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
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:
||Web AS 6.10
||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
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,
Look for details about the Component Repository
and its contents in upcoming issues of SAP Insider.
Of course, R/3 followed in the wake of R/2, which followed R/1, but
that's an entirely different numbering scheme altogether!
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.