A1S is “SAP Business ByDesign”

Today SAP officially announced it’s new on-demand Enterprise Software for small and mid-sized businesses called “Business ByDesign” (BBD), which was formerly known as “A1S”, in a press-conference in New York.

built_inbusinessanalytics_app

CEO Henning Kagermann called it “the most important announcement” of his career and described BBD as “breakthrough innovation”. In fact, the SaaS-market is completely new for SAP but probably very important for it’s future, and BBD is perhaps the most important product for SAP since R/3, which made the German software-vendor to the market-leader in business software in the 90’s. And the way BBD was designed and built is truly innovative. It is completely service-based (“SOA by design”, also the UI is based on services in contrast to ERP where the services are delivered additionally to the transactions), and it was built with the latest model-based development tools from SAP (Composition Environment).

An often heard (see also Nicholas Carr’s post) question/thought is whether BBD could threaten SAP’s own business. Larger companies running SAP’s rather expensive ERP or Business Suite could also think of using a cheap and easy to implement on-demand software, what by the way would also challenge a whole industry of consultants implementing and adapting SAP software for customers. But those larger businesses will probably always have the need for a wider adaption of their enterprise software than possible with BBD, and for SAP it’s still better to loose customers to themselves than to loose them to competitors…

The replay of the press-conference can be found here.

Further informations:

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Del.icio.us 2.0

The social bookmarking service del.icio.us, one of the first and most famous Web2.0-sites, is about to redesign it’s user-interface and to introduce some new features. There’s a preview available at http://preview.delicious.com, but only for invited users.

del21

Some of the planned new features include extended sorting options for bookmarks, bulk tag editing, better organization and sorting of friends and watched people and a new search engine.

(from TechCrunch)

Hasso Plattner about Composite Applications – and their major issues

Already last year Hasso Plattner had a lecture at his “Hasso Plattner Institute” (HPI) about the so called composite applications, applications “that sit on other applications” as he said, with no own data storage.

He gave an overview of what composite applications are and illustrated this with the example of Duet, a joint project of Microsoft and SAP to integrate Microsoft Office and SAP applications. I would say this is more an example of an integration of two systems than an example of a composite application, but at least it shows how relatively easy applications can be built with the help of standardized services, on top of web-based platforms (NetWeaver and .Net).
Technically an integration has always been possible Plattner outlined, but nowadays it is easier because of the standardized protocols (e.g. SOAP) and the systematization of application integration.

Nevertheless, there are some issues to consider when composite applications are built (and just as well when systems are integrated):

  • User-experience consistency: which UI-guideline is to use, e.g. that of Microsoft or that of SAP?
  • Data model overlaps: the data of which system is to use, when there are overlaps?
  • Process overlaps: every software has some functionality, perhaps overlapping with other systems, and will obtain new functions in the future. So only the core-processes have to be combined.
  • Joint configuration: to stay in the example of Duet: MS Office has extensive configuration options, and there are thousands of customizing tables in SAP. To bring the two systems together the configuration has to match.
  • Life-cycle synchronization: every software has a release-cycle, perhaps one system changes and the other does not change accordingly.

Finally, as he likes to do very often, Plattner brought an example from the automotive industry, pointing the way for the software industry: in earlier days there were radios with their own brand in cars, nowadays the radios have the “user-interface” of the cars, but the car-manufacturers still don’t produce radios on their own. This would also occur in software-industry, Plattner predicted, software would consist of services (= components) of different manufacturers, and there would be a consistent UI on top the respective application-suite.

A video of the lecture (in German) can be found here:
http://www.hpi-potsdam.com/index.php/2006/07/05/summer-term-2006-composite-applications/
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SAPPHIRE news and announcements

The SAPPHIRE 07 took place a few weeks ago in Atlanta, time to sum up some news and announcements from there:

  • SAP and Adobe will deliver an e-learning suite, integrated in SAP ERP, to offer online-trainings within the SAP environment
  • New features of the coming NetWeaver-Release:
    • “State-of-the-art user-experience”: The SAPGUI-successor “NetWeaver Business Client” (aka “Project Muse“), an enhanced and more ergonomic user-interface for the Portal (with the help of AJAX), and some Web2.0-functions within the portal like e.g. a wiki-system
    • Support for the new Java EE 5 standard
    • NetWeaver “Process Integration” (PI), formerly Exchange Infrastructure (XI), contains new features (e.g. Business Activity Monitoring) and performance improvements
    • NetWeaver “Composition Environment” (CE), a Java-based modeling- and development environment (including and bundling together WebDynpro, Visual Composer and Composite Application Framework)
  • SAP will continue the cooperation with Microsoft on Duet, bringing some new features in the upcoming releases, like connection to SAP CRM and SCM, a development platform to build own integration scenarios and integration with MS Sharepoint
  • There was not much talk about “A1S”, the coming on-demand solution for the mid-market. Probably the launch of the product is postponed to 2008, Q1 or even later. A1S has it’s own code-base, but is based on NetWeaver like other SAP solutions. It will contain a set of web-services which allow to build own extensions for the standard-product, although it is hosted on SAP-servers. There will also be a kind of market-place for these extensions, comparable to the “AppExchange” of salesforce.com.
  • “mySAP ERP 2005” is now called “SAP ERP 6.0”. Back to the roots… ;-)

