Page III: In this issue of Industry Insider, ZDNet's Dan Farber says the war of words between SAP and PeopleSoft may make interesting read but the real issue for enterprises is which vendor can provide the most reliable, cost-effective solutions.
With a service-orientation, enterprises can better leverage their IT investments and reduce the complexities of integrating multi-vendor applications. SAP's NetWeaver and PeopleSoft's AppConnect, for example, are service-oriented platforms for integrating applications and building solutions from discrete components spanning multiple vendors. Oracle's Customer Data Hub helps companies gather data from multiple sources centrally.
They are also aiming products at the mid-market (moving down market), preaching that less customisation is a good thing, and developing tighter technology-integration relationships with Microsoft. SAP and Microsoft are working on to connecting their respective Web services products, and Oracle recently said that it would make it easier to write Windows-based applications that access data stored in an Oracle database. Earlier this year, Sun and Microsoft put aside differences to make their products interoperate better.
While the vendors are preaching more openness and plug and play with Web services, the reality is that they want to sell end-to-end software stacks. A recent trend is prepackaged bundles of industry-specific applications, such as PeopleSoft's EnterpriseOne product family. SAP introduced "quick fix" packages of software and services that address integrating tasks such as e-mail applications or data-archiving tools with the company's ERP and CRM systems. As Oracle CEO Larry Ellison testified in the antitrust case involving his company's hostile bid for PeopleSoft, companies acquire integrated enterprise software suites from the big three vendors because devising business systems from multiple vendors is "staggeringly difficult."
Ellison's statement is self-serving, but it also reflects reality, even with the advent of Web services and SOA. Mixing and matching components, and vendors, is never going to be as easy and as cost effective as a more monolithic solution. For SAP's customers, for example, the NetWeaver platform is going to be more cost effective than deploying components from competing vendors, such as IBM.
Yet, customers don't want to be locked into a single vendor. With SOA and standards switching costs are going down, and it will allow different parts of an enterprise software infrastructure to be more easily swapped. Going forward, with just a few vendors dominating the market, customers will have to consider swapping to gain some leverage in negotiating terms and to ditch vendors that can't deliver.
We are moving from more of a build it yourself model to automated assembly of components and composite applications. It is a decade long trek that will have many challenges, just as moving to client/server did in a previous decade. The key for any enterprise in this evolving IT world is to have people who know the technology, understand business needs of the organisation, can build the IT requirements documents, vet the vendors and negotiate terms. If you don't have people who fit that description, your will be seriously handicapped versus those companies who have invested in hiring and keeping those kinds of rare individuals.
Dan Farber is editor-in-chief, ZDNet US.