16 January 2003 SAP, the German software giant, today unveiled a web services-based ebusiness application and integration platform that it claimed is the biggest leap forward in its technology for more than a decade.
The platform, called ‘NetWeaver’, moves the enterprise resource planning software company into the realm of the world’s major ebusiness architecture providers such as IBM, BEA Systems and Microsoft.
SAP said NetWeaver provides an application platform that can run on standard J2EE servers or servers using its ABAP language. The new product also includes an integration broker and business process management tools, as well as business intelligence, knowledge management, portal and collaboration capabilities.
The platform will use what SAP calls xApps – composite applications that are built through integrating underlying applications using standard web services technologies.
SAP said it had sought to sidestep the industry battle between the J2EE platform – supported by IBM, BEA and Sun Microsystems – and Microsoft’s.Net platform. NetWeaver is interoperable with both and customers can use either J2EE or .Net development tools to build applications for it, said SAP.
But analysts argued that NetWeaver will be effective in reducing SAP customers’ reliance on third-party applications from PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel Systems and others.
Hasso Plattner, SAP’s CEO, told a press conference that NetWeaver will be as important to SAP as when its technology adopted the ‘three-tier’ architecture in 1992.
His views were supported by Peter Graf, the company’s vice president of market strategy, who added that the business world had reached “a similar inflection point” as when the shift to client-server occurred. “There are a lot of business needs today that can be answered by applying technology like web services,” he said.
But critics dismissed claims that NetWeaver represented a significant breakthrough, claiming that many of the components have been taken from other products. They also suggested that SAP will seek to use the platform to exercise greater control over its customers.
“[NetWeaver] is hugely important in terms of maintaining their control over their installed base and continuing to sell into that base,” said Josh Greenbaum, an analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting.