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Demystifying SAP Versioning

by Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz | SAPinsider

January 1, 2002

by Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2002 (Volume 3), January (Issue 1)
 

Why is it that software product releases rarely bear intuitive numbering schemes? Consider the Java world, for example, where Servlets 2.3 and Java Server Pages 1.2 belong to J2EE 1.3!

Nowadays, even SAP's software release numbering schemes may seem counter-intuitive at first glance. (R/3 Enterprise Release 4.7 runs on SAP Web Application Server 6.10!) Our release numbering scheme had the luxury of being much easier and more straightforward when there was just one product, namely R/3.1 This one big package of enterprise software has had release numbers like 3.1I, 4.0B, 4.5B, 4.6C. And all the parts that make up an R/3 system, up until the most recent release, 4.6C, bore the same release number, too. So if you were running R/3 Release 4.5, you were running Release 4.5 Basis technology, and Release 4.5 applications like FI, HR, MM, and SD.

But R/3 was just one product. During the last five years, SAP has significantly enlarged and enhanced the set of products and solutions we deliver. Now we've got Business Information Warehouse (BW), Advanced Planner and Optimizer (APO), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Strategic Enterprise Management (SEM), and many more. In addition to all that, SAPMarkets and SAP Portals offer products and solutions, too.

No customer wants to get and install all that in one big bundle every time. You would want (or need) separate cycles of installation, upgrade and maintenance - agility or stability, depending on your business needs - to minimize disruption. So one single release numbering scheme can no longer do the job.

There's Method to the Madness

Most SAP application components (R/3, BW, CRM, APO…) make use of the same technology stack. This technology stack recently has been enhanced in a very significant way, changing it from the old "basis" to a true "web application server."2 And because the technology advances were so major, we gave this enhanced technology stack a new name and a new release numbering range, starting with SAP Web Application Server 6.10. And there is more to come. Release 6.20 will contain a complete Java stack in addition to the well-known ABAP stack, plus many new features for application integration. And for the development labs, Release 6.30 is already on the drawing board.

The Web Application Server (Web AS) not only comes with applications on top, it can also be ordered and used, standalone, for what it is - a web application server for developing and deploying custom-built web applications, based on all the features and unique benefits of the SAP development and runtime environment.

The application components sitting on top of this technology stack have their own life-cycle and their own release numbering schemes. As a result, you can have release combinations of application components and technology layers such as these:

CRM 3.0 Web AS 6.10
BW 3.0 Web AS 6.10
R/3 Enterprise 4.7 Web AS 6.20

With each of these components there are two forces at work: stable and proven business functionality, plus the capacity to integrate innovative technology and optional add-on features.

It's not unlike a high-performance luxury vehicle that has provided its owner with long-standing beauty and comfort. Similarly, install a powerful, brand-new engine, and that same vehicle has the horsepower to pull a whole new set of trailers. So now R/3 Enterprise (a veritable luxury vehicle in the ERP arena!) has the release number 4.7 (which comes after R/3 4.6 and denotes familiarity), but with the benefit of a new, more powerful technology engine, SAP Web Application Server 6.10.

Questions (and Answers) of "Combinatorics"

How do you know when to combine R/3 Release x with BW Release y and CRM Release z? Answers to these types of "combinatorics" questions are headed your way in a Component Repository, which we will make available as a product for every SAP customer. This repository, which lists all SAP components and their possible combinations at any given point in time, is already up and running at SAP.

We are now making preparations to deliver this information to our customers' sites, including ongoing updates with the newest information on combinatorics. The Component Repository will be the primary resource for planning your system landscape, installations, and upgrades.

Look for details about the Component Repository and its contents in upcoming issues of SAP Insider.


1 Of course, R/3 followed in the wake of R/2, which followed R/1, but that's an entirely different numbering scheme altogether!

2 I described the features and benefits of the SAP Web Application Server 6.10 in my article "From 'SAP Basis' to 'SAP Web Application Server' - It's Much More Than Just a Name Change!" in the July-September 2001 issue of SAP Insider.


Dr. Franz J. Fritz, Vice President, Technology Product Management for SAP AG, has a Ph.D. in mathematics and 30 years of experience in all areas of IT. Workflow and business process management have been particular areas of interest for much of his life. He has worked for SAP since 1993 as program director and vice president with responsibility for the Business Process Technology and Internet-Business Framework departments.

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