Agassi: SAP undaunted by Oracle

SAP is undaunted by Oracle's moves in the application space, said SAP's Shai Agassi, president of the company's Product and Technology Group.

Speaking at the Software 2006 conference on Wednesday, Agassi disputed any contention that Oracle leads in applications. He said that prior to the PeopleSoft acquisition in 2004, SAP's lead over Oracle was 30 percentage points; now, it is 35 market share points.

"I guess that's the reason the applications [are] called Oracle11i. The i is for imaginary," Agassi said.

During his presentation, Agassi touted SAP's NetWeaver platform and ESA (Enterprise Services Architecture) strategies as well as the proliferation of "micro-vertical" solutions, which are highly specialized applications. He also counseled a customer from Shell that implementing the ERP giant's new NetWeaver architecture must be done at a pace that suits a particular installation.

The Shell customer in the audience said Shell is hundreds of millions of dollars into an SAP implementation. "How much money will it take us to get to this brave new world from where we are now?" the customer asked.

"One thing we've done is [enable] a nice transition toward it. You can pick your pace," Agassi said.

He also stressed the growth in composite applications for specific vertical needs, such as having a solution for cell phone makers in Italy and one for wineries in Germany.

"We'll see industry verticals go to the next degree. Not 400 but 4,000 [composite applications]," Agassi said.

SAP will not provide all of these but will get assistance from other ISVs, he said. "The notion that SAP will supply every one of these 4,000 micro-verticals is impossible," Agassi said.

"We believe that you need a single unified platform on top of which you can make as many flexible solutions as you want," Agassi said. For SAP, that platform is NetWeaver.

SAP is not just publishing an SOA; it is promoting the concept of ESA, which features standardized business semantics, Agassi said. For example, there would be semantic agreement on a global procurement system connecting Nike to suppliers in China, he said.

Software also needs to support shorter product development cycles from the idea phase all the way to launch, Agassi said. Additionally, multiple user experiences need to be supported, with SAP embedding processes into multiple environments such as Microsoft's Excel and Outlook.

"Instead of forcing you into SAP, we let you use it anywhere you go, your way," said Agassi.

The CIO role, meanwhile, is evolving into a chief IT officer, who looks to reduce cost of IT, and the chief process innovation officer, who assesses impacts of changes.

Also at Software 2006 on Wednesday, Symantec CTO Mark Bregman cited the need for Symantec to evolve toward the Web 2.0 paradigm, with the company focusing on protecting user relationships.

"We're framing a lot of this around the idea of Security 2.0," Bregman said. "The real change here is dealing with confidence and trust," instead of just protecting systems and information assets, Bregman said.

With the industry in transition, market leaders need to be able to change without being stifled by past successes, according to Bregman. "The interesting challenge A¢Euro ¦ is to understand how you can be a leader in the new paradigm" he said.

"Leadership brings with it a lot of burdens," Bregman said.

Forces of change in IT include the continued commoditization of hardware, broadband ubiquity, power shifting to users and globalization, said Bregman.

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