Sources and continuative links:
http://searchsap.blog-city.com/sapphire_2007_quick_takes.htm
http://searchsap.blog-city.com/sapphire_2007_quick_takes_part_2.htm
http://blog.danmcweeney.com/24
http://www.accmanpro.com/2007/04/24/sapphire-07-day-1-the-wrap/
http://www11.sap.com/company/press/press.epx?PressID=7615
http://www.ekampf.com/blog/2007/04/24/DuetAtSapphire.aspx
http://www.sap.com/company/press/press.epx?PressID=7597
http://www.sap.com/company/press/press.epx?PressID=7690
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4903
http://sapport.blogspot.com/2007/04/all-in-one-a1s-business-suite.html
http://www.accmanpro.com/2007/04/27/amr-sees-a1s-confusion-reigns/

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Google Launches MyMaps

Google recently launched a service called “MyMaps” which allows you to easily create map mashups (provided that you have a Google account).

“Users are able to create their own maps and mark them public or private. The annotation tools that are provided are very simple and easy to use. Users are able to add lines, polygons and placemarks. They can edit those placemarks with HTML, images, and video. Once a map is created it is very easy to share it and syndicate it via KML. Items found during a local search can be added to a map with a click. Places found via GeoRSS or KML files can also be added to a map.”

(from O’Reilly Radar)

Yahoo! Pipes – Visual Mashup Tool

Yahoo! recently released a new service called “Pipes“, which allows to visually build mashups, i.e. mix, merge and sort data from different RSS-sources into a single RSS-feed, called the “pipe”.

yahoo-pipes

Pipes are created in a visual editor (which you can see above), so no programming skills are necessary to access the data-sources and combine them. This visual tool is very similar to a tool called “Visual Composer” from SAP, which you can see here:

visual_composer
With Visual Composer you can build applications based on SAP function-modules or web-services, also without writing a single line of code.

Probably no end-user will create those kind of mashups or composed applications, it is still to “technical” to do it, but it makes it much easier for people who are skilled to do so. Therefore a large number of those apps will be available, each one adapted and optimized for it’s single purpose, perhaps combined of other apps, so the end user has a bigger chance to get what he just needs.

(from O’Reilly Radar)

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Getting Started with Web-Dynpro ABAP

I played around with the first beta-versions of WebDynpro Java (WDJ) already some years ago, now that NetWeaver 2004s (AS ABAP 7.0) is available I also had the chance to go in for WebDynpro ABAP (WDA). This is the version we will probably work the most with, as it doesn’t need a separate runtime environment, is directly integrated into the ERP-system and thereby makes developing business applications based on ERP-functionality much easier.

I am approaching the topic by working through the book “Web Dynpro for ABAP” by Ulli Hoffmann, which treats the subjects with hands-on examples, various source-code excerpts and screenshots rather than abstract descriptions.

The WebDynpro-framework, development tools and runtime environment apparently bring a lot of advantages to (web-)application developers (and users):

  • Declarative and graphical tools speed up the development of UIs
  • The MVC-model leads to a clear separation of layout and business-logic
  • Data-binding makes it easier to bring the data to the frontend and enables automatic type-checking
  • The componentization-options allow reuse on the presentation-level of applications
  • The runtime generates highly interactive, “flicker-free” screens running within a standard-browser

But I have to say that I also like programming BSP‘s with HTMLB and the MVC-model very much. This concept has most of the mentioned advantages too, but offers more flexibility I would say, especially when it comes to dynamically generating screens or parts of screens. WebDynpro becomes slightly complex there.

Those are also good starting-points to WebDynpro ABAP (besides the mentioned book):


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SAP upgrades “All-In-One”

SAP announced an upgrade for it’s All-In-One (A1) solution for small and mid-sized businesses.

It will be based on mySAP ERP 2005 and NetWeaver (and thus be “SOA-enabled”), which is not a surprise.
What I find interesting is that it will also include CRM-capabilities. mySAP CRM as a standalone solution is surely not efficient and affordable for the mid-market, a CRM that is integrated into the core ERP-system (which contains some CRM-related functionality anyway) is just what they want.
To deliver a modern and easy to use GUI with the “NetWeaver Business Client” (aka Project Muse) is also a good idea in a market where you compete with Microsoft.

Besides, there are some rumours that SAP will also bring a completely new ERP-system for SMBs, perhaps in an on-demand model.

(you can read more on it here and here)

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