SAP spins out NetWeaver enhancements

Enterprise software vendor SAP AG took the wraps off its new integrated Netweaver 2004 suite on Thursday. The enhancements will enable the entire suite to run on a single server.

In a Webcast Thursday, SAP executive board member Shai Agassi said the premise behind the rollout of NetWeaver 4.0 (NetWeaver middleware, application server and open integration platform) is to offer a single stack “without buying 17 different pieces and figuring out how to make them work.” Customers will be able to run the entire suite on a single server, which currently isn’t possible, Agassi noted.

The homogeneous platform will enable users to avoid the integration costs that occur within a heterogeneous IT environment, Agassi said. The solution offers new enhancements, such as business intelligence (BI), and portal and enterprise application integration (EAI). The new capabilities include business planning and simulation, Business Explorer (BEx) Broadcaster for automated distribution of actionable insights, XMLA interfaces and Java SDK for custom development, SAP said.

The company said it also plans 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 new version will also include support for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, so users can develop RFID-enabled supply chain management processes, according to SAP.

Experts noted that the announcement is a part of SAP’s new overarching enterprise strategy and a clear indication that it is committed to Web services standards and open source technologies. Late last year, SAP America CEO Bill McDermott noted that SAP AG is gearing up to make further inroads into a Canadian market poised to become the “growth engine” of North America.

The announcements come at a time when middleware vendor SAP is fending off stiff competition from vendors such as IBM Corp.’s Websphere and BEA Systems Inc.’s Weblogic offerings. The NetWeaver suite is free for licensed MySAP users, according to SAP.

Users were enthused by the news. “The products were never built to be together at the same time,” said Mike Perroni, vice-president of IT at energy services provider Halliburton Co. in Houston. That meant users had to worry whether a given version of a NetWeaver component would work with another, and any glitches “could be very time consuming and make the process of upgrades very complex.”

“I believe the improved products will be much easier to manage and will work better together,” Perroni said.

Halliburton runs both SAP R/3 and the company’s portal and business warehouse software. Perroni, who is also a director in the independent Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG), said that Halliburton now could run the portal and business warehouse on the same server. “Today, every component requires one or more boxes to be installed.”

In part because of the upcoming improvements, it will be easier to swap in third-party applications to the core SAP R/3 ERP software, said Lori Schock, global business process manager at chemical maker Dow Corning Corp. in Midland, Mich. Schock, also an ASUG director, said the changes by SAP come in response to the organization’s members telling the company “we can’t afford to manage multiple releases that aren’t synchronized.”

Dow Corning runs SAP’s R/3 and portal software, and has plans to roll out more NetWeaver technology in the “near future.”

– With files from IDG News Service