SAP released its fourth enhancement pack yesterday, and it's focused on bringing new functionality to many lines of business.
New downloadable functionality is now available for finance, human resources, plant and operations, sales and support, procurement, and product development and manufacturing. In sales and support, for example, the vendor has added support for supplier and customer returns, and sales order entry through customer relationship management.
The fourth enhancement package includes everything from the first three SAP enhancement packages. About 1,000 customers are running those enhancements, according to SAP, and 1,800 have downloaded them. The enhancement packs allow customers -- through the NetWeaver platform -- to download functionality as they want it. SAP has said that they will mark the end of traditional upgrades, and the company has plans to deliver them across the entire business suite. Analysts have said they're an incentive to upgrade to ERP 6.0.
"Customers no longer have to wait 24 to 36 months for critical functionality," said Albert Pang of Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Research. "SAP enhancement packages deliver product flexibility and technology advancement at the same time."
SAP also recently announced new versions of two other products: NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1 , its integration and messaging hub, and Adaptive Computing Controller, its virtualization management tool.
The biggest improvement in NetWeaver PI 7.1 is the enterprise service repository – a key component that supports the effective creation, management and reuse of a wide range of business metadata, according to Ken Vollmer, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.
The enterprise service repository (ESR) can now capture more than 15 types of metadata, such as integration scenarios, process component models, service interface, global data types, interface mappings and executable integration processes based on the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) standard, Vollmer said in an email. The repository also supports full lifecycle management and impact-analysis features.
"ESR is a major step forward for SAP customers," he said.
But one area where further improvement is needed is in providing full support for the BPEL standard, beyond import and export, Vollmer said. Enterprises need to be able to directly create BPEL-based process models within the PI environment.
The new version of NetWeaver PI supports more Web services standards, such as Web services reliable messaging, according to Ken Tsai, director of solution marketing for NetWeaver. There are currently more than 2,800 licensed NetWeaver PI customers, SAP said.
The new version of the Adaptive Computing Controller (ACC) tool -- a point of control for assigning resources to run any service on any server at any time -- will give IT better visibility into running a virtualized environment, according to Swen Conrad, SAP's director of platform marketing, IT optimization and SOA governance. The operator can see everything that's going on in the data center in the ACC central help dashboard.
There's much better visibility into the types of systems -- one big challenge in the virtual environment, Conrad said. With the latest release of ACC, customers can see the physical and virtual machines and how they map.
"Virtual machines are so easy to set up and flexible to manage," Conrad said, "[you can] easily create another problem -- too many virtual machines."