At confab, SAP touts alliances, new products

Microsoft, IBM and Siemens make the German software giant's list of new partners. Also: Previewing 100 industry-specific analysis tools. SAP readies new business monitoring programs

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
3 min read
Business software giant SAP detailed a number of expanded partnerships and new product plans Tuesday at its European customer conference in Copenhagen.

The most significant news to come out of the gathering was undoubtedly the announcement that the German software maker is teaming with Microsoft to develop and market software to link SAP's business management systems more closely with Microsoft's Office suite. As previously reported, the joint effort--code-named Mendocino--represents the first time the software behemoths have created a new product together.

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The companies said Mendocino will connect SAP's applications directly with Office desktop programs in order to save time and energy previously spent by workers going between or cross-referencing the two companies' various products. For instance, SAP said that someone using one of its applications could retrieve data from a spreadsheet created in Microsoft Excel and submit the information using Microsoft's InfoPath electronic form system.

Under the partnership, both companies plan to market some of each other's products starting in 2006. Mendocino is slated to arrive during the fourth quarter, SAP said.

SAP also detailed plans to partner with IBM to launch a co-developed version of the company's DB2 Universal Database technology, a deal that stands as a direct challenge to database giant Oracle, with whom both companies compete closely. Earlier this week, SAP expanded its push to lure away customers of PeopleSoft, which was acquired earlier this year by Oracle. (SAP said it will open offices in Amsterdam, Singapore and England to supply discounted maintenance and support services to former customers of PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards.)

SAP and IBM said they are building features into the joint iteration of the DB2 software that ease issues such as deployment and maintenance for companies running SAP's business applications on IBM databases. The offering, to be available Friday, is designed to appeal to their 4,400 joint customers worldwide.

SAP also announced an alliance with Siemens to create new technology offerings tailored for the health care industry. The package of software and services will aim to help health care companies engage in collaborative business planning activities, as well as offer financial analysis tools and human resources applications.

And in yet another partnership, SAP said it is working with Danish public sector IT specialist KMD to develop applications for the social services market. The effort will center in Denmark, which SAP ranks as the top nation in the world in terms of e-government advancement.

New product plans
In other news, SAP, which is still riding high on a favorable first-quarter earnings report, said that in June it will show off the software underlying a third-party recruitment program based on its NetWeaver infrastructure software.

During the next few years, SAP is planning to make its applications available to other software companies so that they can develop add-on products to sell to the company's customers. At the conference, SAP previewed the first 500 programs of its "Enterprise Services Architecture," which other software companies can modify or amend.

The first programs from the Enterprise Service Architecture initiative are for common business functions, such as handling a purchase order. Third parties can access the software, which is based on Web services and Java standards, from an SAP-hosted site.

SAP also previewed several of the 100 new business analysis programs it plans to introduce later this year. The programs, called SAP Analytics, will scrutinize business processes including tax collection, factory utilization and retail staffing. As part of the demonstration, SAP announced that the analytics tools will incorporate Macromedia's Flash animation software to present data in more graphic and compelling ways.

In addition, SAP announced plans to extend its NetWeaver infrastructure software using Macromedia's Flex application framework, saying it will offer customers improved ability to build interfaces for use on the company's Web portal applications. The companies said the next release of SAP's NetWeaver Visual Composer will include Flex technology and will be made available to all existing SAP NetWeaver customers.

The enterprise applications specialist also took the wraps off plans for a program designed to keep daily financial data synchronized between companies using SAP products and their subsidiaries. Dubbed a "subsidiary connectivity solution," the software is expected to arrive before the end of 2005, but it will only work in scenarios where all the organizations involved use SAP's accounting tools.

CNET News.com's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.