Q: What’s going on with SAP NetWeaver? Why haven’t we heard about it lately?
A: Admittedly, we weren’t talking about SAP NetWeaver that much last year because of the many other exciting things that have been happening at SAP, such as our acquisition of Sybase and the move to mobile; the launch of new products based on the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio; and the growing importance of cloud computing and other such trends. But that doesn’t mean that SAP NetWeaver is not a key part of our plans. In fact, it’s an integral aspect of our strategy for developing many of these new innovations.
SAP NetWeaver is just as vital as it ever was, and its new release, 7.3, will exemplify how it provides the launch pad for bringing innovation without disruption into areas such as mobility, cloud computing, and in-memory computing. These areas all rely on a stable, coherent core — and that is what SAP NetWeaver delivers.
“SAP NetWeaver isn’t going away. In fact, the technology is the foundation for accelerated innovation."
Q: What is SAP NetWeaver like today?
A: As Vishal Sikka pointed out in his SAP TechEd keynote, the “stack wars” are over. Nobody’s looking for a proprietary stack from one vendor anymore. Today, customers want to know how they can evolve their technology and build on their existing systems. They want software to be fast and stable; open and pre-integrated; scalable and easy to implement. That’s what SAP NetWeaver 7.3 is all about. This consolidated release is a portfolio of solutions to solve problems, not a physical “stack” of things piled on top of each other that require A before B.
But while SAP NetWeaver is now a solution portfolio based on use cases (which we’ll discuss in more detail later), it still provides the coherence of a platform in the sense that it brings all of our various offerings together, especially in this new release, which converges all of the solutions. Customers want data to move back and forth, and they like to see everything work together.
We’re hearing that today’s business user community is excited about many of the new business services available to them via their IT systems — services that range from locating their inventory, to monitoring their sales pipeline, to managing their travel plans. But to deliver these business services, technical services must be running in the background; for example, data must be stored, as well as accessible. And that’s what SAP NetWeaver does; it provides technical services to facilitate many of the new business services available through SAP solutions.
So, in reality, you can think of SAP NetWeaver as more of a tool than a platform. I say that because the term “platform” can sometimes connote limitations. SAP NetWeaver is the opposite of a limitation — it’s a facilitator that enables business users to do what they want to do. Plus, it offers connectivity to enable integration between different systems across the enterprise. But no matter what direction we go in, we consider it our responsibility to use a consistent architecture. And that’s what SAP NetWeaver is — our materialized architecture.
Q: Can you discuss the new use cases for SAP NetWeaver?
A: The first use case would be team productivity. IT strives to make people more productive, while keeping costs low. Today, companies are focused on having teams with fewer, yet more productive, people who could be spread out all over the world. And that business model relies on IT in areas like mobility and social media, so we need to integrate that model into our solutions; SAP NetWeaver is the vehicle for doing that. That’s where solutions like SAP NetWeaver Mobile and SAP NetWeaver Portal come into play. For example, the new enterprise workspaces add-on for SAP NetWeaver Portal allows people to create their own virtual workspaces and share them with team members or external partners and suppliers. You can create your own view of the business with the reports, applications, and information you want to see or want others to see, boosting both individual and team productivity. In addition, Duet Enterprise, which leverages the SAP NetWeaver platform, supports access to SAP applications through Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office to enable teams to collaborate and share information.1
We’ll certainly see more innovation in the mobility area with the new addition of Sybase; there will be more integration with Sybase solutions where it makes sense going forward, such as with SAP NetWeaver Mobile. We’re building a joint software developer kit (SDK) that will combine the best of both SAP and Sybase.
The second major use case for SAP NetWeaver is business integration. Business-to-business interaction has become more complex — it’s more like geography-to-geography today — and there’s a lot more complexity around making things work across borders. And that goes beyond hand-coded elements; this trend requires a lot more content integration and pre-integrated capabilities like identity management and security. For example, identity federation, which is the ability for one system or organization to trust users authenticating from another system or organization, becomes key as the scale of business integration and business network integration grows.
