SAP Canada takes Netweaver out for a spin

It wasn’t a rock concert, but by taking its Netweaver software out on the road, SAP Canada is hoping that its open standards/integration song is a hit with end users.

As part of the SAP NetWeaver World Tour event that rolled into Toronto earlier this week, SAP Canada president and managing director Bob Courteau pushed the NetWeaver technology as an homogeneous “real-time” integration platform designed to enable organizations to make the move to a services-oriented architecture.

Peter Graf, senior vice-president for SAP, told customers and partners in attendance that the integration and application platform is designed to reduce the total cost of ownership and push integration across an organization’s business processes.

SAP customer Khalil Nasrallah is currently using Netweaver to make that shift to a services-oriented architecture. As the manager of merging technologies for Bombardier Aerospace, Nasrallah noted the Montreal-based aircraft manufacturer is using NetWeaver software as part of a business process and portal project.

The SAP portal and business intelligence components enable the firm to track inventory and performance indicators. When fully implemented, the real-time portal will allow its suppliers to electronically review and verify purchase orders, Nasrallah said.

Officially launched earlier this year, the NetWeaver 2004 platform is the ERP vendor’s open standards framework which allows for all SAP platform components to be fully synchronized, including SAPMobile Infrastructure, SAP Enterprise Portal, SAP Business Intelligence and SAP Web Application Server.

At the time, SAP announced that it planned to synchronize all enhanced components in future releases of SAP NetWeaver, which will provide the basis for new releases of mySAP Business Suite solutions. The extended functionality also improves third-party application integration with the older SAP R/3 ERP software.

SAP’s Courteau also took time at the event to respond to the recent revelation that SAP had looked into the possibility of merging with Redmond, Wash.-software firm Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft has been making a concerted push within the enterprise business software space and had initiated merger discussions late last year, but SAP was a “passive listener,” Courteau told IT World Canada. The talks ended several months ago after Microsoft decided the deal and the resulting growing pains would be too perilous.

According to the firms, there are no current plans to resume talks. What has come out of the SAP/Microsoft talks, however, is a recently announced 10-year relationship to jointly license certain intellectual properties along with more tightly integrating product and Web services links between NetWeaver and the .Net platform.

Regardless, SAP will continue to solidify its position within the Canadian market, particularly within the mid-market space, Courteau said, adding that there are various business opportunities using open standards and also newer technologies such as radio frequency identification.

Lately, enterprise vendors have seemingly seized on the issues of open standards and enterprise integration. Vendors are homing in on the idea that enterprises are demanding IT architectures that cross conventional data application silos.

Industry analysts have both lauded the NetWeaver release — in that it supports a service-oriented architecture which enables companies to make the necessary changes to their IT infrastructure while still supporting existing investments — and have been underwhelmed by it. Experts noted that a built-in open standards integration platform is something SAP should have done long ago.

In any case, Warren Shiau, a software market analyst for IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto, said SAP has been making inroads in Canada with NetWeaver. The platform is particularly relevant in the Canadian market, Shiau said, as the Canadian ERP environment tends to be “a hodgepodge of packaged apps, customized packaged apps, and homegrown solutions.”