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SAP updates its portal software

Among the upgrades to SAP Enterprise Portal are new collaboration tools, expanded language capabilities and support for the Unix operating system.

SAP on Wednesday released the latest version of its portal software that helps companies integrate information from different business processes.

Among the upgrades to SAP Enterprise Portal are new collaboration tools, expanded language capabilities and support for the Unix operating system. Portal software gathers data from business applications, databases, electronic documents, and the Web and aggregates it into one place so employees can find information quickly.

Unix operability is a big step forward for SAP and will allow the portal software to work with server hardware built by vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems. SAP's portal system has historically catered to businesses running Microsoft Windows.

Greg Crider, director of product marketing for SAP Enterprise Portal said the German company is attempting to discourage the perception that SAP has been slow to offer customers flexibility in which operating systems and applications they can use with the software.

"People have their own standards, and we need to allow them to leverage existing investments, thus the support for both Unix and Windows," Crider said. "Portals must also be open to a number of back-end solutions. There's a big misconception that we only want to support SAP technology."

SAP Enterprise Portal serves as a Web-based point of access to information from vendors' software products including supply chain management tools, enterprise resource planning applications, and customer relationship management systems. In addition, the portal allows customers to cull data from non-SAP applications and databases and to view different kinds of Web content.

The product ties into NetWeaver, an initiative launched by SAP earlier this year to encourage companies to develop Web services--Internet technologies meant to simplify how companies build business systems.

Crider said the new offering attempts to address a number of emerging trends in portal technology, including customers' desire to launch systems more quickly and to create so-called microportals, which offer information and applications related to specific topics or projects.

SAP also added more complex collaboration features, including "virtual workspaces" for people to share ideas. The online tools include instant-messaging software and Web-based application sharing. The system supports 20 languages including most European languages and Asian languages such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

Industrial products maker Dow Corning already is using the Enterprise Portal software to build employee self-service and user-authentication tools. According to Kirk Royster, director of information technology architecture at Dow Corning, the Midland, Mich., company launched the technology four months ago and now has some 300 users.

"The big opportunity we see is in our supply chain operations, where we hope to package content to address business processes and help managers become more efficient and independent in making decisions," Royster said. Dow Corning uses Unix-based systems.