SAP streamlines middleware suite

SAP next week plans to unveil a more unified version of its NetWeaver middleware that's designed to end some of the headaches for users, who now need to coordinate the applications and integration tools that make up the suite.

SAP next week plans to unveil a more unified version of its NetWeaver middleware that's designed to end some of the headaches for users, who now need to coordinate the applications and integration tools that make up the suite.

SAP last week confirmed that it's moving to align the components of the NetWeaver suite, which includes the company's data warehouse software, an integration broker and other products.

"Going forward, we'll update NetWeaver annually, with all the pieces being updated and synchronised together," said SAP America spokesman William Wohl.

Eventually, users will be able to run the entire suite on a single server, something that isn't possible now, he said. The new version will also include support for radio frequency identification tags, so users can develop RFID-enabled supply chain management processes. Wohl declined to comment on when the upgrade is due for release.

Some users who are running pieces of the middleware suite were enthused by SAP's plan to unify NetWeaver, which has assumed a central role in the software vendor's long-term strategy since it was announced early last year.

"The products were never built to be together at the same time," said Mike Perroni, vice president of IT at Halliburton in Houston. That means users have to worry about whether NetWeaver components will work with one another, he said. And if there's a glitch with the software, getting it resolved can be "very time-consuming and make the process of upgrades very complex," Perroni added.

Halliburton, which offers energy, engineering and construction services, runs SAP's R/3 ERP applications, plus its portal and data warehouse software. Perroni, who is also a director of the independent Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), said that Halliburton will look at the possibility of running the portal and data warehousing technology on the same server in the future. "Today, every component requires one or more boxes to be installed," he said.

Responding to Feedback

The upcoming improvements should help make it easier to add third-party applications to R/3, said Lori Schock, global business process manager at silicone products maker Dow Corning in Midland, Mich. Schock, another ASUG director, said SAP is making the changes partly in response to feedback from the group's members that "we can't afford to manage multiple releases that aren't synchronised."

SAP is trying to keep middleware vendors such as IBM and BEA Systems out of its ERP installed base by throwing in NetWeaver when users license its mySAP Business Suite, said Gartner analyst Yvonne Genovese.

"The whole goal is to bring it on as a single platform at a single price," she said, noting one potential downside: SAP might focus more on making the suite interoperable than on adding new features.

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