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New NetWeaver looms on middleware horizon

One product. One price. And now one customer talks about why NetWeaver lives up to SAP's hype.

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Having doubled the number of NetWeaver component installations in the last year, SAP says its newly packaged and priced integration platform is ready for prime time.

At a morning press conference Thursday at the company's lab, SAP executive board member Shai Agassi said the new NetWeaver will be sold as a single product, at one price, and that it can be easily installed on one Web application server.

"Sometimes the genius isn't in more features but in simplifying it," said Agassi, who pointed to the number of NetWeaver component installations -- 14,000 -- as evidence that the platform's popularity is spreading.

Sometimes the genius isn't in more features but in simplifying it.
Shai Agassi
Executive board memberSAP AG

Agassi appeared alongside an enthusiastic NetWeaver customer, Esat Sezer, CIO of Whirlpool Corp.

Calling Whirlpool's NetWeaver deployment a "self-funding" project, Sezer said that, in recent years, the global appliance company has matured in the same way many companies have, by acquiring new technologies from a variety of vendors, including i2 Technologies Inc., Crossroads, Teradata and PeopleSoft Inc.

Initial NetWeaver projects at Whirlpool have delivered tangible returns on investment, Sezer said. Whirlpool will be able to take 5% productivity gains from its NetWeaver initiatives and reinvest in new capabilities, according to Sezer.

Sezer is among those customers who will replace IBM's WebSphere products with SAP's NetWeaver -- an example of the way NetWeaver is expected to shake up the middleware market. IBM's middleware projects are "subject for decommission" at Whirlpool, Sezer said.

SAP, which has worked hard during the last year to reinvent itself as the vendor that welcomes competing software into its shops, has repeatedly said that IBM is an enthusiastic NetWeaver partner, and that SAP's goal is not to wipe out WebSphere.

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"It's obvious that they don't want IBM grabbing middleware business in their install base," said Yvonne Genovese, research director at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "This NetWeaver announcement is important to users -- and it's also a big statement to IBM."

The most important NetWeaver news, though, is that customers should find the licensing and installation of NetWeaver much easier than before, Genovese said. SAP customers running the company's full mySAP business suite, or its less elaborate version, mySAP ERP, will receive NetWeaver as part of their upgrades.

"From a technical standpoint, it's going to be very helpful to users," said Joshua Greenbaum, principal analyst at Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting. Greenbaum said that he believes that customers who already have significant investments in SAP will benefit from migrating to mySAP ERP or the full-blown business suite in order to take advantage of NetWeaver.

For companies not fully committed to SAP, however, "it's not a slam-dunk," Greenbaum said. "That's a more complex question for the user. For SAP, the answer is obvious. They dream of a world where everyone is running NetWeaver -- even non-SAP shops."

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