Host Of Vendors Riding The SAP Wave

At Sapphire '05 in Boston last month, heavyweights Cisco Systems, Computer Associates International, EMC, Intel and Microsoft all said they had licensed SAP's enterprise services architecture (ESA) for use within their own products. Other licensees include Adobe Systems, Mercury Interactive, Macromedia, Symantec and Veritas Software.

While these may be the first such announcements in which vendors vow to work closely with SAP's underlying architecture, they aren't likely to be the last. That's because there is an industrywide shift toward the safe harbor that SAP—with its sheer size and momentum—has carved out in the applications market. "You gotta love a winner and there's no Larry [Ellison] to deal with," said John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas at New York-based Capgemini, referring to Oracle's CEO. More seriously, he noted that with SAP, there is "no way to be wrong and once you hit critical mass you have momentum. Everyone loves momentum," he said.

Added John Haddad, managing director of midmarket partner IDS Scheer, Atlanta: "It's clear to me that SAP is winning this game. Oracle is not winning traction, and that's because the midmarket space is not a big fan of Larry Ellison. Oracle is truly a database company trying to play in the ERP space."

In the alliances unveiled last month, partner companies have access to SAP's tools, documentation and insight for seamlessly blending their products within SAP's take on a services-oriented architecture.

Sponsored post

"This is not your characteristic industry marketing alliance announcement, of which there are hundreds every year," said Bill Wohl, vice president of product and solutions public relations at SAP, Walldorf, Germany. "Those sorts of announcements just say the companies will play nice together."

In contrast, said Wohl, these companies have pledged to alter their products to work smoothly with SAP's platform for supporting business processes. So, for example, a Cisco router could be configured to know that certain messages contain finance statements and therefore rate higher priority levels. Or EMC's data management software could give special attention to a disk running mission-critical supply chain applications. CA will actually separate pieces of its Unicenter, eTrust and BrightStor systems and security management software and make them available as SAP xApps, which are prepackaged composite applications, said Rob Levy, senior president and chief technology strategist at CA, Islandia, N.Y.

Then there's Macromedia. At the Copenhagen Sapphire show earlier in May, SAP said it will include Macromedia's Flex design software in NetWeaver's Visual Composer. That move could raise Macromedia's profile among corporate customers, said Dave Mendels, executive vice president of San Francisco-based Macromedia.

"We have been evolving from a company that makes tools for creative people to one that provides a platform for building rich Internet apps—apps that feel like desktop apps but run across platforms, across browsers," he said.

With Macromedia's pending acquisition by Adobe, people are starting to see that combination as a powerful counterbalance to Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. That's because at a macro level, the Flex deal attacks the same problem as the Microsoft-SAP Mendocino joint project. Mendocino would make Microsoft Office desktop applications de facto front ends to SAP back-office applications.

For its part, SAP wants to ensure that ISVs of all levels will be able to tap into its vision of software connected by a business processes fabric.

"We have exposed 500 enterprise services that ISVs can begin to use as they make a true ESA come to life," said Wohl. "Now the next wave is for those ISVs to use these services to create new composite apps and, by extension, new business processes that transcend all applications throughout the IT environment."