SAP stresses master-data management

Users need to keep maintaining their master data if they want to successfully rearchitect their IT systems, an SAP executive said Tuesday.

SAP Tuesday emphasized the importance of users continually maintaining master data, a single version of attributes that best describe products or customers, as corporations work to rearchitect their IT systems.

Defining a company's master data can help customers improve the quality of their core data, and reduce errors and out-of-date or duplicated information. It's also essential to successfully implementing a SOA (service-oriented architecture). SOA, a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services, is proving increasingly popular among corporations looking to more effectively use their existing data.

Companies looking to consolidate IT resources should first define a list of master data, according to Shai Agassi, president of SAP's product and technology group. But that definition process shouldn't be a one-time thing. "Master data is a treadmill; you need to continue to go on it," he said during a keynote address at the Americas' SAP Users Group (ASUG) in Orlando Tuesday. ASUG is collocated with SAP's Sapphire user conference.

SAP is among many vendors, including IBM and Oracle, currently talking up master-data management (MDM). Earlier this month, IBM highlighted the enhanced MDM capabilities in the latest version of its WebSphere Product Center middleware.

As companies go through mergers and acquisitions, the first thing they need to do post-purchase is get a list of the acquired firm's master data and integrate it with their own, Agassi said.

While discussing consolidation, Agassi couldn't resist taking a few shots at SAP's main business applications rival, Oracle.

During his presentation, he put onscreen a list of software vendors, including PeopleSoft and Siebel, that Oracle acquired. "They met the big, bad wolf and disappeared," he said. Agassi compared Oracle's taste for acquisition to his childhood love of pop rocks, sugar candy that fizzled on the tongue. "There's the initial excitement, the bad aftertaste and the desire to do it again," he quipped.

Agassi reiterated SAP's take on SOA, that the approach needs to include enterprise services developed by third parties including SAP as well as specific services developed in house by individual customers. "Every 10 years, the IT industry comes up with a three-letter acronym that's supposed to solve all the problems of the world," he said. "We actually believe in SOA, it's not going to fade away in a few years."

He drew a comparison between SOA and language. Think of SOA as being a way to bring together letter and words, while enterprise services provide the semantics so that those words are readily understood within IT systems, he said. Corporations are creating their own dictionaries as they populate repositories with internally and externally developed enterprise services, he said.

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