SAP's SOA, Web 2.0 Plans Get Mixed User Reviews

Some would prefer that SAP ease ERP software implementation process first

ATLANTA -- SAP AG users last week applauded the vendor's road map for adding service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 technologies to its software, though some acknowledged that they aren't yet ready to use the new capabilities.

At the Sapphire 2007 user conference held here last week, SAP executives outlined the company's long-term plan to add SOA and Web 2.0 capabilities to its application software and NetWeaver middleware products.

Executives said the road map also calls for creating new AJAX-enabled interfaces for the NetWeaver tools, which include a portal, data-cleansing products and a data warehouse.

In a keynote address at the conference, SAP CEO Henning Kagermann said that SOA and Web 2.0 technologies like wikis and blogs will be added to SAP applications and middleware so users can more easily collaborate with employees, partners and customers.

The SOA, Web 2.0 and AJAX updates will be available later this year, according to SAP executives.

Daniel Lubin, director of IT at Abiomed Inc., a Danvers, Mass.-based maker of cardiac support devices, said the road map is "exciting and interesting, but it will only become relevant" after his company completes a project to replace its homegrown applications with mySAP 2004 ERP software.

At this point, Lubin said he would prefer that SAP concentrate on making its applications easier to implement before adding new capabilities.

"Its got to make the technology more accessible easier to deploy, manage and configure. You still need to have expensive consultants" to implement the software, he said.

Sapphire 2007

SAP announced the following at its user conference last week:
•  A Java EE 5-based tool kit for developing composite applications•  A new portal client that supports Web 2.0 technologies•  A high-performance enterprise service bus•  An enterprise services repository that lists more than 1,000 services

Delvin Fletcher, CIO at SecurIT Ltd., an information security and records management company in Oakville, Ontario, noted that his firm hopes to take advantage of NetWeaver's extended SOA capabilities in the future.

He said that as SecurIT is rolling out SAP ERP software throughout the company, it is also creating processes that will later be able to exploit the SOA technologies in NetWeaver.

'Think Big, Start Small'

Olaf Reiss, vice president of research and development at Gisa GmbH, a Halle, Germany-based provider of IT services, noted that while the updated NetWeaver products may be attractive to large companies, the cost of implementing the SOA capabilities could prove prohibitive for small businesses.

Reiss also suggested that SAP application users should move slowly when using NetWeaver to integrate multiple applications. Big-bang implementations of NetWeaver can be dangerous, he said, particularly when some software projects are dependent on the completion of others.

"Think big, start small," Reiss advised.

Jason Lachance, manager of business analytics at LSI Corp., a Milpitas, Calif.-based maker of semiconductor storage systems and software, said he believes that SAP is on the right track with its road map.

LSI runs a mix of SAP ERP and SAP business intelligence software, Lachance said.

He theorized that SAP is boosting the use of SOA at least in part to compensate for its notorious system rigidity. "Anything SAP can do to make its tools more flexible while still maintaining stability will only benefit its customers," said Lachance.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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