SAP Joined By Tech Giants In Business Automation Push

Under the licensing deals, the companies will get access to SAP's blueprint for building a service-oriented architecture (SOA) centered on the company's software for managing customer and supplier relationships, product lifecycles, and supply chains.

SOAs are an evolution in distributed computing that use web-services standards based on extensible markup language, or XML, to loosely bind computer systems in order to automate a business process. SAP's SOA implementation, called Enterprise Services Architecture, is powered by the company's NetWeaver integration platform.

Along with Cisco, Intel, and Microsoft, ESA licensees include Adobe Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., EMC Corp., Macromedia Inc., Symantec Corp. and Veritas Software Corp., SAP said at its Sapphire customer conference in Boston.

"Bringing several major vendors together to agree to a single product approach to SOA is good for customers, because it will help make the interoperability promise of the services underlying the architecture a reality," Jason Bloomberg, analyst for market researcher ZapThink LLC, said. "Broadly, this announcement is a signal that SOA is maturing, as incumbent vendors jump into the fray with both feet."

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Many see the move toward SOAs as a long-term corporate IT strategy that will occur over the next 10 years or more. While the technology has promises, it will take time for software vendors such as SAP to architect their products for the emerging computing model.

In licensing ESA, the tech companies will receive early access to SAP's catalog of data schemas, user interfaces, application models and security features. In addition, they'll receive development and runtime tools for building, testing, and certifying their products on the SAP platform.

In other Sapphire news, SAP launched the next release of its customer relationship management (CRM) software. MySAP CRM 2005 includes embedded analytics, a better user interface, and cross-industry management features for customer services and marketing. In addition, the software offers features for conducting sales processes over hand-held computers.

SAP has also added industry-specific features for the telecommunication and financial services industries, as well as for the public sector.