Moving Applications Online with

Developers who are moving SAP applications online are getting a helping hand from SAP AG ( SAP's recently announced Application Server provides an infrastructure for creating dynamic and collaborative Web applications in the same manner as other leading application servers on the market.

The sole mission of SAP's product is to Web-enable SAP applications and boost its Internet initiatives, not to compete with existing Web application servers on the market, says Peter Barth, director of corporate communications for technology. "We're not entering the tool market with a Application Server," he says.

In fact, the new Application Server can be used as a stand-alone tool for developing Web applications. It integrates with existing technologies such as Microsoft Windows DNA and IBM WebSphere, Barth says. "Customers already using WebSphere will probably stay with WebSphere. However, customers that want to integrate data from other systems without leaving the SAP environment may not want to invest in a new application server infrastructure. You don't have to install whatever new application server infrastructure, if you want to give your Web developers something for building dynamically changing applications."

SAP also hopes to attract more Internet developers new to SAP in the process, Barth adds. "There are people out there that grew up with HTML, have JavaScript for breakfast, and do not know anything else."

The new application server provides native support for Internet protocols such as HTTP and HTTP, Internet document standards such as HTML and XML, and server-side scripting with JavaScript. Open integration capabilities provide both real-time and cached access to existing SAP and non-SAP applications. The new application server is scheduled to be available in the third quarter of 2000, and will be provided free to customers.

The new application server -- which builds upon a previous version -- adds a critical component piece to SAP's fledgling Internet strategy. "In the last year, SAP has made the center of its development and marketing activities," says Jim Cordes, senior research analyst for Robert Frances Group Inc. ( While SAP's message was confusing, the Web capabilities are moving the ERP giant in the right direction, he notes. "Successful e-business architectures and strategies are in the formative stage, but are rapidly evolving. SAP's vision has all the right pieces, but it's too early to tell if SAP and its partners can bring it all together."

One common application being built off SAP's application server is a dynamic pricing program that can be accessed by external trading partners in an online community, Barth says. "A dynamic pricing application will have very special rules that you have for your particular industry," he explains. Tools such as SAP's application server let developers "reuse existing master data that's coming from existing systems, and add a very nice presentation logic for it, based on individual pricing rules."

The new application server natively combines the execution of SAP's business logic with server-side scripting and JavaScript for Web presentation and supports all databases and middleware supported by SAP. The tool also includes an object-oriented framework for standard Web design elements.

The open-integration capabilities in the Application Server allow access to real-time and cached data in existing business applications. Caching ensures up-to-date access to data without affecting existing applications.

In an era of rapidly changing presentation design and interaction requirements for e-business, "Most Web applications require a flexible programming model," says Michael Barnes, program director at Meta Group Inc. ( " Application Server provides a platform for extending SAP functionality to the Web while allowing organizations to leverage SAP expertise within the organization."

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