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Smaller companies seek shield from SOA

Some SAP customers are looking to be "shielded" from adopting SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture approach, and are downright scared of the investments needed to build an open platform, according to Nils Herzberg, senior vice president of industry solutions at SAP.

Many companies are too small and lack the financial resources to consider service- oriented architecture (SOA), Herzberg said. Some small and medium- sized businesses say they need to work with the architecture they have, and they don't have the experts to work with new approaches, Herzberg said.

"The services discussion is very intimidating," Herzberg said. "They don't have the time, and they don't have the need, really."

SearchSAP.com met with Herzberg at the Arc Research Group's Real-time Performance Management forum in Boston last week. In this Q&A, Herzberg discusses SAP's acquisition of Lighthammer, the company's NetWeaver adoption and the latest trends facing the manufacturing industry.

How prevalent has the adoption of NetWeaver been, especially among manufacturing industries?
More than half of the case studies we've put out on NetWeaver adoption have been from manufacturing. Do they all do the same stuff with NetWeaver? No. Are there busloads of companies that have adopted all elements of NetWeaver? No.

I think this is going to be a gradual adoption of the NetWeaver platform. I compare this to the evolution of PCs.

The real idea for NetWeaver and our Enterprise Services Architecture actually came from looking at the PC, with clear input/output relationships between what is on the motherboard and the PC and how are those various pieces talk together and the realization that software should be working the same way.

With the first PCs, you had a big box and you built the thing yourself. NetWeaver is nothing less than a motherboard. Currently customers have motherboards today, but they're a best of breed concoction. What we anticipate is that our customers will need our motherboard. We believe the cost of integration will come down, very much driving standards. Does SAP's shift to an Enterprise Services Architecture add a level of complexity for manufacturers? Will it be difficult to transition all your customers to a service-oriented architecture?
There is a group of customers that want to move in that direction, and that's why they're talking to us. There is also a second group of customers that want to be shielded exclusively from this discussion because they are small and they cannot afford to participate in these discussions. They don't have the time and they don't have the need, really. They just want software that works. Does that make sense to you?
Yes. Just like in the PC world, there are customers who want to build their own PC from components and then there are customers who just want something they can plug in and works. We have customers on both ends. I've had customers saying to me that they want to be shielded. The services discussion is very intimidating. Why was Lighthammer a good fit for SAP?
There are two aspects that Lighthammer fills. One is connectivity, and the other one is analytics. We have been working with Lighthammer for quite a while. Their applications were rather close to our DNA in the way they were done and the way they are supportable. Also, we know them as a team, but last but not least, we knew that our customers were raving about them and about their products. Lighthammer said its technology will be made available as an xApp and its developers will work on some embedded analytics. What will be the difference between all of the embedded analytics and xApp products?
They are very different products. xApps are more technical than analytics. In some cases you can find that an xApp actually extracts information and insight from the underlying applications. It has its own logic, and it does something with the data, more than just show it. You make decisions based on that, and then you use that data to trigger transactions. Analytics doesn't do that.

A good example is our Cost and Quotation Management xApp (SAP xCQM). It acts as a bridge between our sell side and our buy side for those companies that get a request for a quotation for a product that 80% of which they are going to offer this customer is actually bought from suppliers. So you actually want to shortcut the sell side and the buy side and this application does that. It works over the top of CRM, SEM and SRM, brings that together and that is not analytics.

For more information

Learn more about SAP's SOA adoption program for Netweaver

Check out our new SOA learning guide

Is SAP getting enough interest from partners to develop xApps that it expected or is much of the development work being done by SAP developers?
The majority of xApps are partner xApps and not necessarily SAP. SAP is doing a lot of development work using the composite application framework, but we don't necessarily position them all as xApps.

These xApps were created in 1998 and there is a demand for a specialized applications built on top of SAP or even on top of many diverse IT landscapes. We are defining a development environment that is compatible with all the underlying applications. Customers can innovate on top of our application using standards and can also pull a lot of resources that come from the NetWeaver platform.



This Question and Answer originally appeared on SearchSAP.com, part of the TechTarget network.

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