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SAP begins to educate the masses

SAP customers are generally enthusiastic about SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture strategy, but some say it could be years before ESA is widely adopted.

BOSTON -- While SAP is banking on customers jumping on the ESA train over the next three years, some customers...

say it could take years before the architecture is broadly adopted.

It took us 10 or so years to move from the mainframe to the client server and now we see this shift to Web services.
Jay Vander Wall,
technical architectThe Dow Chemical Co.

Srikanth S. Bellur, a consultant with Parsippany, N.J.-based Satyam Computer Services Ltd., said users need to be more educated before they can gain a firm grasp on how the architecture fits into their IT ecosystems.

Bellur, who is currently working on integrating SAP with the legacy systems of an automobile manufacturing company, said companies with complex IT environments are trying to figure out ways to meld old and new systems.

"Some people are still trying to walk with their SAP systems and some are finally beginning to talk, but it's going to be some more time before they begin to run," Bellur said. "Obviously, ESA is the technology of the future. I'm still not sure if SAP will be able to quickly make it make it easy to understand."

SAP made its second pitch to customers Thursday at its Sapphire user conference. Executive board member Shai Agassi broke down SAP's technology stack and its plans to shift it to be entirely Web services-integrated by 2007. Agassi told customers that ESA is SAP's way of building flexibility into its entire software stack.

"It all needs to work together," Agassi said. "It needs to be agile, it needs to scale and it all needs to work together in one environment."

While SAP's partners will invest in producing ESA-ready products, many customers aren't ready to be early adopters. But SAP's message is that ESA is not a choice. It will be part of a natural progression as SAP firms move forward with product upgrades and other projects.

It could take a decade before companies make a complete shift to a service-oriented architecture, said Jay E. Vander Wall, a technical architect with The Dow Chemical Co., in Midland, Mich.

"Many companies wait it out," he said. "It took us 10 or so years to move from the mainframe to the client server and now we see this shift to Web services."

Thomas Koester, an SAP manager in the BankOne division of JP Morgan Chase & Co., said his firm will eventually move forward with an extensive upgrade to mySAP ERP, but not in the near future. Due to the BankOne-Chase merger, Koester is involved in a massive integration of SAP Financials software in the U.S. The BankOne division is currently running SAP 4.7 Enterprise.

Complicated and sometimes archaic infrastructures, coupled with multiple instances of legacy and homegrown applications, make upgrading and streamlining financial systems a very complicated process, Koester said.

Related Sapphire news:

Vendors to line up to adopt SAP's software strategy

Kagermann makes case for ESA

"There would have to be a significant business case to pull out of our legacy systems," Koester said.

For now, SAP plans to continue to educate its software vendor partners, Agassi said. SAP is also beginning an education program to explain its ESA strategy to consultants, Agassi said.

Agassi also gave attendees a closer look at Mendocino, a joint project with Microsoft that integrates data from SAP applications into Microsoft Office. He also demonstrated analytical appliances developed by Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. to help speed business intelligence.

After his keynote presentation, Agassi told reporters and analysts that customers won't get very excited until they actually view products and get hands-on demonstrations.

"Some are telling us that they're not ready because we don't know exactly what it's going to do," Agassi said. "Customers get excited when you show off those killer apps for ESA. That's what they need to see -- the killer applications."

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