Everybody who's anybody is on the SOA bandwagon, including leading ERP vendors such as Oracle and SAP.
So it's a bit ironic that SOA could be ERP's doom.
Or, at least, so whispers the rumor mill. What's the basis for this claim? Simple. SOA makes it easier to pick best-of-breed solutions that work now -- as a general rule, that doesn't mean big vendors. Often, these solutions involve SaaS, a strategy still out of reach for many big name vendors. Companies can buy the integration solutions that best fulfill their needs, instead of settling for whatever an ERP vendor offers or promises to offer in five to 10 years.
Of course, ERP advocates disagree. Their argument goes something like this: You need a firm foundation for SOA and it's easier to maintain when that firm foundation and stacks of services all come from one source. It goes without saying that this translates into ERP.
This piece is a bit like watching a tennis match. It jumps back and forth between those who believe ERP is key to SOA and those who say ERP's days are numbered. Even Shai Agassi, former SAP executive and SOA advocate extraordinaire, weighs in, though he steers down the middle of the road on the matter. He foresees ERP, SOA and Web services connected, like so many Lego pieces, to create a new platform -- an ERP Platform or Applistructure. He compares it to a Windows for the back end.
Ultimately, the article suggests that whether you go with ERP or not may depend upon how cutting-edge you need to be. In areas where you need a competitive advantage, it may behoove you to try a solution that's available now. But if it's an area that doesn't matter, strategically speaking -- payroll, for instance -- you should keep stick with your existing ERP solution.
But realistically, it seems many companies will play it safe and wait for their ERP vendors to lead them to SOA. SAP expects 75 percent of its users to upgrade to ERP 2006 by the middle of next year. Even as customers upgrade, SAP will engage in a dual-track development that will shift to SOA over the five-year period it's expected to keep the ERP 2006 suite.