inbar said.

The ESA Adoption Program will be provided initially by SAP Consulting, but SAP plans to eventually allow its partners to conduct the workshops.

"Changing your architecture into a service oriented architecture is not something you do over night. It's a journey," Inbar said.

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