Enterprise services are collections of Web services that provide enterprise-level business value by combining many granular Web services into business logic that can impact a business event anywhere in the value chain. Having a single Web service to check credit during order taking is good, but an enterprise service that orchestrates numerous upstream and downstream instructions across various underlying applications has enormous value — especially when reusing or redeploying Web services is simple and lowers costs.
Enterprise services bring all the pieces together and extend process automation to create business value for the end user. For example, electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) presents and delivers invoice and account information electronically from the biller to the customer. This innovative business process meets the enterprise services definition by combining numerous services across various SAP applications. It also provides a simple Web-based user interface with alerts, analytics, collaboration, and application access.
Now, we have a composition platform, SAP NetWeaver, where companies can build on their SAP investments using open standards and a single platform — an important step toward greater harmonization and standardization. A year from now, the forecast is for SAP NetWeaver to evolve into a business-process platform (BPP) where nearly all business logic is in enterprise services you can model and invoke, as needed.
How will you build enterprise services? As you would with Legos, you’ll look for “kits” when you’re shopping. You don’t want 100 random red or blue pieces; you want the specific mix of pieces that will implement the desired enterprise service. And since the interfaces are standardized, you can install enterprise services as-is or modify them to meet your needs. So, how do you define, build, and package these “kits”?
The Enterprise Services Community
Enter the new community of key customers, independent software vendors (ISVs), independent hardware vendors (IHVs), and systems integrators (SIs) that will form the Enterprise Services Community (ESC) to help define and commit to sets of services. Who could be better to innovate on the SAP platform than the entrepreneurial partners that have the most experience with SAP? The promise of an industry-value network is emerging.
Within the SAP NetWeaver partner ecosystem, there are now more than 1,000 ISVs building software for the SAP NetWeaver platform. Currently, this group has more than 1,500 partner solutions built on SAP NetWeaver. Now, SAP is embarking on its most ambitious partner program yet: the ESC, launched at SAP’s 2006 Enterprise Services Partner Summit in San Francisco.
The ESC focuses on strategically enabling the SAP NetWeaver platform and applications, which will provide a smoother transition from abstract Web services to highly functional enterprise services. Its immediate goal is to define, create, and deploy enterprise services that the SAP NetWeaver ecosystem can use.
The new alliance of partners in the ESC serves as a roll-in mechanism to enable and accelerate the change to enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA). Enterprise SOA is about reusing application functionality. The framework for connecting, composing, and configuring enterprise services — called “service-enabling” — lies in the components used and relies on a set of standards. The challenge is choosing which sets of business logic to service-enable.
Each partner must qualify to join the ESC and is invited to a definition group to request and review potential service groupings. The definition group topics range from banking to healthcare to high tech, and focus on business-process areas such as order management and supply chain. The definition groups conduct iterative review workshops, which provide the details of the candidate enterprise services (see the enterprise services process diagrammed below). This process may last three to six months.
|Enterprise services definition groups determine the details of a proposed enterprise services package through an iterative review process.
As an SI, I am both curious and anxious to see the results of this “coop-etition” among the partners. Group members need to have a clear understanding of the business differentiators and be able to define business-process opportunities for the ESC, not for their own product lines. Will the “coop-etition” spawn intro-level definitions of enterprise functionality, or will the team truly provide the latest and most advanced functions needed for enterprise computing? Partner involvement is voluntary but involvement positions the partner as the thought leader with first-mover advantage.
Once approved, solutions are created, tested, and packaged with Wikipedia (Wiki)-defined details (process models, scenarios, customizations, business objects, global data types, and common roles) needed to build on mySAP ERP. At SAP TechEd 2006 Las Vegas, SAP announced new enterprise services packages and a robust roadmap for more packages through 2007, as SAP migrates to BPP. Each enterprise services package includes:
- A set of enterprise services running on mySAP ERP 2005
- The definition of these services in the Enterprise Services Repository (ESR)
- Applications consuming those services, including composite applications (xApps)
- All required documentation delivered in an interactive Wiki format
Where’s the Tradeoff?
Where is the tradeoff between accelerating (by adopting enterprise services packages), and defining and implementing your own enterprise services? SAP NetWeaver provides the means to differentiate and make use of your intellectual property. If you’re looking for competitive advantage and differentiation, why wait when you can build your own?
SAP provides the Composite Application Framework (SAP CAF), which many partners have embraced to build Powered by SAP NetWeaver solutions. Now, customers are doing it, too. The “build versus buy” question is a core-competency issue with xApps. I expect to find the same reaction to community-created enterprise services.
|Adolf Allesch is the vice president of SAP NetWeaver Solutions at Capgemini. A pioneer with the Web and an early adopter of mySAP.com, he is now the SAP NetWeaver evangelist at Capgemini. He specializes in technology-enabled business transformation using SAP and is a frequent presenter at SAP events worldwide. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.