SAP analyses its core products

German business software giant SAP is moving ahead with a project designed to analyse its core enterprise products and, if...

German business software giant SAP is moving ahead with a project designed to analyse its core enterprise products and, if necessary, tweak or even overhaul one or more to reduce development costs and integration costs for customers.

The project, known internally as "Vienna", is being run by a group of software developers put in charge of optimising product development and defining future technology.

The team has worked together for more than a year but their work remains highly confidential.

A key focus of the group is integrating SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture, which is the company's architectural vision to support the fusion of business processes, using its NetWeaver technology as the integration and application platform, said SAP spokeswoman Laurie Doyle-Kelly.

"Vienna is about using new elements of NetWeaver and Enterprise Service Architecture to reduce costs and increase efficiency for us and our customers."

SAP faces greater pressure from its rivals, such as Oracle, PeopleSoft and Microsoft, as well as growing demands from enterprises for lower IT integration costs.

"Integration costs are the number one item in IT budgets," said Charles Homs, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Even if SAP has done a good job at integrating its products, few companies will want to buy SAP wall-to-wall. There is still a huge world of other vendors and home-grown solutions out there. Nor is SAP or any other vendor for that matter able to cater to all the different groups worldwide."

Homs views SAP's Enterprise Services Architecture and NetWeaver initiatives as a move in the right direction - and also a chance for the company to strengthen its position in the enterprise market.

"I would think that the overall objective of Vienna is to set [de facto] technology standards for enterprise solutions in much the same way as Microsoft has done for desktop solutions and servers to a degree," Homs said.

That, however, could prove a tall order, considering that SAP and Microsoft are already beginning to butt heads in the market for enterprise software targeting medium-sized enterprises.

"The mid-market is one where ease of use, maintenance and integration and cost reduction are far more critical than in huge companies with greater know-how and manpower," Homs said. "Microsoft has made its desktop software pretty easy to use, install and maintain, so it brings this expertise to the midmarket for enterprise software."

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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