NetWeaver No More? Forrester Warns Off Customers as SAP Offers Reassurance

Loraine Lawson

Forrester wasn't pulling any punches against SAP's NetWeaver middleware during a teleconference this week. Not only did members of the research firm say SAP was causing "heartburn" for clients, they outright recommended customers consider a switch to competitors such as IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.


By why paraphrase? Here's Forrester Research VP and principal analyst John Rymer's own words, as reported by IDG and IT World Canada:


  • "For the last several years, SAP has been falling behind in creating a comprehensive platform and in maintaining a strong level of investment."
  • "We don't think SAP is going to step up to those requirements over the long haul."
  • "We think you ought to look at other providers."


Ouch. What's SAP's reaction?


Interestingly, the earlier IDG article that appeared on PCWorld.com said SAP did not respond to a request for comment. But, an updated version of the article, which ran on BusinessWeek, included a reassurance from SAP spokesperson Shabana Khan that NetWeaver is the "foundational technology" for SAP's solutions. The article includes this quote, which was sent by e-mail:

NetWeaver is our platform and will be our platform going forward - and there is an incredible amount of innovation we intend to continue to bring into it.

But Forrester's remarks aren't coming out of nowhere. After all, since Oracle bought Sun - and Java - the industry has known that could cause problems for SAP, which uses Java in its middleware stack. And recently, SAP's new co-CEOs held a press/analyst Q&A that included the new head of middleware, Vishal Sikka. Apparently, some things said at that event lead Forrester to believe SAP would be headed in a new direction with its middleware; specifically, toward more open source and "in-memory execution technologies," Rymer writes in a blog post about that meeting.


However, by the March 21 teleconference, the tone changed from the blog post, with Rymer suggesting SAP is no longer interested in competing head-on with the big middleware vendors. Instead, Forrester believes SAP will either "align itself strategically with a Java-centric middleware partner," or "'adopt a vendor-agnostic stance in Java,' continue working with Microsoft, and also embrace open-source middleware options," according to the PCWorld.com article.


Forrester also says the German company will focus on creating tighter integration between its software modules. Better integration sounds like good news, but Forrester analyst Roy Wildeman says tighter integration could actually create problems for customers who want to customize -- and, seriously, who among SAP's customers doesn't customize?


"What it means for folks is that code is going to get even harder to customize," Wildeman is quoted as saying. "As software becomes more integrated, charting all the dependencies ... can be a project every time a system change is required."

The panel also pontificated on SAP's plans for SaaS and CRM. Check out the IT World Canada article if you're interested in that part of the discussion.


By the way, the March 22 teleconference was part of a Forrester series on SAP. If you really want to see the full discussion, it's possible you can see it as a guest-I think Forrester gives a few freebies to first-time visitors, but I'm not a first-time visitor, so no promises there. I do know you can purchase it for $250.

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