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More SAP buzzwords: What's hot, what's not, and why you should care

In Part 2 of his series, careers expert Jon Reed examines some popular and not so popular SAP terms -- including Enterprise SOA, process integration and NetWeaver BI -- to help determine where SAP's technology is headed and how it will impact your professional marketability.

In Part 2 of his series, SearchSAP.com careers expert Jon Reed examines some popular and not so popular SAP terms...

-- including Enterprise SOA, process integration and NetWeaver BI -- to help determine where SAP's technology is headed. To read about the methodology behind Reed's analysis, as well as the status of other terms such as Duet and NetWeaver, check out SAP buzzwords: What's hot, what's not, and why you should care, Part 1.

Boiling Hot: "Enterprise SOA" (Enterprise service-oriented architecture)

Colder than Expected: "ESA" (Enterprise Services Architecture)

Why? When SAP launched its own version of service-oriented architecture (SOA), it decided to call it ESA. Subsequently, the "ESA" phrase was marketed heavily. Less than two years later, we see the ESA term fading. SAP now relies on the phrase "Enterprise SOA," with "ESOA" starting to appear as well.

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So why would SAP drop "ESA", which seems to be a more efficient abbreviation? Perhaps the company realized that the buzz around the "SOA" phrase was too entrenched to compete with. The likely thinking is, "If you can't market against it, hop on the SOA marketing train and let it carry you."

More evidence of this decisive terminology shift comes from this URL, a fact sheet on ESOA: http://www.sap.com/company/press/factsheets/esoa.epx. Notice there is no mention of ESA on this page at all. SAP's own official page on the new SOA platform also has ESOA in the URL: http://www.sap.com/platform/esoa/index.epx.

In the batch of press releases, SOA got 40 mentions, while ESA had zero. By using the commonly used "SOA" terms, SAP is making clear that it is building outward-facing components that any company can talk to, not proprietary tools. Despite the move from ESA to ESOA, one thing is certain: SAP is still going to emphasize SOA constantly. SAP's head start over Oracle on a proven SOA platform may be its biggest competitive advantage. Terms don't lie: All SAP professionals in the field owe it to themselves to get their feet wet in this technology as soon as possible.

Hot: "PI" (Process Integration)

Lukewarm: "XI" (Exchange Infrastructure)

Why? Just last year, XI was the hot term for NetWeaver's integration and messaging hub. Now you're supposed to call it "PI," as several high-ranking SAP product managers emphasized to me during the conference.

Of course, there is some awkwardness here, as "PI" is still SAP's abbreviated name for "Process Industry" functionality. I talked with a Process Industry executive who didn't have a very good explanation as to how the "PI" term would be shared. But make no mistake, it will be shared. It's about NetWeaver PI now, and XI is on the way out.

Why the term switch? It's all about emphasizing business process management. The guts of the functionality might be the same, but "XI" has a technical vibe, whereas "PI" is about making SAP friendly to business managers who can run the technology instead of having the technology run them.

I don't see the name change having much impact on XI or PI specialists, but I do think that SAP functional consultants should take these term changes as a sign: The successful "SAP Business Process Consultant" of the future will need to understand how to manipulate tools like PI that automate development and integration tasks. Functional consultants didn't need to know "XI," but "PI" sounds like something they might need to have a handle on.

Hot: "Process Modeling"

Fairly Warm: "Java"

A Little Tepid: "Information Technology"

Not Warm but Not Cold Yet: "ABAP" (Advanced Business Application Programming)

Why? Wait a minute -- isn't Java in? Isn't ABAP out? Well, in the SAP of the future, all coding is out. Chairman Hasso Plattner's main point of emphasis in his keynote was "no more coding." Of course, what he really meant was that once companies upgrade to mySAP ERP, they won't have to code in order to customize and upgrade their core functionality.

The message is still the same: Coding is for the team holed up in Waldorf, not for SAP customers. SAP users will get the functionality they need through service-enabled "plug and play." Is this a fantasy? Perhaps to a degree, but SAP is making strides. At this year's conference, SAP could point to actual customer examples where SOA was used to build new apps and fill functionality gaps.

Yes, Java will still come into play with SAP development. The latest example is a press release on the NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE), which emphasized that the whole platform is Java EE 5-based. But that's less about Java and more about SAP opening up its architecture and adhering to open standards.

And don't be so quick to retire ABAP. Yes, the ABAP marketplace has been forever altered by global offshoring, but ABAP is still around. The virtues of ABAP for high-volume performance have convinced SAP to continue to offer ABAP-based development environments -- even within NetWeaver. In reality, all coding languages are being downplayed by SAP in favor of "Process Modeling." In its press releases, SAP doesn't get specific about the tools customers will use in NetWeaver to accomplish this (such as the Visual Composer), but there's no question that SAP wants to streamline development by empowering business users to take over more of the process and ensure that IT is in the service of business objectives rather than the other way around. So from here on out, we'll see lots of references to SAP as a "Business Process Platform."

Hot: "NetWeaver BI"

Cooling Off Rapidly: "Business Warehouse" (BW)

Ice Cold: "Business Information Warehouse"

Why? Rest easy, BW folks. This is one name change that has nothing to do with product obscurity, as the strategic importance of BW is only increasing. The reasoning behind this is similar to the IT-versus-Business Process example: SAP wants BW to sound more business-friendly and less technical.

I actually had a high-level SAP BI manager admit to me that SAP has renamed the BW product to avoid the inference that BW is just a data warehouse, which is perceived as a "techie geek" kind of product that requires a staff to manage. SAP wants users to think of real-time analytics and intelligent reporting as part of their daily world. The image of having to call a tech person to explain how to run a query is not what SAP wants to promote. Nor does SAP want folks to think they need to crack open a data warehousing book in order to make use of BI.

So, with the NetWeaver 2004s release, BW is built right into the NetWeaver engine, but of course it is now called NetWeaver BI. To reinforce this point, there were five references to NetWeaver BI in this batch of Sapphire press releases, with no mentions of BW. There were also three additional references to "intelligence" pertaining to intelligent systems and networks. "Smart systems" are in; wasting time trying to get different databases to talk to one another is out.

For BW professionals, these BI trends are very positive. We can now go further: Every quality SAP professional needs to have some level of BI awareness. Certainly, SAP deputy-CEO Hasso Plattner would agree. In his keynote, he used the BI Accelerator as the prime example of "in-memory databases" that he believes are a crucial technology going forward.


Jon Reed is an independent SAP analyst who writes on SAP consulting trends. Most recently, he served as the vice president and founding editor of SAPtips. He is the author of the SAP Consultant Handbook. Jon has been publishing SAP career and market analysis for more than a decade. He is the career expert for SearchSAP.com's Ask The Expert panel.

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