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SAP sings Duet with Microsoft, but is it worth the hype?

SAP today announced its first new Duet customer. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), operator of a 532-mile-long toll highway system with $580 million annual toll revenues and 2,300 employees, will deploy Duet. The PTC purchased Duet from SAP. Duet connects SAP back-end systems with Microsoft front-end Office products, such as Outlook, and can be purchased from either SAP or Microsoft. But the software comes with some notable pre-requisites. Companies using Duet need to be running mySAP ERP 2004, NetWeaver, and Microsoft Exchange Server and Windows Server 2003. Fail to have any of those requirements and SAP's Kevin Fliess said "it's a pretty long runway to get to Duet ... For our joint customers, they can realize the benefits through a rapid deployment." In this interview with, Fliess, SAP's vice president of product marketing for emerging solutions, speaks frankly about Duet, its benefits and challenges moving forward.

Is SAP adding Duet functionality free of charge as an incentive to upgrade to the latest version of SAP?
It can be provided as an incentive to upgrade. We built Duet on the latest technology from both vendors. SAP customers thinking about an upgrade to mySAP ERP are also talking to us about including Duet in those upgrade cycles, so those conversations do happen quite often. The product is sold separately, so a customer needs to own a license. How easy is it for a customer to add Microsoft Exchange Server and Windows Server 2003 for Duet functionality? That sounds like a big investment, no?
For a customer starting out from scratch, it's a pretty long runway to get to Duet. For our joint customers, they can realize the benefits through a rapid deployment. The value in deploying the application is that you put the power of the enterprise processes and business intelligence in the hands of the end users.

Many of our joint customers already use Exchange Server and Windows Server, so to move to Duet is an incremental investment. Duet exposes employees through scenarios to data that's been difficult to get to or hard to be trained on in the past. How does a company decide which vendor to buy Duet from?
Customers know that they can buy it from either company. Customers are encouraged to speak with both software vendors as they go through this process to get a complete picture of Microsoft requirements as well as SAP requirements. Depending on their buying relationship, some customers may orient themselves toward Microsoft or an SAP representative, and in some cases they're speaking to both. Companies have the freedom to procure the product through whatever channel they desire. And they have the knowledge that both vendors are operating a joint support center. If a firm is already using IBM Websphere and Lotus notes, what's the incentive to switch to Duet?
This is more about making a decision about groupware. That's when companies begin to evaluate what … SAP gives [them] with Office and Duet versus Lotus Smartsuite. The value of Duet is that it is jointly supported by two companies, and it gives the best possible user experience accessing SAP applications. Duet works for only one back-end data store – that's SAP. Is there any plan to extend integration with applications from other vendors – say, Siebel,, or even an HR application with an outsourced vendor?
Stay tuned. We recognize that our customers have hybrid environments, and business processes span many applications. In the future, we [will] endeavor to provide that kind of support, but it's something that I can't provide additional clarity on at this point.

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