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SAP woos Web services partners

The software maker launches a partner program for its NetWeaver initiative, which uses Web services tools to help companies simplify how they develop business systems.

Software maker SAP sought to rally support for a new Web services technology initiative Tuesday, launching a partner program and announcing new customers.

The partner program gives software developers SAP's seal of approval for using the company's special set of tools and interfaces to create business applications, designating such software as "Powered by SAP NetWeaver." NetWeaver is an initiative SAP launched earlier this year that encourages companies to use a branch of Internet technology that's known as Web services for simplifying how companies build their business systems.

A software product that bears the special label indicates that it was written in either Java or in SAP's proprietary programming language and can run on SAP's Web application server or its business portal software, according to a statement on the German company's Web site.

With NetWeaver, people can use popular software development tools from IBM--namely Java-based WebSphere--to build and customize their business systems, according to SAP. The company is working to offer similar support for Microsoft's BizTalk Server and Visual Basic .Net products.

Initial participants in the "Powered by SAP NetWeaver" program include software makers Merant, Metreo, TimeVision, Trigo


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and Vertex, SAP said. Another 200 companies are "NetWeaver Certified," which means they sell products that can interoperate with SAP NetWeaver software.

SAP reported that it had enlisted two NetWeaver customers: Linde Gas, a unit of Linde Group in Wiesbaden, Germany; and SPAR Handels, a grocery chain headquartered in the same country. SAP's headquarters are in Walldorf, Germany.

In addition, the company announced that it has released on schedule a new software product called Master Data Management. The application--one of dozens SAP sells--is designed to synchronize and combine data from various business systems, helping companies keep consistent records.

SAP competes with PeopleSoft, Oracle and Siebel Systems. Siebel has underway a similar Web services initiative, in which its software works with products from IBM and Microsoft.