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Friday, September 01, 2006

SAP driving SOA adoption with composite apps

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SAP's partnerships and investments with independent software vendors that build composite applications is part of a campaign to make NetWeaver the primary driver to a services oriented architecture (SOA).

NetWeaver infrastructure makes it much easier to create snap-in or plug-in applications or services that may be applicable to large numbers of SAP customers
Peter Kastner,
vice president and research director, Aberdeen Group

Companies moving forward with SOA projects may do so with IBM WebSphere or Oracle's Fusion middleware technology, but many are looking toward their primary ERP vendor to manage an SOA environment, according to Peter Kastner, vice president and research director at Boston-based Aberdeen Group. The ERP approach in some cases could be less costly, Kastner said.

"NetWeaver infrastructure makes it much easier to create snap-in or plug-in applications or services that may be applicable to large numbers of SAP customers," Kastner said.

In an Aberdeen survey of more than 160 companies, about 60% of survey respondents said they are creating composite applications that support Web services. SAP is responding by certifying independent software vendor products as xApps as well as creating an environment for its customer base to build composite applications, Kastner said.

"There is so much business value to be gained by building composites that solve business unit problems," Kastner said. "There's a lot of value that can be gotten out of systems already in place. It's like walking through an orchard in September. All the fruit is hanging there."

SAP executives have been vocal about how composite applications will fit into the software vendor's business model. In the future, revenue from sales of composite applications is likely to outpace revenue from ERP licenses.

And new composite applications won't just come from SAP's various development labs. SAP is betting on small independent software vendors to build specific technologies by licensing out NetWeaver Web services. In addition to partnering to fill gaps in its software suite, SAP is investing in some firms, giving it a stake in their niche business. It has established the NetWeaver Venture Fund to spur development of composite applications on the NetWeaver platform

SAP's first investment was with Questra Inc., a software vendor that makes remote monitoring software for device manufacturers. SAP and two other venture firms recently invested $12.5 million in Questra.

Questra RemoteService composite application integrates Questra software with SAP's Service and Asset Management module. For example, a printing press manufacturer can remotely monitor the machine and respond to service it when it fails. A device maker can also use the software to determine if a device is being overused, said Walt Roffi, vice president of marketing at Questra. .

"As we look at building composite applications with SAP, connecting in with other types of modules is something we have in our plans," Roffi said.

The goal for SAP is to open its platform and standardize the way composite applications are developed and deployed in an SOA, Kastner said. SAP and Oracle aren't alone in developing SOA strategies. St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software Inc., Alpharetta, Ga.-based Infor Global Solutions and Epicor are also moving forward with an SOA plan, he said.

"SAP is creating an outward face to NetWeaver, making it more easy and standard for customers to glue composite applications together as services in an SOA," Kastner said. "Not having the robust SOA services, such as what you would get in IBM Websphere or SAP NetWeaver, will leave you high and dry someday because of a lack of manageability, governance, security, other enterprise quality middleware and software that you get out of those products."

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