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Sun, SAP find solution in standards

From Sun's perspective, things have gotten a bit out of hand. An avalanche of programs and products have plenty of IT customers feeling buried, trying to decide which new components can help save money or add customers.

Business infrastructure for companies, especially those operating on global scales, is increasingly complicated. There's CRM, SCM, and PLM solutions to consider, along with vendor claims that border on the outrageous. The best ROI, most powerful CPU, and the smartest BI tools are all promised by competing vendors.

The best help for customers, say SUN executives, is not more technology, but more tests--real-world simulations that deliver data that customers can trust before they actually go live. On Monday, Sun announced the creation of the SAP Infrastructure Solution Center, located in Waldorf, Germany. The center is a service for mutual customers managing e-business platform solutions on Sun infrastructure.

Carsten Benecke, Sun's Global SAP Alliance development manager, and Stephan Beier, manager of the new center, talked with about this week's announcements.

Why open a solutions center now?

With the extension of SAP environment into business intelligence (BI) and customer relationship management (CRM), you've seen almost an explosion in terms of components.

Look at today's e-biz scenarios; they are no longer a single system. Maybe you've got back-end BI, and a R/3 system in the back-end, so sizing the inter-relationships between these components has become difficult.

We have seen a lot of customers losing control; it's all gotten a little out of sight. They had no means to assess the level of quality. We were looking for some way to ensure that we distinguish ourselves with a new level of quality. Is this concept new?
We consider the approach unique; the standard of engagement is certainly new. But look at Microsoft and Accenture; they created a joint venture. It's an idea in the same direction, but creates an inflexible solution because you have a joint-ventured interest in those two companies. We say flexible combinations are what customers want. So, what happens at the SAP Infrastructure Solutions Center?

We aren't about Sun products only; we take everything that the customer needs--third-party tools, system integrators, intellectual property, etc. So far, everyone thinks this approach, this best-of-breed approach, is the way to go. We really make life a lot easier for the SAP sales force by going that way.

Everything gets so complicated these days. It's difficult to go with a one-stop shop; you really have got to go with the best products for you. At the Solutions Center, the standards are pre-defined, but we still have flexibility. Can you offer a typical Solution Center scenario?
OK. A customer says, "Within 5 years, I will grow to a certain size in a SAP environment. But I need a lot of changes to their standard reference architectures.'' They can request that the various steps they want to take go through the sizing experts at the competency center. There they get prototype solutions. Can you talk about the center in terms of global standards?

I think customers will see a common terminology, and a common set of standards, in terms of global synchronization. This is important.

I have been told, though I can't really substantiate it, that some of our competitors offer different claims of performance and value in different countries.

Consider the global standardization for credit-risk assessment for banks. That sort of standard is very important, we think, for our customers. Our belief is that customers want flexibility, but also want well-greased machinery.

We believe they want a modular approach to the value chain; they also want companies that work toward common agendas to have standard interfaces.

For more information on this new program, click here

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