SAP AG is blazing ahead with the next iteration of its NetWeaver technology and its Enterprise Services Architecture (ESA), even as most of its customers trail several technology generations behind the ERP (enterprise resource planning) giant.
ESA was SAP's top focus at its annual meeting this week in Las Vegas with industry analysts, at which SAP mapped out its development priorities and continued evangelizing its take on the SOA (service-oriented architecture) movement. ESA looks to combine SAP's NetWeaver platform with an assortment of enterprise services modeling typical business processes, such as order-to-cash flow or the procedure for adding new customers to a company's CRM (customer relationship management) system. SAP envisions its NetWeaver integration platform evolving from middleware glue for linking heterogeneous systems to a "business process platform" that will underpin a collection of services-based composite applications. The change is aimed at giving customers greater control over how well their enterprise applications automate their organization's particular business processes.
SAP estimates its customer base at around 30,000 organizations running more than 100,000 separate installations. Its tally of NetWeaver deployments still numbers less than 5,000, though, and the heavy majority of SAP's customers remain on its legacy R/3 client-server architecture rather than its newer mySAP applications, according to company and analyst estimates.
SAP executives say they anticipated a slow upgrade rate. "God forbid we would have had everybody migrating at the same time," said Shai Agassi, the president of SAP's products and technology group. "We would have had a disaster on our hands."
Still, SAP's adoption lag means that it's sinking significant development resources into enabling a technology shift customers may not embrace. "It's a big risk SAP is taking," said ZapThink LLC analyst Jason Bloomberg. "SAP talks about NetWeaver like it's old technology, but most customers aren