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Why NetWeaver matters as a composition platform, part one

SDN contributor Andre Truong discusses the benefits, challenges and opportunities NetWeaver presents as a composition platform for enterprise services architecture (ESA).

For the past year, I was very fortunate to bring the enterprise services architecture (ESA) vision to a variety of customers, independent software vendors (ISV) and system integrators (SI) in North America and India -- and to execute it with NetWeaver as a composition platform. In this four-part series, I will share observations from my journey and discuss the merits of this use of NetWeaver.

In part one, I'll introduce you to the benefits, challenges and opportunities I gleaned from these experiences. In part two, I'll talk about the methodology. In part three, I'll do the same with process design. Then in part four, I'll go into process implementation and I'll describe the technical realization.

Now let's turn our attention to the benefits, challenges and opportunities of using NetWeaver as a composition platform.

Everybody benefits

- With this approach, SAP sees an increase in platform adoption.

- NetWeaver as a composition platform helps customers to understand the moving parts of the ESA strategy (the platform, the enterprise services, the ecosystem, the composition paradigm, the BPX, the enterprise SOA, the SAP xApp Certified program…) and how they can start executing on it.

- ISVs benefit by understanding the value proposition of NetWeaver as the platform to deliver next-generation applications or composite applications.


- It's quite overwhelming for SAP customers and partners to make practical sense out of SAP new strategy and technologies. Despite Shai Agassi's effort to outline an execution path, the harsh IT reality seems to leave little room for innovation to happen.

- Readiness to execute on the ESA or enterprise SOA is hindered by platform immaturity as well as skills available in the market.

- To be fair to the technology, other elements played their parts in the overall confusion -- like the introduction of new groups (ES Community, Emerging Solutions) at SAP, "creative" marketing (the famous and mysterious 500 Enterprise Services), new programs (SAP xApp certified) and new concepts (BPX).

Significant opportunities

- For customers, the composition paradigm presents an opportunity to break away from the dead-end of the traditional application development approach, wherein resource constraints prevent IT organizations from delivering to their business units as effectively as needed.

But once they realize the potential of NetWeaver as a composition platform through one successful prototype, it becomes easier for them to start planning for more. And eventually they start rethinking their planning and execution capabilities for productive scenarios. For example, it's hard to argue when the customers put a critical process together in a matter of days while reusing as much as possible of existing applications with the least amount of code. Just to plan such development effort using traditional means would have probably taken that long.

In another example, once customers discover how they can start enabling their business analysts (SAP would call them BPX now I guess) to realize and maintain their requirements without involving too much of the IT organization, they see an end to IT bottlenecks and they jump on the chance to move towards a more agile and flexible enterprise.

- ISVs have the same problems building and maintaining their traditional applications. But the potential that the composition paradigm presents to them in terms of accelerated time-to-market and highly flexible applications is worth their investment in NetWeaver as a composition platform. For example, when the ISVs realize that it takes days not weeks, weeks not months, to translate market requirements into new marketable solutions after the first prototype, they start right away with rethinking their planning and execution capabilities.

One more substantial benefit for the ISVs to develop composite applications with NetWeaver is that they can get their solutions certified by SAP under the "SAP xApp Certified" program. That's one great way to gain exposure and credibility within SAP large customer base.

- For the SIs, the potential comes in two folds. The first one, and by far the greatest, is that they can complement their service portfolio with solutions. They would own the intellectual properties for those solutions. They could even get reseller agreement with SAP to jointly go to market. Because of their extensive knowledge of business requirements, it's easy and justifiable from a ROI standpoint for them to build and maintain composite applications as opposed to developing traditional applications. Basically with building composites they add another revenue stream to their business.

The other potential for the SIs is the service revenue stream they can generate from their expertise in building NetWeaver-based composites. Similarly to the ISVs, the SIs can leverage the "SAP xApp Certified" program to market their solutions.

Process implementation:

In my experience, embracing NetWeaver as composition platform was a 100% hit -- not so much as a revolutionary step but more as a necessary evolution to deliver on the promises of the agile and flexible enterprise. Obviously the market reaction to such innovation will take its own time. But the organizations who are making the most use of it and reorganizing around it will gain a significant first-mover advantage over their competition and the market overall.

The other elements of SAP strategy will also play a significant role of course. So while the whole world is waiting for SAP Enterprise Services, the ESR, BPP and the rest, starting with NetWeaver and composing your innovative business processes with it can certainly be a good starting point.

In part two, we'll look at methodology for turning business process requirements into business process models.

This content is reposted from the SAP Developer Network.
Copyright 2006, SAP Developer Network

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Want to read more from this author? Click here to read Andre Truong's weblog. Click here to read more about Composite Application Framework (CAF) on SDN.

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