SAP SOA, Web 2.0 plans get mixed reviews

Sapphire 2007 user conference hosts mixed opinions of SAP's roadmap

SAP users this week applauded the vendor's road map for adding service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web 2.0 technologies to its software, though some acknowledged that they aren't yet ready to use the new capabilities.

At the Sapphire 2007 user conference held in Atlanta earlier this week, SAP executives outlined the company's long-term plan to add SOA and Web 2.0 capabilities to its application software and NetWeaver middleware products.

Executives said the road map also calls for creating new Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) enabled interfaces for the NetWeaver tools, which include a portal, data cleansing products and a data warehouse.

In a keynote address at the conference, CEO Henning Kagermann said that Web 2.0 technologies like Wikis and blogs will be added to SAP applications and middleware so users can more easily collaborate with employees, partners and customers.

SAP executives said the SOA, Web 2.0 and AJAX updates will be available later this year.

Daniel Lubin, director of IT for Abiomed, a Massachusetts, U.S.-based maker of cardiac support devices, called the road map "exciting and interesting, but it will only become relevant" after his company completes a project to replace its homegrown applications with mySAP 2004 ERP software.

At this point, though, Lubin said he would prefer that SAP concentrate on making its applications easier to implement before adding new capabilities. "It's got to make the technology more accessible, easier to deploy, manage and configure. You still need to have expensive consultants" to implement the software, he said.

Delvin Fletcher, CIO of Securit, a U.S.-based information security and records management company, noted that his firm hopes to take advantage of NetWeaver's extended SOA capabilities in the future.

He said that as Securit currently rolls out SAP ERP software throughout the company, its developers are also creating processes that can support the SOA technologies in NetWeaver.

Olaf Reiss, vice president of research and development at GISA, a Germany-based provider of IT services, noted that while the updated NetWeaver may be attractive to large firms, the cost of implementing its SOA technology could prove prohibitive for small firms.

Reiss also suggested that SAP application users move slowly when using NetWeaver to integrate multiple applications. Big-bang implementations of NetWeaver can be dangerous, he said, particularly when software projects are dependent on the completion of others.

"Think big, start small," he said.

Jason Lachance, manager of business analytics at LSI Logic, a maker of semiconductor storage systems and software based in Colorado Springs, said he believes that SAP is on the right track with its road map.

LSI runs a mix of SAP ERP and SAP business intelligence software, LaChance said.

He theorized that SAP is boosting the use of SOA at least in part to compensate for its notorious system rigidity. "Anything SAP can do to make its tools more flexible while still maintaining stability will only benefit its customers," Lachance said.

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