SAPPHIRE US - SAP sheds light on new BPM tools

SAPPHIRE US - SAP sheds light on new BPM tools

SAP is developing new BPM tools for its NetWeaver platform.

SAP is developing new business process management (BPM) tools under the code name "Galaxy" and will first release them in the third quarter, it announced Tuesday at its SAPPHIRE conference in Orlando.

The tools include a process composer, which consists of an Eclipse-based modeling environment that employs business process modeling notation (BPMN), a graphical way to sketch out business processes. It is aimed at business process analysts, as opposed to hardcore developers. Accompanying this is a business rules management composer based on technology SAP acquired when it bought Yasu Technologies in 2007. There is also a process server, which directly executes the process models.

Customers who participate in SAP's "ramp-up" program will be able to get the tools beginning in the third quarter, and they will be generally available in early 2009, according to SAP. They are aligned with SAP's NetWeaver Composition Environment toolset for building and running composite applications.

"This is done in a way both the business expert can understand it and the developer can understand it," said Klaus Kreplin, who oversees NetWeaver at SAP and is a member of its executive council, in an interview. "The developer does the plumbing ... but the overall flow is defined by the business process expert."

Pricing has not yet been determined, according to Kreplin.

Before SAP began building the BPM tools, it looked at possible acquisitions, but ultimately decided against such a move, Kreplin said. "It was better because we don't want just another point product. We want to have it seamlessly integrated into the composition environment."

"Sometimes the integration takes even longer than building something," he added.

A tightly integrated toolset can also mean better support, given that customers will be dealing with a single vendor, he asserted.

SAP has no plans to provide BPM as a standalone product offering, he said.

Analysts had measured reactions to the news.

"It will probably take a couple of iterations to get to the point where they're happy with it and the customers are happy with it," said Ray Wang, an analyst with Forrester Research.

While the embedded nature of SAP's BPM tools presents certain benefits, the benefits may be diminished for customers with highly heterogenous environments, Wang said: "If your world revolves around SAP, this is a great tool. If you've got other kinds of stuff you want to support, you might try something else."

Sandy Kemsley, an independent analyst and systems architect covering BPM, suggested in a blog post on Tuesday that SAP has contained its ambitions for the product.

"There is nothing earth-shatteringly innovative about the SAP NetWeaver BPM suite: this is a perfectly ordinary BPMS," she wrote. "That's not a criticism, especially considering that this is the first released version: it's a reasonably full-functioned BPMS out of the box, and that's all that SAP needs in order to compete within its existing customer base. They're not trying to be the best BPMS on the market, they want to be the best BPMS for SAP customers."

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