The message came a bit late but it was loud and clear: SAP is charging ahead with its approach to a service-oriented architecture and users should start thinking now about ways to join the drive.
In his keynote speech on Wednesday, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Henning Kagermann told a packed auditorium of users at its Sapphire customer conference in New Orleans that the company is fully committed to implementing its Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA), using the NetWeaver integration platform as a crucial tool, and urged them to start making their own plans today.
A good chunk of SAP's research and development efforts -- and money -- will go to the development of ESA and new enterprise services applications, he said.
ESA is not a technology but rather a blueprint showing developers how to build new kinds of enterprise applications using Web services, said Hilmar Schepp, director of product management for SAP's global ERP initiative.
"You need a plan, which is ESA, and you need a tool to enable this -- that's NetWeaver," he said. "It's the hammer you need to pound the nail."
As SAP evolves toward a service-oriented architecture, its applications will progress into a mix of core products running on different platforms, according to Kagermann. On top of those products, customers will be able to build their own applications, or composite applications, otherwise known as xApps at SAP.
Composite applications are, essentially, software programs developed to deliver more specific functions. In an interview at the start of the Sapphire event, SAP co-founder and former co-chief executive officer (co-CEO) Hasso Plattner viewed these applications as a crucial software development area and one that will require SAP to pursue new design methodologies to retain a competitive edge.
Interoperability efforts with platforms from other vendors will continue, Kagermann said, pointing to the company's latest effort: the partnership with Microsoft to drive deeper integration between its .Net development platform and SAP's Netweaver.
Asked later in the afternoon if ESA would be "another" of many architecture models that users have had to embrace over the years, Kagermann said users shouldn't worry; this architecture would be around for a decade or longer.