SAP, Sun Unveil NetWeaver 2004

At the CeBIT conference in Germany, Sun Microsystems has announced the release of a variety of products and services that will complement SAP NetWeaver 2004, which was also launched at the conference. According to Sun, the new NetWeaver tools will increase usability for customers.

The move is the latest in an ongoing partnership between Sun and SAP. Recently, Sun opened a center for the purpose of giving customers more access to services and technologies for NetWeaver.

When announcing the increased services for NetWeaver 2004, Sun’s senior vice president, Stuart Wells, said: “When you consider all the benefits that the global alliance between Sun and SAP has to offer, the overall value-add for the customer is tremendous.”

Whether or not customers agree with that statement remains to be seen, but some analysts believe the strength of the relationship between the two companies could give NetWeaver 2004 an edge over competitors.

Weaving the Web

NetWeaver 2004 is a collection of new programs designed to make business applications easier to modify. First unveiled last year, NetWeaver also is the technical foundation for SAP’s application software, which is used to automate customer service, accounting, human resources and other corporate departments.

Unlike previous versions, NetWeaver 2004 is packaged to run on a single server and includes portal software, integration tools, data mining systems and a mobile computing infrastructure.

The newly announced update stands as a significant product release from SAP, which has not had such a high-profile release since the mid-1990s, when the company shifted from mainframe to client-server technology.

SAP vice president John Grozier told CRM Buyer that use of NetWeaver as a base for the company’s CRM software has resulted in greater customer satisfaction.

“It’s become the default approach, to focus on smaller and quicker projects,” he said. “Then you can move to the next one. This is possible with NetWeaver.”

New and Improved

As well as new tools and a single-server architecture, NetWeaver 2004 could deliver better flexibility. SAP is emphasizing the application’s ability to pull together disparate business systems within a single company and blend them harmoniously.

The company also noted that with a master data management program, company data can be made consistent across a variety of systems. For example, a change to customer info that is entered in one branch office will automatically be changed in the system at every other office.

Sun is playing a role with a systematic integration of its Java Enterprise System software into NetWeaver, as well as offering proofs of concept in its iForce Centers. Professional services also will be available from the SAP and Sun combo.

High-Profile Partnership

To underscore its commitment to NetWeaver, Sun technology demonstrations were prevalent throughout the CeBIT conference. Several halls were occupiedby demos that featured advanced architecture for SAP solutions, SAP Enterprise Portal 6.0, NetWeaver on Sun Systems, a Java desktop system and an SAP partner forum with speakers from Sun.

The solid relationship between Sun and SAP may give the NetWeaver 2004 push more momentum. It may need all the help it can get. BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft and WebMethods all have products that compete at various levels with NetWeaver.

AMR Research senior analyst Louis Columbus told CRM Buyer that there are many pilots and strategic moves taking place in the market, so customers are becoming more selective. Any play that elevates one offering above another is worth watching in such an active marketplace. In this case, the services and solutions touted by Sun could make the difference in getting NetWeaver more attention.

“SAP is focused on business processes, and that’s what companies want to hear,” Columbus said. “They also want services and very rich solutions.”

With NetWeaver 2004, the combination of Sun services with SAP technology may prove tempting to companies with newly increased IT budgets.

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