Friday, June 29, 2007

Demystifying SOA in SAP NetWeaver

Upgrades are a fact of life in enterprise IT, but the benefits of SOA make a convincing case for NetWeaver adoption.

I like to say, with apologies to Mark Twain, that just as death and taxes are the two certainties of life, so are upgrades in the life of a software application. You can delay death and upgrades, but you cannot completely evade them.

In late 2002, SAP released SAP R/3 Enterprise (Version 4.7). Knowing they would have to upgrade to the latest version someday, many customers went ahead and did just that.

But before the dust settled on that Enterprise release, a new paradigm called SAP NetWeaver 2004 was introduced. While common sense dictates upgrading to the latest release, especially if that release has multiple value propositions as NetWeaver 2004s does, thousands of customers are not in a position to contemplate an upgrade from R/3 4.6C, R/3 Enterprise 4.7 or earlier releases. So, should you keep pushing off an upgrade, or should you bite the bullet and upgrade to NetWeaver 2004s soon in order to take advantage of its features?

If I had to recommend just one feature that is worth upgrading for, it would be the ability to build applications in the form of services that can be exposed to the external world and reused by adopting standard industry protocols -- service-oriented architecture (SOA).

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Enterprise Content Management

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) describes a broad set of activities that help manufacturers and other companies manage key areas of their businesses, including product planning and development, inventory management, parts purchasing, accounts receivable and payable, order tracking, and customer service. Software applications by leading vendors such as SAP and PeopleSoft have emerged to support these activities by providing a single interface to ERP data, often employing different modules for general aspects of the business to aid user in specific areas such as finance and engineering.

Increasingly, though, ERP application users require other critical supporting content to complete their work. Finance tasks require customer statements and invoices. Logistics tasks require facilities drawings. Production planning tasks require engineering drawings and parts lists. Integrating this supporting content helps companies realize the maximum benefit from an ERP investment. In some cases it is critical to realizing that benefit.

However, ERP applications are typically not adept at managing unstructured content; they don’t have the robust functionality required for handling the indexing, searching, storage, and security of huge volumes of information in multiple formats. For these functions, large companies invest in a content management solution, such as the Documentum enterprise content management platform.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

SAP skills of the past

Bread-and-butter ABAP is on the way out. Bread-and-butter batch data conversion/report generation ABAP is on the way out. Object-oriented ABAP, mixed with Java-flavored tools, is the SAP development skill set of the future.

"Goodbye to Basis." Basis is giving way to NetWeaver. The skills transition from Basis to NetWeaver is not as difficult as on the development side. EDI is out, XML is in. There's still some EDI (electronic data interface) work to be done for companies entrenched in the infrastructure, but for everyone else it's about SOA/XML/Internet-based B2B transactions. EDI skills are no longer a coveted part of the technical skill set for most consultants.

Business Suite products have a questionable future, especially APO. This may be the most controversial statement in this piece, given that the Business Suite is still a major part of what SAP is pushing. And we won't know the ultimate fate of the Business Suite for a few more years -- when the bulk of the core upgrades are done and companies look more closely at how they might want to "extend" their functionality.

Monday, June 11, 2007

SAP Reveals Co-Innovation Lab And Envisions Web 3.0

Dan Farber (ZDNet) submits: SAP (SAP) held a dog and pony show, including a ribbon cutting ceremony, for the unveiling of its new Co-Innovation Lab in Palo Alto. “The intention is for this to be a working lab, not just a slick showcase for customers,” said Zia Yusef, executive vice president of the Global Ecosystem and Partner Group at SAP. SAP and partners, including Cisco (CSCO), HP (HPQ), Intel (INTC) and NetApp (NTAP) as well as ISVs and systems integrators, will work on joint projects and utilize a simulated, heterogeneous data center with hardware and software from participating vendors. The Co-Innovation Lab houses 1,600 SAP employees, including 1,000 engineers.It’s not exactly a keiretsu, but a compatible federation of companies that have a shared interest in building next-generation solutions, not just products, that integrate with SAP’s ERP and NetWeaver platform.