Business integration is where service-oriented architecture and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI) enter the picture, along with SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment (SAP NetWeaver CE). For example, when users log on to SAP NetWeaver PI, there’s now a “Good Morning” screen that updates them on what occurred in the systems overnight (see Figure 1).
||The “Good Morning” screen in SAP NetWeaver PI is an entry point with an aggregated view of the most important status information on the integration server, decentral adapter engines, and connected SAP business systems
The third use case is SAP NetWeaver as the technical foundation for business processes and applications, which is most important to customers because it really equates to lower cost of ownership. No IT department can grow its costs today. The basics of running an IT system need to just happen so that businesses can focus on other areas of IT that drive business innovation. It’s like the power that turns on the lights in your house. You don’t really need to know where it comes from, but you want to know that it will be there. That’s where technology, such as the application servers, SAP Solution Manager, and various security offerings, help keep your existing landscape running efficiently. The foundation capabilities of SAP NetWeaver ensure everything is up to date, secure, and operating smoothly.
Q: Why should our readers consider SAP NetWeaver 7.3? What are some benefits?
A: Openness is the biggest benefit. SAP NetWeaver 7.3 is more of a mashup environment in which you can mix and match solutions. For example, in the past, you had to use SAP NetWeaver Portal to get any visibility into SAP Business Suite applications using SAP NetWeaver. You can still work with SAP NetWeaver Portal, but we know that some companies now want to use Microsoft SharePoint, SAP partner applications, or even on-demand applications. SAP NetWeaver 7.3 enables this because of its improved support for open standards. Project “Gateway,” an under-development technology designed to sit on top of SAP NetWeaver, is another example of how new on-device interfaces can be delivered.
Also, the footprint of SAP NetWeaver 7.3 is much smaller than in previous releases, requiring fewer servers to run this version. In response to customer feedback, we’ve undertaken a “fall pruning,” if you will, consolidating some of what was in previous versions to make SAP NetWeaver more efficient for users. No matter what version users are currently on, they’d be well served to move to version 7.3 as their base for future innovation.
Plus, the release includes pre-validated content for SAP Business Suite 7 and SAP Business Suite 7 Innovations 2010, to help support non-disruptive upgrades to SAP Business Suite landscapes.
Q: What is SAP NetWeaver’s role in cloud computing?
A: SAP NetWeaver is involved with our cloud solutions today. SAP Business ByDesign, for example, uses a portion of SAP NetWeaver, but not the entire portfolio; SAP Business ByDesign is an on-demand application, so it is a different environment. Version 2.6 of SAP Business By-Design includes an SDK that enables developers to extend the application.
A similar example is SAP StreamWork. This on-demand application leverages certain pieces of SAP NetWeaver, like the Java server, but the goal for developers is to extend and build upon this technology portfolio.
Q: Where is SAP NetWeaver headed?
A: We’re more committed to SAP NetWeaver now than we have ever been. We heard Vishal Sikka use the term “timeless software” at SAP TechEd. SAP NetWeaver is part of that. It is the enabler to let people do what they want to do and make their systems work the way their people do. At the same time, it ensures that the core systems aren’t disrupted as IT moves toward more flexibility for the end user and new options for deploying applications, such as the cloud.
Going forward, we’ll maintain the existing use cases for SAP NetWeaver because we have more than 60,000 productive systems out there. We will continue to focus on making SAP NetWeaver easier to use and extending it into new areas like Web 2.0, mashups, and mobile apps. And there will always be new solutions and features we can add to the SAP NetWeaver lineup. We are also planning to enhance its connectivity capabilities to enable even better system integration.
The future of SAP NetWeaver doesn’t start and end with SAP. We invite customer feedback and encourage participation in the innovation process. The best way to get involved is to join the ramp-up process for SAP NetWeaver 7.3; you can learn more at http://service.sap.com/rampup.
Aiaz Kazi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Head of Technology and Innovation Platform Marketing at SAP. Aiaz joined SAP in February 2006 after previously holding leadership positions at TIBCO, webMethods, and BEA. He holds an MBA in Marketing, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship from the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
1 To learn more about Duet Enterprise, see the article "SAP for Business Users" by David Brutman in this January-March 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]