For CIOs and IT teams, it's always been a struggle to align business processes with technology components. But the reality is that business must drive IT, and to meet changing business requirements, IT must respond. In other words, IT's view of technology must adapt to the requirements of the business. Accordingly, an end-to-end, cross-component view is required — one that also crosses the boundaries between IT and line-of-business organizations.
To address this need, SAP has shifted focus from a technical "construction" perspective of SAP NetWeaver to a business perspective. Of course, BI, XI, Portal, and MDM are now familiar terms to anyone aware of the SAP NetWeaver platform. You'll find, however, that there's a new technology map for SAP NetWeaver, an approach that emphasizes IT scenarios and IT practices that reflect how your business will use these solutions (see sidebar).1
This shift is more than just a theoretical one. It's already incorporated into SAP Solution Manager and other integration tools, helping you implement and configure SAP NetWeaver to meet your specific business needs. This changed approach will directly impact what you'll find in documentation, SAP installation tools, implementation guidelines, and IMG activities. It will also help you more quickly identify the business problems you can address with SAP NetWeaver — and how.
So how does this adjusted focus affect the SAP customer? What will you need to know to make the most of this new approach? And can you still find out about the technical capabilities of Enterprise Portal, XI, and BW in SAP NetWeaver 2004s? Let's start by looking at the new technology map itself.
Why This New Approach?
SAP NetWeaver's Evolution Toward a New Technology Map
Why has SAP replaced the familiar component view of SAP NetWeaver with a new structure? There are two main reasons.
One is that the increasing focus on a business-centric view of SAP NetWeaver is already happening. After all, technology components have already been integrated with each other, and SAP applications have been pre-integrated with technology components. So the focus has already been moving away from the boundaries of individual components toward a more business-centric approach that asks: What is the business problem, and how can SAP NetWeaver help solve it?
The second reason is that this structure reflects the natural evolution of SAP NetWeaver, especially if you look back at SAP NetWeaver 2004 and the value proposition it provided over the previous disparate components:
- One integrated platform with synchronized releases. The new release approach replaced previously disparate release cycles of SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS), SAP Enterprise Portal, SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI), and SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW).
- One foundation. SAP Web AS 6.40 became the single technical foundation of the platform, replacing disparate foundations and fragmented OS/DB support.
- One package. This allowed for one rapid installation process, not separate processes based on capabilities or components.
- One set of scenarios based on integrated components.
Even in SAP NetWeaver 2004, we saw the evolution of new scenarios, such as "Information Broadcasting," which used portal, knowledge management, and BI capabilities to provide easier information distribution to a large group of recipients.
With SAP NetWeaver 2004s, many more synergies between the components have been introduced. Portal technologies, for example, have become a fundamental part of user interface capabilities to achieve a role-based, single point of access, as we have seen in mySAP ERP 2005 (see my article "How mySAP ERP 2005 Supplies Core Ingredients of Consolidation and Innovation" in the October-December 2006 issue of SAP Insider at www.SAPinsideronline.com).
What's the Impact of the New SAP NetWeaver Technology Map?
When SAP took a fresh look at SAP NetWeaver with a focus on business processes rather than coding and components, the outcome was a new way of "slicing" SAP NetWeaver into IT scenarios, which are further grouped into IT practices.
The result is a new SAP NetWeaver 2004s Technology Map. But the map's IT scenarios are not only a theoretical view on SAP NetWeaver 2004s. They have heavily influenced the structure of the documentation, as well as the delivery of configuration information and implementation guidelines in SAP Solution Manager (see Figure 1).
The new SAP NetWeaver 2004s Technology Map is now directly reflected in tools including SAP Solution Manager
As a result, the IT scenario-based view of SAP NetWeaver can really help to speed up implementation and configuration of SAP NetWeaver capabilities to solve business problems.
What New Concepts Does the SAP NetWeaver 2004s Technology Map Introduce?
With this new view of IT practices and IT scenarios come two new concepts that SAP customers should
- Usage types, which help architects and system management personnel in the planning, installation, and configuration phases of a project
- Software units, which are the required installable pieces of software for deployment within the SAP NetWeaver platform
Key Concepts: Characteristics of a Usage Type
- A usage type can share a system with other usage types. On one end of the spectrum, all usage types can share the same system.
