SAP To Talk Up NetWeaver, New Delivery Models


ERP giant SAP this week will seek to prove that it's been true to its word on delivering "Enterprise SOA."

"We've talked about it since we talked about NetWeaver in 2003. It's been a strong and steady roadmap, we have not wavered," said Bill Wall, vice president of product and technology for German software giant, which has U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa.

Virtually every business software company has tried to show it can offer up-to-date Web services that extend and preserve existing application investment. "Enterprise SOA" is SAP's take on that with NetWeaver serving as the underlying platform which embraces both Java and .Net skillsets.

For the several thousand SAP customers converging on Atlanta this week for Sapphire 2007, SAP will tout NetWeaver as platform for partner development in certain industry-specific verticals. The company will also talk up its focus helping customers deal with corporate governance issues, according to Wall.

SAP will talk up a business unit launched last year that focuses on managing risk and compliance.

Sapphire is taking place just weeks after the unexpected exit of Shai Agassi, the top exec that many saw as the heir to SAP's crown.

As it stands, SAP is run by Chairman Hasso Plattner, CEO Henning Kagermann, and deputy CEO Leo Apotheker. Kagermann's contract extension was announced just before Agassi's departure hit the wires.

Wall said the company had been forthright about Agassi's decision. "You don't easily replace Mr. Agassi, but the very people behind Shai are the same people in charge today. He laid out an aggressive agenda, which is very much in place, we're executing against it, and people running it for him have stepped forward."

The company is also navigating the tricky shoals between on-premise software and software-as a service. Company execs have talked—not very specifically--about a new hosted version of ERP, code-named A1S, that will target companies smaller than those who typically run the big-iron MySAP and smaller mid-market companies running SAP's All-in-One.

Wall pointed out the company is not out in the cold when it comes to SaaS. "For us, 'on demand' is not just about CRM, but also about SRM [supplier relationship management] and sourcing—we have solutions there some of which can be delivered on demand," he noted.

SAP, like other legacy business software players including Microsoft and Oracle, is weighing the SaaS mode of delivery. And all of those players are hedging their bets. Oracle fields Siebel CRM On Demand. Microsoft is working on a self-hosted CRM Live and already has partners hosting its ERP and CRM products for customers.

All these players are anxious to show that SaaS is one of several delivery models they can facilitate. Newer services-oriented players like Saleforce.com and NetSuite hope their early-mover advantage will sustain them as the older vendors jump into the fray.

"There's a lot of excitement generated by small niche players in the on demand space. We think the discussion is about customer requirements. [It's] one way to deliver software but not the only way. We don't think of on demand as a panacea or the end of software as we know it," Wall said in a not-so-veiled swipe at Salesforce.com's marketing language.

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