IBM sings in Harmony with SAP to match Duet

IBM Corp. unveiled the first fruits of its Project Harmony initiative Thursday, announcing Notes and Workplace software that will tighten integration between the vendor’s front-end collaboration products and SAP AG’s back-end enterprise applications.

IBM is positioning its new Notes Access for SAP Solutions offering as the company’s answer to the upcoming Duet software co-developed by SAP and Microsoft Corp. IBM made the announcement in the run-up to SAP’s Sapphire 06 U.S. customer and partner event that takes place May 16 to May 18 in Orlando.

The functionality IBM is offering in Notes Access for SAP Solutions matches up with what Microsoft and SAP recently laid out for Duet in terms of a variety of prebuilt integration templates or scenarios, said Larry Bowden, vice president, workplace, portal and collaboration software with IBM. These templates include vacation and leave management, contact management and report generation.

However, he pointed out that a variety of connectors between SAP applications and Notes groupware have been around for a long time and are used by around 1,000 customers. SAP/Notes integration tools appeared in 1997.

In addition to prebuilt templates, Notes access for SAP includes workflow integration, functionality that’s absent from the planned first release of Duet. “We’re making sure that the Lotus Notes user isn’t missing anything that’s offered anywhere in the market today,” Bowden said.

While Microsoft and SAP executives are still deciding when to release a Duet development tool, users of the new Notes software can customize the software using the existing Domino Designer tool, he added.

Notes Access for SAP Solutions is free to existing users of the IBM groupware. Bowden said that Duet would cost US$125, although Microsoft and SAP have yet to release pricing for the software.

IBM has been working on Project Harmony for the past year with the aim of more closely integrating Notes with a wide range of enterprise applications. SAP is the first of many planned integrations given its market dominance, Bowden said. He wouldn’t be drawn on which vendor IBM will next target although number-two player Oracle Corp. would seem the next likely choice given its homegrown applications and the software it acquired through the purchases of PeopleSoft and Siebel.

IBM also Thursday announced its Workplace for SAP Software product designed for browser access to SAP applications via IBM’s Java-based Workplace collaboration software. The software includes prebuilt adapters for SAP and other applications allowing users to create new composite applications from different data sources and processes.

Both Notes Access for SAP and Workplace for SAP Software are due out by May 30, Bowden said. While the Notes offering is free, Workplace for SAP Software will cost between $149 and $399 per user.

In other news, IBM and SAP are recommending that midmarket users run SAP applications on IBM’s upcoming DB2 database code-named Viper. Viper, which will be optimized for SAP software, is due sometime this summer. The two vendors will offer a year’s free maintenance for new SAP midmarket customers looking to run their SAP All-In-One applications on Viper.