SAP to push on .Net

SAP is making moves to more tightly embrace rival and partner Microsoft's .Net technology platform and allow both companies' products to more easily work together.

At its Sapphire '04 user conference in New Orleans, SAP Wednesday announced a number of software enhancements around its NetWeaver integration and middleware platform that will have increased .Net support. The partnership initiative is geared toward customers who don't want to have to figure out how to bridge the companies' various applications, Shai Agassi, a member of SAP's executive board, said at a news conference previewing the announcement yesterday.

There are 40,000 instances of SAP software running on Windows -- and nearly two-thirds of new SAP installations are Windows-based. With that in mind, Agassi promised more extensive cross fertilization between the two companies, which have engaged in a patent cross license arrangement for joint technology collaboration. "We're both listening to each other," Agassi said.

As part of this, SAP and Microsoft announced that they will create a collaboration technology support center to craft and showcase examples of joint integration. The center will be in Walldorf, Germany, where SAP is based. Both companies committed to work together to sell more SAP software running on Windows as well.

Among the technology specifics announced at this week's event, SAP said that this summer it plans to start a beta program for developers to use Microsoft Visual Studio.Net to create more sophisticated applications around the SAP Enterprise Portal. The SAP Enterprise Portal software developer's kit for .Net should be out by August.

Sometime during the next several months, SAP will also ship Version 2.0 of its SAP.Net Connector, which allows customers to hook together SAP software with .Net-based applications. The new version will have enhanced language support for Visual Basic .Net and improved integration with Visual Studio. In addition, SAP is joining the Visual Studio Industry Partner program, which ultimately will let .Net programmers more easily work on SAP software.

The next version of NetWeaver will have native support for advanced Web services protocols, which will boost interoperability with software such as Microsoft's BizTalk Server. NetWeaver will also be enhanced to allow end users to access SAP applications from a Microsoft Office desktop, using Web-service based smart client interfaces.

SAP is already shipping sample applications for developers.

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