SAP Plays Critical Role at W2K Launch
Never before has the fate of a new product from Microsoft Corp. been so tightly interwoven with enterprise resource planning (ERP). One ERP vendor in particular, SAP AG (www.sap.com
) was a highly visible presence throughout the Windows 2000 product launch. Prior to the event, SAP was claiming "early market momentum" from customers running the vendor's mySAP.com architecture on Windows 2000 and SQL Server 7.0. In addition, the vendor announced its 10,000th installation on the Microsoft Windows platform.
What is behind all this Microsoft-SAP chumminess? From SAP's perspective, the ERP giant is eager to paint itself as a kinder, gentler SAP. Over the past year, the company unveiled a bevy of initiatives -- from ready-to-run hosted components to consulting assistance -- to present itself as an easier-to-deploy system. SAP's R/3 has a reputation as a complex, large-scale system that takes six months or more to deploy. "SAP is putting a major emphasis on going downmarket, and getting out of the Global 200 arena," says Dave Boulanger, analyst at AMR Research (www.amrresearch.com). "It's landing more customers in the $50-to-$100 million sales range, and even some start-ups."
Conversely, Microsoft is seeking to go upmarket, and show that it is ready to run the largest systems in the world. The software giant is claiming R/3 performance on Windows 2000 servers that matches or even exceeds Unix. Microsoft and its hardware partners unveiled two new performance records that cover numbers of concurrent users on SAP's R/3 Sales and Distribution (SD) module -- now considered a universal benchmark. The Microsoft benchmarks were achieved with SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition and Windows 2000 Advanced Server: one result on ProLiant servers from Compaq Computer Corp. (www.compaq.com) reached 6,700 users; the other on an E-action server from Unisys Corp. (www.unisys.com) hit 6,600 users.
As a result of these demonstrations, smaller companies can now have as robust an SAP installation on Windows as larger corporations running ERP on Unix and Oracle, Boulanger says.
While R/3 is still a complex system, "SAP has become much friendlier in terms of the process and amount of time to implement," Boulanger says. "SAP has a starter pack -- a preconfigured system for most industry solutions -- that gets you about 60 percent to 70 percent of the way. From there, they have a question-and-answer process, set some switches, then gets you to 100 percent. They really have come quite a way."
In addition, SAP recently announced arrangements with hosting companies that enable quick deployment of R/3 modules. The ERP giant recently announced that it will form a new ASP company that will offer mySAP.com configurations, as well as third-party applications. The new company will also offer training and certification programs. The ASP services delivered by the new company combine per user/per month mySAP.com application rental or leasing, solution implementation, provision of infrastructure as well as services and support.
SAP has also been developing ASP solutions configured to specific industries as well as "ready-to-work" components for small and midsize companies, including turnkey mySAP.com e-commerce solutions. These ASP solutions are being piloted in Germany, and will be rolled out internationally over the course of the year.
SAP also recently launched the Marketplace component of mySAP.com, the online hub that serves as an electronic marketplace for mySAP.com participants. The mySAP.com Marketplace will include a partner directory, service catalogs, request-for-proposal (RFP) capabilities, and online communities.
Such new approaches enable SAP "to implement pre-packaged solutions in a matter of weeks and months -- not years," says Boulanger. Much of these new-age deployments are occurring with Windows NT/2000 customers.