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Baan kicks off component strategy

The Dutch vendor rolls out BaanERP, one of the first installments in its BaanSeries component-based software package.

Baan may think its new component-based package will be the answer for those tired of upgrading entire suites each time a new release comes out, but analysts say the company still has to prove its new strategy.

The Dutch vendor with U.S. headquarters in Reston, Virginia, is doing away with massive package-wide upgrades and rolling out BaanERP this week, one of the first installments in its BaanSeries component-based software package.

Baan is hoping that release numbers will become obsolete because with the component architecture its software will be "evergreen," meaning individual modules such as a general ledger or materials management applications can be upgraded independently of the rest of the package--in theory.

But don't look for Baan's initial release to weather all seasons. It is still a ways away from being a true component architecture. Much like its competitors, Baan is finding it is slow going breaking up its single application package into individual pieces that still interact with each other the same way they did as a single entity.

"The reality is, right now, they don't have it," said Joshua Greenbaum, analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting, in Berkeley, California. "They have component marketecture, but not component architecture."

And Baan freely admits that fact. What the firm says this first release does give it is the foundation for the architecture.

"A large investment in the component architecture of the BaanERP product has been made, providing a foundation for further componentization and decoupling of various aspects of the application over time," Baan executives said in a statement. "This will provide more customer control of implementation priorities, as well as upgrades to new releases, and is the foundation of the evergreen release strategy."

Greenbaum said, for now, Baan does not need to deliver more because even its competitors are struggling with the complexity of distributed objects and component architectures.

"There are two import levels of component architecture," Greenbaum explained. "One is to support the evergreen strategy, which can be done quickly. But the real trick is to get it all synched on a single object model, to have the pieces as separate components but still tightly integrated. That is the same problem everyone has. The good news for Baan is that customers are not demanding the very complicated components yet. They are more interested in the evergreen strategy because it is not something you have to design into your business, it something that comes with the territory."

BaanERP will be available in the first quarter of 1999 in U.S. English for Window NT and Unix platforms and SQL Server, Informix, and Oracle databases. German-, Dutch-, and Japanese-language versions are scheduled to follow shortly.