"You've got to start somewhere," said Gavin Targonski, application technology architect at British American Tobacco (BAT), the world's second largest tobacco group doing business in more than 180 markets. BAT embarked on its SOA roadmap several years ago and it has come to learn that SOA waits for no vendor, not even SAP.
As it turns out, a big part of the challenge for Targonski and BAT has been moving forward with SOA while making sure that it doesn't block off an upgrade path for its SOA install base.
"We have to make sure SAP and our [other] technology vendors are pulling in the same direction," Targonski said. Working toward that end, BAT was a catalyst in Blue Titan Software Inc.'s recent attainment of the "Powered by SAP NetWeaver" certification for its Network Director 3.5 product. Network Director is the product BAT chose for Web services management.
BAT, boasting 90,000 employees, is a large customer of SAP AG, with the R/3 enterprise resource planning products deployed in a number of markets. The company is using the SAP Portal as its enterprise portal, SAP's eXchange Infrastructure (XI) as part of its integration strategy and the SAP Web Application Server.
But SAP is still fleshing out pieces of NetWeaver, the heart of Enterprise Service Architecture (ESA) initiative, and BAT couldn't afford to live by its vendor's timetable.
BAT chose the Network Director infrastructure software from San Francisco-based Blue Titan about a year ago. "The key decision we had to make was, what do we have to do now with service networks to get things running and meet our business needs, versus what SAP is stating they'll do?" Targonski said.
"We took a general snapshot of what the market can provide, then refined our requirements as we became more familiar. Blue Titan filled specific needs for BAT without doing too much," Targonski said. "Not having a monolithic [SOA] software provider, you can be agile." While the message from SAP about its strategic direction is promising, he said, "the whole driver behind going with tools like Blue Titan is we've got to do something now."
BAT built a pilot infrastructure using Network Director and determined it fit in with the company's SOA stack. Then BAT actively pushed Blue Titan to attain SAP certification. "To get a seal of approval from the IT director down you have to prove you can partner with SAP. We said [to Blue Titan], it's a natural relationship for you to form."
"BAT was anxious to have us do the certification," said Howard Rosenfield, director of marketing at Blue Titan. "BAT has done the smart thing. They've rolled out an SOA, did their homework, investigated the right vendors, and chose some big ones and some more focused ones like ourselves." Network Director support for the SAP NetWeaver Application Server Release 6.40 and SAP NetWeaver Portal components are enabled with the certification.
As other pieces of NetWeaver roll out, Blue Titan will support them "as it makes sense, and to the extent customers ask us to work on other areas of NetWeaver," Rosenfield said. "We think the ESA strategy is a very good thing for SOA in general and a huge endorsement of SOA by SAP."
BAT, too, "will wait and make the call when that [additional NetWeaver technology] happens," Targonski. In the meantime, other pieces of BAT's SOA arsenal include an application integration appliance from Cast Iron Systems and an interface for creating applications/services from Skyway Software. Making those choices gives BAT flexibility regardless of how well SAP delivers on its SOA roadmap, Targonski said. "We're focused on SOA, and getting productivity and ROI very quickly."
So far, BAT has services "in the double digits" in production, but is intentionally moving slowly. "We're putting strong governance around what we're doing — the right roles and contracts — and creating a robust environment before we go charging down the road," Targonski said.
And BAT is also being very clear about what it wants from its vendors. "We've said to Blue Titan, 'This is what we need now.' With SAP we're saying, 'This is what we're doing with Blue Titan. Are you aware this is the requirement you'll have to meet when you have [NetWeaver] technology implemented?"