SAP Enterprise Portal Update Just Stays Competitive

It's been over two years since the last revision, and analysts say the new version simply makes the product competitive. However, Unicode support could be critical to expand SAP's user base.

The last time SAP AG announced a new revision of its flagship Enterprise Portal Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system was still weeks from shipping.

In other words, it’s been a long time—more than two years, in fact. That’s the equivalent of a generation in IT years, and analysts report that SAP’s new portal offering delivers few revolutionary features. Instead, it brings the ERP giant up to par with its competition.

For SAP Enterprise Portal users, however, there’s a lot to like in the revamped offering, which boasts Unicode support along with improved knowledge management and collaborative capabilities. Like its predecessor, the new Enterprise Portal also features support for SAP’s NetWeaver application integration architecture. Finally, SAP says that Enterprise Portal will run on a variety of different Unix platforms—including Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP-UX and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris—in addition to Microsoft’s new Windows Server 2003 operating system.

According to Robert Lerner, a data warehousing analyst with consultancy Current Analysis Inc., Enterprise Portal’s new Unicode support could potentially open up significant growth opportunities for SAP in some of the largest economies in the world—such as Japan, China, and Korea. That’s because Unicode facilitates the display of ideogramic Asian languages, along with other non-Western character sets, such as Arabic and Hebrew. “After all, Japan, China, and Korea are among the most important economies in the world,” he writes, noting that China’s GDP is second only to that of the United States.

Previously, SAP had introduced double-byte character set capabilities—which also facilitate the display of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters—into Enterprise Portal. Because Unicode conforms to an ISO standard, however, it is a preferred and more flexible implementation than double-byte character sets.

In addition, Lerner says, Enterprise Portal’s enhanced knowledge management and collaboration features help to level the playing field with competitive offerings. “The enhancement of the portal’s knowledge management and collaboration features was certainly necessary not simply for the increasing demand for such functionality, but also because the company was falling behind competitors in terms of providing strong, single-vendor knowledge/content management and collaboration capabilities,” he writes. “SAP has also enhanced the ease-of-use features, providing an object-based administration model that offers a streamlined interface for delegated administration.”

Like its predecessor, SAP says the updated Enterprise Portal can facilitate access to both structured and unstructured data. With respect to the management of unstructured data, in particular, SAP claims that Enterprise Portal features categorizing and searching capabilities.

SAP has been dogged by charges that its Enterprise Portal, like its renowned ERP software, is difficult to use. Lerner likes what he sees in the new Enterprise Portal revision, but says that SAP still has room for improvement. “SAP has made some good ease-of-use enhancements, but it needs to do more, perhaps by highlighting implementation times, self-service, and by highlight solutions for medium-sized customers not tied to any particular business case,” he writes.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.