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SAP R/3 Enterprise — What Does Your Enterprise Stand to Gain from This New Technology?

by Franz-Josef Fritz | SAPinsider

October 1, 2002

by Franz-Josef Fritz, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2002 (Volume 3), October (Issue 4)
 

There is a lot of excitement being generated by SAP and customers alike around SAP R/3 Enterprise, the upcoming new version of SAP R/3, the one that follows SAP R/3 4.6C.

The core application functionality of SAP R/3, such as Financials (FI), Controlling (CO), HR, Production Planning (PP), and so on, remains familiar, so why all the excitement? Customers tell us it's two-fold. First, SAP R/3 Enterprise comes complete with the new SAP Web Application Server,1 which ushers in a variety of new technology assets. Second, it comes with the highly anticipated suite of encapsulated functional extensions.

Figure 1 highlights the new architecture of SAP R/3 Enterprise. You will see that there are now three distinct layers:

  • The SAP R/3 Enterprise Extensions
  • The SAP R/3 Enterprise Core
  • The SAP Web Application Server

The SAP R/3 Enterprise Core isn't really all that new. It is mainly a performance-optimized rendering of the 4.6C release, along with some usability enhancements. What is new is the manner in which subsequent R/3 enhancements get treated from this release forward. The SAP R/3 Enterprise Core will be kept stable and maintained with legal change and support packages only. The reason is that functional upgrades no longer take place here; they are now done outside the core, handled as SAP R/3 Enterprise Extensions.

Figure 1. The Three Layers of SAP R/3 Enterprise

In SAP R/3 Enterprise Extension Set 1.10, which was released together with SAP R/3 Enterprise last quarter, some major functional enhancements for Financials, Supply Chain Management (SCM), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and HR were introduced. Lots of enhancements were made available in each of these areas.2 You do not, however, need to activate any or all three functional areas. You can, for example, just adopt the new Financials and HR enhancements ("checked" in Figure 1), but not the SCM or PLM extensions, if that is what makes the most sense for your enterprise.

This flexibility is afforded to customers by dint of encapsulation. There is no integration between these different extensions, so each of these extensions can evolve separately and independently of any other extension. Of course, each of the extensions is integrated with the underlying core functionality.

The SAP R/3 Enterprise Core will be maintained and serviced primarily through service packages. Starting with this release, major upgrades will only be applied to the Extensions. In the past, customers, on average, saw new releases roughly every 12 months, if they followed all of them. R/3 Enterprise sets the stage for major upgrades to take place only on the extensions and technological foundation. There is no plan for new releases of SAP R/3 Enterprise Core; instead, support packages will be applied for bug fixing and legal changes. There will be releases for the extension sets.

I hope you get a sense for the positive implications this holds for upgrade teams:

  • Upgrades to the R/3 core will be reduced to applying service packages.
  • Implementing new functionality, done now via SAP R/3 Extensions, will be much faster and easier.

These factors obviously make for a more stable, reliable landscape.

Moreover, the upgrade tools that come with the SAP Web Application Server (Release 6.20) - the underlying technology layer for this new R/3 release - have been enhanced dramatically, to reduce planned downtime to a bare minimum. The new approach is called "system switch upgrade." It's markedly different than what's been done in the past. The bulk of the upgrade work is now done in online time while the applications are fully functional. The whole new repository, including custom development and modifications, is built up in a protected area within the database, and then a short switch-over activates the new version of the applications. The downtime will only depend on the amount of work, which is needed to adjust application table structures. Since this is new technology in the SAP Web Application Server, all new releases of mySAP.com applications - not just R/3 Enterprise - will benefit from this.

These upgrade technologies are just a small part of the SAP Web Application Server's technology assets. The broader benefit is the openness of this platform. The SAP Web Application Server delivers new technology for native web-based user interfaces, web-service enabling technology, native HTTP and XML support, full Java/J2EE functionality, and the best integration with the new Exchange Infrastructure. This means that SAP R/3 Enterprise Extensions and custom developments can make use of these new technologies and provide a better user experience, better collaboration with other applications and enterprises, and easier integration with non-SAP components.

Further Information

For more details, registered SAP users can visit the SAP R/3 Enterprise information center at http://service.sap.com/enterprise.


1 SAP R/3 Enterprise is currently shipped with SAP Web Application Server Release 6.20. Over time, there will be technical upgrades to newer releases of the SAP Web Application Server without a release change for SAP R/3 Enterprise Core.

2 This set of enhancements included improvements to bank account processing, cost planning, financial reporting via XRBL (which is a new XML-based standard format for financial information), management of global employees, new country-specific extensions, and much more. A complete list of all the enhancements and the new capabilities they provide can be found in the SAP R/3 Enterprise whitepaper posted on http://service.sap.com/enterprise.


Franz J. Fritz 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. Recently, he took over the responsibility for technology architecture and technology product management within SAP AG.

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