Enterprise resource planning giant SAP plans to open up its R/3 enterprise software suite with tools that are designed to let developers integrate SAP-defined business processes with those of third-party applications.
The firm said it will release version 6.3 of its Application Development Workbench by the end of next year, which will enable corporate developers to seamlessly switch back and forth between Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) and SAP's proprietary ABAP development environments.
Developers integrating existing SAP applications with new SAP and non-SAP e-business applications will be able to produce a Java front end that ties into existing ABAP objects on the back end. As a result, companies should obtain more value from any investment in ABAP training.
The upgrade will be a critical component of SAP's recently announced Exchange Infrastructure architecture, but it will have to un-seat existing technologies from enterprise application integration (EAI) providers and systems integrators.
Online marketplace Flowergrower.com, for example, worked with systems integrator e-Integrators and IBM's MQSeries middleware to link front- and back-office applications. E-Integrators president Dietmar Hinz said he would have considered the Exchange architecture and forthcoming Workbench, but they were not available when he started the project over a year ago.
But even with the benefits of an all-SAP infrastructure, the third-party tools still offer increased flexibility, according to Hinz. "MQSeries is more of a programmer-level tool, and that comes much cheaper than a fully integrated package such as, for example, SAP's integration engine," said Hinz. "SAP is going to cover standard interfaces, like XML. But there is always the possibility of having to carry out custom progra mming. In that case, you're probably better off with a cheaper, third-party product than with SAP or big EAI vendors."
SAP America chief executive Wolfgang Kemna recently acknowledged that SAP was late in offering integration. But the firm had to avoid upsetting large professional services partners and EAI vendors that have made a business out of integrating SAP and non-SAP applications, Kemna said.
Nevertheless, it was essential that SAP customers had trouble-free access to Java in development tools, Kemna added. "It's much easier for them to extend integration to e-business solutions, which are based on an Internet architecture, which are then relying on a Java-based architecture," he said. "It's complementary to ABAP."