SAP CEO details new breed of apps

SAP AG delved further into details of its Web services strategy Wednesday with announcements of new functionality in its Web application server while unveiling a new breed of enterprise applications designed to span company boundaries to ties together business processes.

The company also detailed a new set of solutions designed for small and mid-sized businesses. The announcements were made at the company's Sapphire user conference here.

SAP announced the shipment of its open Web services platform designed to unify people, information, and processes for any business application solution including SAP R/3 Enterprise,, and the newly announced cross applications.

Featured in the platform is a new presentation layer called Web Dynpro, designed to create professional and easy-to-use interfaces, said Hasso Plattner, co-chairman and CEO of SAP.

SAP will replace all user interfaces for existing and future applications and will provide the "technology cornerstone and Web services foundation" for the company, Plattner added. It will provide a design-time environment that allows developers to model and create browser-based user interfaces as well as a standards based run-time environment that is device agnostic and bridges the gap between J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition), ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming), and Microsoft .Net.

"This unified interface for all SAP applications is significantly faster," Plattner said. "It can be changed ... on the design-time level and the run-time level."

SAP also announced the first shipment of its Web Application Server, which will include the Web Dynpro run time for J2EE and ABAP. The server hosts business applications written as Web services through native platform-independent Web technologies and is the foundation for SAP new cross applications (xApps).

The xApps build on existing applications within and across enterprise boundaries to extend value by delivering adaptable, cross-functional business processes.

"We bring the different aspects of information we have stored on our systems together within the context of the business ... to have more intelligent collaboration between people and systems," Plattner said.

"With the xApps, we want to start a new generation of applications sitting on top of other applications. People are not working in one system. If you are a project manager, people issues are as important as product issues and customer requirements. You have to work on all the issues simultaneously," he added.

The first xApp to be shipped is Resource and Program Management, which is designed to allow customers to drive change throughout the company by leveraging existing investments in IT. New product launches, mergers and acquisitions, business change management, and resource and program management are all examples of cross-functional business processes that can be implemented as xApps.

Bruce Richardson, an analyst with AMR Research, said xApps are a way of allowing enterprises to leverage the applications they have for pulling data from CRM (customer relationship management), supply chain applications, and others to develop collaborative applications.

"No one has the stomach to go through an ERP [enterprise resource planning] replacement," he said. "xApps are really a way of saying ... 'This is the business process for what you want to do and here is how to do it.'"Plattner also detailed the company's new exchange technology, which he said should be the underpinning for business process integration. The SAP Exchange Infrastructure, based on the newest release of the SAP Web application Server, uses XML messaging for process integration to connect any component from any vendor or any technology. A primary capability of the SAP Exchange Infrastructure is a repository of information required to create and modify collaboration across a heterogonous application and system portfolio.

SAP's new Business One offering for small and medium-size businesses with up to 250 users is designed to address common user requirements in the areas of accounting, logistics, sales force automation, and business reporting. The integration of information from SAP Business One with the platform reduces system interface challenges and allows headquarter companies to achieve greater control and information flow with subsidiaries, Plattner said.

"What is right for a mid-sized company is not right for a Coke," Plattner said. "It's very easy to deploy, very easy to learn, and very easy to maintain. We can install the software in one day, with production [up and running] in five days. This is software that can be installed in remote locations. It rolls up all the information to the net higher regional or headquarters."

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