SAP to roll out new infrastructure suite

Business applications vendor SAP is expected next week to unveil a new version of its application and integration platform designed to end some of the headaches for IT managers who need to coordinate among its separate pieces.

Without going into detail, SAP confirmed Thursday that it will announce the alignment of the various components of its NetWeaver suite. NetWeaver includes among its components an information warehouse, integration broker and portal.

"Going forward, we'll update NetWeaver annually, with all the pieces being updated and synchronized together," said company spokesman William Wohl. "One obvious benefit is that if it's fully synchronized, it makes integration much more simple."

Eventually, customers will be able to run the entire suite on a single server, something not possible today. In addition, said Wohl, the new version of NetWeaver released next week will include radio frequency identification tag support, so users can craft RFID-enabled supply chain management processes.

Users were enthused by the news. "The products were never built to be together at the same time," said Mike Perroni, vice president of IT at energy services provider Halliburton in Houston. That meant users had to worry whether a given version of a NetWeaver component would work with another, and any glitches "could be very time consuming and make the process of upgrades very complex."

"I believe the improved products will be much easier to manage and will work better together," Perroni said.

Halliburton runs both SAP R/3 and the company's portal and business warehouse software. Perroni, who is also a director in the independent Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), said that Halliburton now could run the portal and business warehouse on the same server. "Today, every component requires one or more boxes to be installed."

In part because of the upcoming improvements, it will be easier to swap in third-party applications to the core SAP R/3 ERP software, said Lori Schock, global business process manager at chemical maker Dow Corning, also an ASUG director, said the changes by SAP come in response to the organization's members telling the company "we can't afford to manage multiple releases that aren't synchronized."

Dow Corning runs SAP's R/3 and portal software, and has plans to roll out more NetWeaver technology in the "near future."

SAP is trying to keep middleware rivals such as IBM and BEA Systems out of its installed base, said Yvonne Genovese, an analyst at Gartner. By signing a single license to buy the mySAP Business Suite, companies can get the NetWeaver technology thrown in.

"The whole goal is to bring it on as a single platform at a single price," she said, noting one potential downside: SAP might wind up more focused on making the suite interoperable rather than on adding new features.

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