One of the key flashpoints in the growth of/war over SOA will be in the enterprise software world. Key players to watch: Oracle; SAP; and Microsoft. Now, we have SAP Chief Executive Officer Henning Kagermann promising to drive the "industrialization of the software industry" as it puts all its applications on a new platform by 2007. At the same time, we have Oracle's President Charles Phillips vowing to take leadership of the application sector away from SAP.
"We're ready to take on SAP head to head," said Phillips in the Wall Steet Journal. He explained that "we want to pass them eventually" and "should be seeing the whites of their eyes" within the next three or four years as Oracle becomes market share leader. While acknowledging SAP's core strength as financial software provider within the Fortune 500, he nevertheless argued, "We are now surrounding them at many of their best accounts."
At this point, SAP is the clear leader in the enterprise reource planning (ERP) segment with an 18% market share, according to AMR Research Inc. Oracle's market share is just 12%.
And SAP intends to make architecture a key element of its strategy to remain on top. SAP's Business Process Platform, which is based on its NetWeaver integration technology, is designed to make SAP process capabilities more readily accessible -- even to companies that don't own SAP software platforms and infrastructure.
"NetWeaver is an integration platform," says Kagermann. "We have integrated many technical tools into it so that customers can integrate their legacy systems with SAP technology more easily. Our flagship product, mySAP ERP, is already running on NetWeaver, and we plan to have the entire mySAP Business Suite on the platform this year... Behind NetWeaver is a fundamental shift in architecture, which we call enterprise service architecture, or services-oriented architecture as it is also called in the industry. The idea behind this architecture is to give people on the outside access to functions inside our technology. In this sense, NetWeaver is a kind of composition platform for them to compose services."
In fact, SAP intends to take the application technology to a new level by incorporating "reusable processes" into it. "We could stop with NetWeaver, but if customers really want to adapt more quickly to new business models and be more innovative with their use of business software in the future, then they also need to be able build new services faster and with greater flexibility," he explains. "To achieve this, we will take what is generic enough in our technology, such as components, business objects and processes like billing, and put these into an application platform. So if a company wants to develop a new add-on application, it now has access to functionalities such as CRM (customer relationship management) and SCM (supply chain management) through open interfaces...What all this means is that we want to create reusable processes at the application level and combine these with NetWeaver. This, in a nutshell, is the idea behind our new Business Process Platform. It's essentially an evolution of NetWeaver with the added capability to run ready-to-run processes."
Arguing that the competitive focus is about to dramatically shift, Kagermann can't resist a parting shot at his rival: "Oracle still believes everything revolves around data. We say everything revolves around processes. Just think, for example, about collaboration across enterprises. This has nothing to do with data; it's all about processes. The future is business innovative sharing processes. That's where we're going with our new platform."