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SAP Opens NetWeaver To Developers

SAP developers were treated to a welcome announcement at the opening of the SAP NetWeaver Conference in Basel, Switzerland, Tuesday: the opening of the NetWeaver platform to independent software vendors (ISVs).

"Powered by SAP NetWeaver" and "Certified by SAP NetWeaver" are the company's new catch-phrases for getting developers to design, certify and market NetWeaver applications, expanding the customer base for both along the way.

In the past, ISVs were only allowed within kissing distance of the NetWeaver platform, namely, to ensure the third-party component was compliant. To date, SAP had roughly 200 companies signed onto its "partner" and ISV program, all of whom are members of the new program.

To be designated a certified SAP NetWeaver application, the ISV needs to make sure it has back-end integration with a NetWeaver component and also enhances the platform's functionality. Powered NetWeaver apps are those that bring Java- or ABAP-based tools to the SAP Web application server or iViews to the SAP Enterprise Portal.

ISVs also get the benefit of increased brand marketing, since SAP will tie products together according to the market they are looking at entering and promoting the ISVs application.

According to Shai Agassi, SAP executive board member, the program augments the software company's position as a trusted innovator.

"This is a clear win-win for all parties -- partners, SAP and most importantly, our customers," he said. "SAP NetWeaver offers a clear, opportunistic business proposition for independent software vendors, and we welcome them into the SAP ecosystem."

If this all sounds a bit familiar, that's because it is; the biggest software platforms are opening up their code (or at least enough of it) to bring in independent developers. Last week, BEA Systems did the same with its WebLogic platform.

According to analysts, the move gives big companies like SAP an instant tool they can pitch to prospective clients, and gives developers access to a customer base they might never otherwise see. Companies such as Sun Microsystems , BEA and SAP are all trying to catch up with the developer community established and nurtured at Microsoft, which has led to the popularity of its Visual Studio platform.

In related news, SAP launched Tuesday a "meta" tag directory for inventory labeling, called "Master Data Management." The tool, officials said, is for companies that have a product called by several names along the supply chain. For example, while a bolt might be labeled by one thing by the manufacturer, it's called another by the supplier and yet another by the customer who is looking for the bolt.

"The synchronization of reference data allows a clear view of product, market and supplier activities, resulting in the ability to make fast, accurate business decisions," said Barry Wilderman, META Group director of technology research services. "Efficient and reliable master data management is thus key to achieving the smooth execution of collaborative business processes on a global scale."