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SAP promotes SOA, extends NetWeaver

At its European TechEd conference, SAP announced it is offering NetWeaver subscriptions to developers outside its network and providing SOA consulting services.

SAP AG issued a series of announcements yesterday and today designed to foster adoption of NetWeaver, its service-oriented development platform, and help speed customers' transition to a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

At its European TechEd conference being held this week in Amsterdam, SAP today opened the NetWeaver platform to a broader development community. Via the online SAP Developers Network, developers will soon be able to purchase individual subscriptions to SAP software, allowing them to test, evaluate and develop tools in NetWeaver. Until now access to development tools was available only for companies that had purchased SAP software.

"We think it will further expand opportunities [for developers]," said Bill Wohl, SAP spokesman. "This allows them to get in there and play around with the software and innovate."

The subscription program will include access to technical support, premium content and online access for testing enterprise services. The program is scheduled to begin in 2007. Pricing details were not released. In addition, SAP plans to reduce the price of the SAP NetWeaver developer user license, which is licensed primarily by entire IT organizations.

SAP today also expanded the reach of its consulting services division to help customers transition to an SOA. SAP has been trumpeting the importance of moving to SOA for years. Last year, SAP rolled out an Enterprise Services Architecture Program, combining services and software in a series of workshops. Now, SAP Consulting will provide guidance in linking business and IT in an incremental set of services and accelerators. While SAP is adding to its services offering with the new consulting program, the company has no intention of creating a large, global services unit.

"We want to be considered the best practices unit, but the vast majority of services are delivered by SIs [systems integrators], large and small," Wohl said. "We don't intend to show any large expansion there."

Yesterday, SAP announced that it has funded its second investment through the NetWeaver Development Fund, a $125 million venture fund established in May and meant to spur development on the NetWeaver platform by independent software vendors.

ArisGlobal Holdings LLC, a provider of software that helps pharmaceutical and biotech companies and medical device manufacturers meet regulatory requirements, track clinical trials and registration information, is the recipient of an undisclosed amount of funding. SAP will maintain a minority stake in the venture. In August, SAP made its first venture fund investment in Questra, a Redwood City, Calif.-based intelligent device management software company.

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Finally, reacting to Oracle Corp.'s characterization of its architecture as "closed and proprietary," SAP today affirmed its commitment to open standards to ease SOA adoption. The company released a list of standards organizations it is a part of, including a position on the advisory board of the World Wide Web Consortium; membership on the board of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS); and its membership in the Eclipse Foundation.

"We've turned our platform outward and said we're going to be open to any standard," Wohl said. "We weren't going to force customers to make a choice. Everything we do today is committed to that. Those who suggest SAP is closed and proprietary have not been paying attention the last 36 months."

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