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SAP Flips Web Services Switch at User Confab

Another SAPPHIRE conference means another change in strategy for SAP executives over the direction they're taking with a company that ended 2001 with a bang.

If possible, the German enterprise software giant is expected to do even better in 2002, according to analysts; not faint praise in an industry trying to shake off the dot com meltdown.

Officials are clearly expecting to wrap up SAP's dominance in the enterprise world at SAPPHIRE-Orlando, Fla., the company's yearly customer relationship management (CRM) convention for American businesses.

The theme (and new business strategy) for SAP this year is Web services, the hot-button technology fad that promises to revolutionize the business world.

First announced in November 2001, executives have only recently beefed its mySAP Technology on a Web services framework. It wasn't until March that SAP signed up to both IBM's WebSphere and Microsoft's .Net frameworks.

In what must have been a flurry of business meetings given the number of press releases heralding SAPPHIRE-Orlando, Fla. (last count: 14), SAP has come a long way since March to shore up its Web services clout.

webMethods signed an agreement Wednesday morning, giving SAP an "adaptor" for non-SAP applications on the Web services network, for a program SAP is calling xApps. This way, companies using Oracle, PeopleSoft or i2 can still sign up for SAPs e-business software integration suites.

"SAP's decision to expand their relationship with webMethods complements SAP's integration offering by extending the value stored within SAP applications to the enterprise," said Phillip Merrick, webMethods chairman and chief executive officer. "Integration plays an important role in SAP's commitment to creating business value for customers, and we're excited to continue this partnership by working hand-in-hand to provide SAP customers with broad integration solutions."

Putting all pieces of the software pie together, regardless of which company made the application, is the most important part of xApps, said Shai Agassi, SAP executive board member.

"The true solution for the integration challenge has outgrown the technology stack and entered the applications space," Agassi said. "In order to drive agility and continuous innovation, enterprises need applications that combine multiple existing applications with actionable business intelligence."

Another attempt to shore up its Web services framework came with an announcement Wednesday morning with VERITAS , the disaster recovery and data protection company. A critical element with any e-business operation is minimizing downtime, SAP officials said, and VERITAS' solution fits well with its SAP R/3 software suite.

The "new" business strategy of Web services is one that follows on the heels of SAPs plans to dominate the enterprise portal market, which in turn displaced SAP plans to dominate the enterprise resource management (ERP) market when it first opened up shop in 1972.

It's been a steady evolution for the company founded by five former IBM employees who saw a need for software solutions catering to corporate supply-chain management and ERP, an evolution that slowly incorporated the Internet into its business operations and culminating in Web services, the ultimate Internet/intranet marriage.