Integration Top Topic in Taking SAP to Task

Loraine Lawson

SAP is taking a bit of a beating in the trade press this week.

 

Obviously, there's no love lost between Oracle and SAP - what with the stolen code, lawsuit and all. But Oracle President Charles Phillips comes out swinging in a Q&A with InformationWeek.

 

This isn't the usual "they stole from us" fodder, either. It's down-deep "SAP can have its little general ledger software, but here's why we're better at everything else and good luck catching up."

 

Seriously. I kid you not. Here's the quote:

In this scenario, the customer simply decides they are a two-vendor applications shop: SAP for GL and Oracle for everything else. They can continue to run the GL but get world-class functionality, standard integration via our middleware suite, which most of them are already using, and support for all these other applications from the largest enterprise software company.

Oooh. Snap.

 


True, I've taken it out of context. But let me tell you, this is a slap-down, even in context.

 

Seriously, though, even if you could care less about the histrionics between these two, it's a good interview. InformationWeek asks hard questions, many pertaining to integration, and Phillips gives sharp answers.

 

Many of the questions have to do with Oracle's aggressive buying spree: Can Oracle really deliver on so many products; aren't there integration-limits to how many companies Oracle can buy, and so on. Phillips' case is that Oracle knows how to do mergers and software integration well - and he points to various financial stats to prove the company's success. He also argues that many companies appreciate Oracle's numerous mergers and acquisitions, because they know Oracle has faced the same problems they're facing:

Most of our customers also make acquisitions, and they're not only comfortable with our strategy but very interested in how we've executed so well. We routinely get asked by senior executives to discuss our acquisition methodology. Many of them believe we can better understand what they're going through as a result of our acquisitions.

But my favorite section is the part of the interview when reporter Mary Hayes Weier asks about Oracle's position on software as a service (SaaS) and SAP's A1S, which is a subscription service for small and mid-sized companies.

 

Phillips doesn't pull any punches. Put simply, he calls SAP out for integration gaps and needless complexities:

By our count, they're (SAP) using seven different development tools and five data models within mySap alone. In fact, given that many of the product groups in mySAP have separate schemas, separate installation processes, and significant integration gaps, I'd argue they have different product lines even under the mySAP umbrella, which can happen if you build a monster with 270 million lines of code. It has a life of its own and represents the very definition of complexity. That's why SAP had to start over for the small-business market.

Phillips also talks about Web 2.0 and Oracle's Application Integration Architecture and Fusion, Wall Street numbers, and competing with Microsoft's database solutions.

 

But Phillips and Oracle aren't the only ones taking SAP to task. IBM apparently is also taking on SAP's Plant Maintenance and Asset Management functions and, really, ERP in general.

 

That's according to this blog post, which largely draws on "Understanding the real risk for asset-intensive companies," an IBM white paper published in March and made available at various online publications this month.

 

Of course, IBM's real goal is to promote its own IBM Maximo Asset Management solution, as the blog post points out. I checked out the white paper and discovered it really isn't an attack on SAP, as much as an attack on ERP. In fact, in places, SAP is touted. In others, both SAP and Oracle ERP solutions are pooh-poohed.

 

Here's what IBM says about ERP:

The goal of having one enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for all business processes is still popular, yet the idea is no longer practical, particularly in asset-intensive industries.

The white paper tackles what it deems the Five Myths of ERP, including that ERP can manage assets alone. According to the white paper, "Asset-intensive companies that use an ERP solution for asset management typically end up with only 60 to 80 percent coverage of their functional requirements." That leaves 20-40 percent unaccounted for - which may account for IT's inability to weed out Exel spreadsheets.

 

Integration is the overriding issue, but Myth #3, "Integration of best-in-class solutions with ERP is complex, risky and costly," deals specifically with integration. The white paper suggests this is no longer true because of SOA. And here, it actually says a lot of positive things about SAP's NetWeaver, so perhaps IBM isn't so much anti-SAP as it is "SAP's fine unless you can have IBM."

 

Clearly, ERP systems aren't fulfilling the one-application-does-it-all promise, but by now, certainly everybody's figured that out? This is definitely a white paper that's selling IBM's solution. But it's a quick, easy read, so check it out if you have time.

 

Definitely take a coffee break and read over the InformationWeek interview. It's entertaining and informative.



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