- Usage types can also be run separately in different systems (so interfaces between usage types must work locally as well as remotely). In many cases, a process integration hub is run as a separate system — but again, this is not the only option.
- A usage type is not an installable unit, by definition. Remember that a usage type provides both installation of a collection of software components and basic configuration support for SAP NetWeaver systems.
Usage Types: Your Guide for the SAP NetWeaver Installation and Configuration You Need
When it comes to installing and configuring SAP NetWeaver, customers still need to make some important decisions.
- Do I install all of SAP NetWeaver in one system?
- Do I continue with a distributed setup of previously existing BI, Portal, and XI installations?
- Do I bundle SAP NetWeaver capabilities into application systems, or do I keep them as separate central hubs serving multiple applications?
While the answers to all of these questions are highly dependent on many customer-specific boundary conditions, it is clear that SAP customers need a way to easily translate their IT scenarios into installation guidelines. SAP NetWeaver usage types provide this translation.
As you can see in Figure 2, usage types have evolved from the previous components, but they shift the point of view from construction to usage. In some ways, it's not such a dramatic departure from the old days of R/3, when you installed everything and decided on the usage of an R/3 system as an HR system, logistics system, financial system, or a combination. So you'll see less discussion of installing individual SAP NetWeaver components, but more discussion about the purpose of your installation — whether, for example, you need a Mobile Infrastructure, a Development Infrastructure, or both.
Usage types reflect how you'll use the technology in your installation, rather than how it was built
The installation process helps very much in selecting the appropriate usage types. Usage types are already integrated into the Software Lifecycle Manager (SLM) tool, which allows you to perform system landscape planning on a higher level, as well as to check on dependencies and prerequisites from your existing system landscape and its currently installed software (see Figure 3). Starting from IT scenarios, you select usage types and get the needed help to select the appropriate and corresponding software components.
IT scenarios and usage types are integrated into the new SLM tool to guide you through the planning and installation process
Software Units: The Additional Pieces
You'll Need to Get the Full Functionality
of SAP NetWeaver
Once you understand the scenarios that will meet the needs of your system and business, the picture is still not quite complete. From a deployment perspective, you have to identify some additional pieces of software that need to be installed and maintained to get the full functionality of SAP NetWeaver: standalone engines and clients (see Figure 4).
Before installing your SAP NetWeaver system, you need to identify the appropriate clients, as well as any engines required to support your system and the usage types that will drive business processes
Standalone engines are separate executables that typically serve a special purpose in a system landscape. Sometimes former standalone engines are merged into the application server (this has been the case for the Internet Transaction Server and for the Internet Graphics Server, for example). On the other hand, new standalone engines can emerge to optimize a specific function or behavior. A recent example of this is SAP NetWeaver BI Accelerator.2
Additionally, there are pieces of "client" software that run close to the end users, developers, analysts, or other users on their local machines.
So Can I Still Install a Single Component, Such as SAP NetWeaver Portal?
In the end, there is a clearly defined relationship between IT scenarios, usage types, and software components. You will still be able to gain information about the software components that are part of the SAP NetWeaver platform. However, this new approach supports you in a much richer strategy for ensuring that you have all the pieces in place — the clients, the engines, the required SAP NetWeaver usage types, and the underlying ABAP or Java stacks — to support your IT scenario.
Can IT Scenarios and Usage Types Enhance Installation and Deployment Efforts?
The "new view" on SAP NetWeaver 2004s is mainly driven by the need to look at IT in general and SAP NetWeaver in particular — including everything from what you install and configure on the server side to what clients to deploy to which users — from a business perspective, rather than by the borders of a particular component. By ensuring that the documentation, setup, and configuration of SAP NetWeaver are closer to business needs, this new approach can only help you, both to shorten your projects and to reduce your time to productivity.
Dr. Franz-Josef 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 at SAP since 1993 as Program Director and Vice President with responsibility for the Business Process Technology and Internet-Business Framework departments. Since 2003, he has been responsible for several areas within SAP NetWeaver Product Management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.