SAP: there are two paths you can go by

SAP wants to rock the enterprise world

Is SAP the Led Zeppelin of the IT world?

When it comes to pursuing SOA, SAP is now delivering a Led Zeppelin-ish message: Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but there's still time to change the road you're on... (From "Stairway to Heaven.")

SAP wants to rock the enterprise world

In a new interview with eWeek's Rene Boucher Ferguson, Peter Zenke, executive board member of SAP and a moving force behind the ERP giant, said SAP now offers two paths to SOA: one through evolution of its ERP environment, the other via Software as a Service.

"One platform is the Enterprise SOA by evolution platform—the rich platform, the [ERP 2006] suite. The second one was our launch of Business ByDesign which was a totally different thing for the lower and mid-market. It offers a Software-as-a-Service environment and is 'enterprise SOA' by design."

Zenke says he sees the two approaches eventually coming together at many customer sites. But, in the meantime, pursuing either path -- or both paths -- will help companies of various sizes move to service-enabled ERP.

Customer education on SOA is a big part of both initiatives as well, he said. He credits former SAP executive Shai Agassi for moving the vendor so aggressively into the SOA space. NetWeaver provides "an end-to-end business process repository, including services definitions that come on top of the composition environment" that can sit on top of SAP's core ERP platform. NetWeaver capabilities are also accessible via the SaaS offering. As Zenke put it:

" can extend your own business process—user-focused processes, workflow processes—with your own thing, and coming back with mega transformations."

"Your own thing" -- Zenke hit the nail right on the head here, and also made an interesting statement about the future of ERP. In the long run, SOA offers a way to get around large enterprise suites such as SAP, and avoid the pain and expense of vendor-driven upgrades.

The beauty of SOA is that it does give you time to change the road you're on.

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