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SOA in a nutshell, courtesy of SAP

SAP is providing technology, services and support to help companies of any size implement a service-oriented architecture.

No matter where you are in your transition to a service-oriented architecture (SOA), SAP says it has something to make that process easier, faster and cheaper.

SAP announced yesterday that it's providing technology, services and support to help enterprises of any size move toward SOA on its NetWeaver platform.

For enterprises with no or few SOA elements, there's a starter kit on the basics, including examples of how other companies have started moving toward SOA. That's available free of charge to SAP customers. SAP also offers a service that promises to help an enterprise determine the value of moving toward SOA.

For those already in transition and looking for additional guidance, the company has laid out principles for faster transitions and is providing packaged SOA projects. It will provide consultants to teach users and to help build up skills in IT departments for executing the projects. SAP also said it's working to certify people with the NetWeaver skills needed to meet the increased demand for these transitions. SAP didn't provide pricing guidelines. The packages are available now.

For more on SAP and SOA
Learn why SAP is offering individual NetWeaver development licenses

Hear the case for NetWeaver adoption

And if there isn't something in its package of tools and services that will suit your needs, SAP says it will develop it.

"What SAP's trying to do is make it easier by providing a one-stop shop," said Ray Wang, of Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research company. "I think it helps. It's one of many carrots people will use to get there."

The announcement was made at SAP's SAPPHIRE conference in Berlin, which ends today.

But in providing tools that it claims will make an enterprise's move toward SOA easier, SAP has also pointed out that this transition is pretty difficult, according to Ian Finley, research director at Boston-based AMR Research, an independent business and technology company.

"I think the message behind this is [that] it isn't easy -- that people are finding they need a lot of help," Finley said.

Finley believes that SAP is pitching the new services now because customers have asked for more guidance on their transition, but also because SAP wants to make sure its customers leverage SAP applications when moving toward SOA.

"There are plenty of firms out there [that] want to help you," Finley said, "but SAP wants to make sure you're doing it [in a way that will] leverage your SAP applications."

This makes SAP's approach, or philosophy, toward implementing SOA different from that of IBM or even Oracle, he said.

"In SAP's view of SOA, you can't really take the applications out of the picture," Finley said. "IBM would say: 'Let's think about this problem. Forget what you've got installed.' "

Oracle's philosophy has so far been a hybrid between that of IBM and SAP, he said.

For those thinking of taking advantage of some of these tools, one of the best options SAP is offering for customers is its value-prototyping service, which Finley said is a good tool for figuring out the value of moving toward SOA.

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