SAP is beginning to reap the benefits of its service-oriented architecture (SOA), dubbed Netweaver. This week, SAP released the first group of enhancements to its mySAP 2005 system. The enhancements include new upgrades to SAP's human capital management (HCM) and financial modules, along with new functionality for the retail and manufacturing industries. The benefit to customers? The new enhancements can be applied piecemeal.
Previously, SAP rolled out major new functionality only once every 12-18 months as part of an across-the-board version upgrade. The problem with this approach, which is fairly standard among ERP vendors, is that it requires a major implementation effort on the customer's side. If the customer is only interested in a single enhancement--too bad. The new version must be implemented in its entirety, "all or nothing."
The new approach, which lets customers pick and choose which enhancements to apply, is made possible by SAP's Netweaver platform. A service-oriented architecture reorganizes system functionality into "services" which interact with one another by means of messages built on open industry standards.
SAP isn't the first to market with this approach. IFS has been building its IFS Applications products on a service-oriented architecture since the late 1990s, although it referred to it as a component-based architecture until recently. Nevertheless, SAPs market share is many times larger than SAP's and its practical application of SOA raises the bar for other major vendors. Oracle is also rearchitecting its applications for SOA, using its Fusion middleware, but I don't believe it is yet able to release new versions incrementally as SAP has done this week.
Computerworld has more on SAP's enhancements released this week
Computer Economics: A Phased Approach to SOA