We're not daunted by Oracle, SAP tech head says

At a recent conference, SAP laid out its roadmap and took a potshot at Oracle.

SAP is undaunted by Oracle’s moves in the application space, says Shai Agassi, president of the company’s product and technology group.

Speaking at the Software 2006 conference earlier this month, Agassi disputed any contention that Oracle leads in applications.

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 specialised applications. He also reminded a customer from Shell that implementing the NetWeaver architecture must be done at a pace that suits a particular installation.

The Shell customer says the oil company is hundreds of millions of dollars into an SAP implementation. “How much money will it take to get us to this brave new world, from where we are now?”

“One thing we’ve done is [enable] a nice transition towards it. You can pick your pace,” Agassi replied.

He also stresses the growth in composite applications for specific vertical needs, such as having a solution for cellphone 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].”

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

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

SAP is not just publishing a service-oriented architecture (SOA); it is also promoting the concept of ESA, which features standardised business semantics, Agassi says. For example, there would be semantic agreement on a global procurement system connecting Nike to suppliers in China, he says.

Software also needs to support shorter product development cycles from the idea phase all the way to launch. Additionally, multiple user experiences need to be supported and SAP is 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,” Agassi says.

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

Another speaker at the conference was then-Symantec chief technology officer Mark Bregman, who 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 says. That involves dealing with confidence and trust, instead of just protecting systems and information assets, Bregman says.

With the industry in transition, software vendors need to be able to change without being stifled by past successes.

Forces of change in IT include the continued commoditisation of hardware, broadband ubiquity, power shifting to users and globalisation.

Since he spoke at the conference, Bregman has moved within Symantec to a technical sales role and has been replaced as CTO by Ajei Gopal.

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