“There is a constant demand from ISV partners to sit down with our developers and engage and imagine the future. We should not forget the human collaboration necessary to make innovation happen,” Yusef said. For SAP, the Lab provides a showcase for its SOA-based platform and allows ISVs to test and demonstrate its products in a real world environment, and also highlight partner products.

Questra Among First Software Vendors to Participate in New SAP Co-Innovation Lab

Leader in Intelligent Device Management Will Collaborate With SAP, Partners, And Device Manufacturers On Enterprise SOA-Enabled IDM Solutions To Transform Key Business Processes

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Questra Corporation, the leader in Intelligent Device Management (IDM), has announced that it is among the first Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to sign on to initiate projects in the SAP Co-Innovation Lab announced by SAP AG yesterday. Questra will collaborate with SAP, other SAP partners, and equipment manufacturers on enterprise solutions built upon Service-Oriented Architecture (Enterprise SOA) to transform four key business processes: service handling, software management, pricing and ordering, and content delivery. The company also will test and demonstrate joint solutions in the Lab's heterogeneous, open IT systems environment, which simulates real-world enterprise data centers, including performance and security requirements for web-based applications.

"The SAP Co-Innovation Lab demonstrates the power of the SAP ecosystem to engage customers and partners -- such as Questra -- in joint collaboration," said Zia Yusuf, executive vice president, Global Ecosystem and Partner Group, SAP. "We look forward to fostering this laboratory as a trail-blazing experiment in the exchange of ideas and the joint development of the next generation of innovations that customers need to run their businesses successfully."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Top Three Technologies

Technologies that matter

ERP, desktops and servers are the top three technologies mong large businesses. By Akhtar asha

When we started analysing the large enterprise IT infrastructure survey findings, we knew for a fact that enterprise application software (ERP) and servers would be the top two technology areas where IT investments are happening and that things will continue in the same direction. What emerged that was of interest is the fact that the third technology that these enterprises favour is none other than desktop and notebook PCs. This could be due to the fact that many large enterprises are growing and expanding their production capacity. The report was repared with inputs from 163 respondents in seven industry verticals with a turnover in excess of Rs 300 crores.

Let us go step by step in understanding how important these three technologies are for large businesses.

Micro-verticalisation and the expanding business

The survey indicates that for 20 percent of 163 respondents, enterprise application software (EAS) such as ERP, CRM, SCM and BI was their most significant IT deployment in the past year. Manufacturing/engineering, FMCG/consumer durables, Oil/energy verticals have taken a lead in driving the implementation of enterprise applications. Vertical-wise it is manufacturing/engineering that has set the tone for EAS spending. About 30 percent of these companies have already invested in EAS. After manufacturing, FMCG/consumer durables and oil/energy with 25 and 20 percent cite EAS as the most significant IT deployment of the past year.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

ABAP coding is out!

Wait a minute -- isn't Java in? Isn't ABAP out? Well, in the SAP of the future, all coding is out. Chairman Hasso Plattner's main point of emphasis in his keynote was "no more coding." Of course, what he really meant was that once companies upgrade to mySAP ERP, they won't have to code in order to customize and upgrade their core functionality.

The message is still the same: Coding is for the team holed up in Waldorf, not for SAP customers. SAP users will get the functionality they need through service-enabled "plug and play." Is this a fantasy? Perhaps to a degree, but SAP is making strides. At this year's conference, SAP could point to actual customer examples where SOA was used to build new apps and fill functionality gaps.

Yes, Java will still come into play with SAP development. The latest example is a press release on the NetWeaver Composition Environment (CE), which emphasized that the whole platform is Java EE 5-based. But that's less about Java and more about SAP opening up its architecture and adhering to open standards.

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