I've never used SAP, but the interface must be a major pain, because I've heard of at least two cases of vendors building a tool to let you interact with SAP data without actually launching SAP.
This week, IBM and SAP announced plans for a new middleware product designed to let you access data from SAP while in IBM's -- as the InformationWeek article termed it -- "easier-to-use" Lotus Notes environment.
Both SAP and Lotus Notes are popular, widely deployed solutions, so this integration product, tentatively named Atlantic, will most likely affect a lot of companies -- assuming it's affordable.
Unfortunately, the article doesn't offer even a clue about the cost, despite the fact that the companies anticipate the software will be available by the fourth quarter of this year.
As a side note, if you're an SMB, you might want to check out this post from IT Business Edge's Ann All about IBM's new bundled solution, Lotus Foundation, for companies with 5-500 employees.
Of course, if you're a Microsoft shop, you might be more interested in the first time I heard about a product that lets you use SAP from Outlook. You may have heard of it -- SharePoint Server. The global solutions director at Getronics, Lee Nicholls, shared in July how SharePoint makes it possible to access data from SAP while within Outlook.
Here's a round-up of other integration-related news from this week:
Microsoft and Open Source Data Integration Vendor Team Up. Talend made news in 2006 when it began offering Open Studio, an open source ETL (extract, transform and load) tool for data integration. Open Studio already worked with SQL Server, but apparently didn't integrate with Microsoft's business applications.
You can probably guess where this is going -- according to InfoWorld, Talend and Microsoft have teamed up to ensure Open Studio works with Microsoft's business applications, and Dynamics AX, Dynamics NAV, Dynamics CRM, and Dynamics GP are specifically mentioned.
I gotta say, I think Microsoft is very smart about partnering. Even though Microsoft offers its own ETL tool -- SQL Server 2005 Integration Services -- Microsoft approached Talend to offer support in making Open Studio interoperable with Microsoft's products, according to the press release.
Yves de Montcheuil, the VP of marketing at Talend, told InfoWorld that Microsoft's tool is "probably well-suited for people who are in a pure Microsoft environment." By contrast, Talend targets customers with with heterogeneous IT environments.
The InfoWorld article also notes this is part of an ongoing effort by Microsoft to reach out to the open source community.
Webswell Makes Hosted Hub Available as On-Site Product. Now here's something you don't see often in this day of SaaS-this and SaaS-that: Previously, Webswell only offered its Business Hub as a outsourced service, but with version 2.0, the Business Hub can also be purchased as a product you deploy on your own site.
Webswell Business Hub is a business integration tool that makes it possible to exchange business documents, even if the parties involved use incompatible data formats or messaging protocols. It supports AS2 and ebXML messaging.
Data Cleansing and Management Tool Offers SOA Modules. ABM Predictive Data Management is a suite for validating and cleansing data. The company announced this week that it's offering data cleansing tools as a series of SOA modules. I suppose this means they've turned their product into services so you can use in your SOA, but, frankly, the press release is pretty confusing and I couldn't find anything to clarify it.
At any rate, the release said that ABM Predictive Data Management's:
"open repository can provide data quality status information and monitor continued improvement in data quality and error remediation through user dashboards, or with existing reporting and analytical tools, without the need for expensive master data management solutions."