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Author's profile photo Twan van den Broek

Composite Applications: Hype or Real?

With a growing amount of applications that support open standards on one hand and web services on the other hand, mashups become more popular every day. Have a look at Google Maps, provided by Google. Developers re-use this application to realize their own ideas. One example: you can find the nearest cash machine with hotspots on a Google Map. A mashup of Google Maps functionality together with location information on cash machines.
And now the next wave of mashups has started, as they are brought into your company, not as gadget or nice to have internet application, but as a real application that is required to run your business process. In the professional world these mashups are called composite applications.

Composite Applications
With composite applications you can create flexible and innovative applications for your business process. Is that something new? No, 20 years ago we already wanted to create flexible and innovative applications. But the focus has changed, by then the focus was on departments and the functionality that was required for a specific department.

Nowadays the focus has shifted towards an end to end process focus. 


But when a business process spans across multiple systems you can see the knowledge worker struggling through the process. Frequently supported by actions to copy and paste information from one system into another and switching from one application to another with, of course, different look and feels.
Problems like these are solved with composite applications, functionality is brought together into a new application to provide a single point of entry to the knowledge worker.

Efficiency improvement
The aimed efficiency improvement is important, as nowadays people do not want to wait anymore. Not after they ordered something on the internet, not until an answer is given by the helpdesk on a question, not in private life but also not in business life. Information, accurate and quickly, has become more crucial then ever. A business process has to be as efficient as can be in order to serve the knowledge worker and, in the end, the customer of course.
Here you have it, a real life example of E-SOA. E-SOA is about business processes, make these processes as flexible as possible in order to be adaptive to fast changing business requirements. A composite application requires an E-SOA, in fact you can see a composite application as a real life example of E-SOA. It will change the SAP world, not only for the knowledge workers but also for SAP consultants. Yesterday they were coding in ABAP or Java, today they generate the code via the SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio and tomorrow they will model composites in the Composition Environment.


Yesterday Tomorrow
Find info in IT system Push info to knowledge worker
Application focus  Business process focus
Built to last Build to change
Tight integration (one application to another) Loosely coupled
Coding an application Modeling an application
Rebuild applications Reuse components
User driven Event driven


Real life examples
What are real life examples of composite applications? A very famous one is DUET, the co-developed solution to integrate SAP ERP and Microsoft Office functionality. The daily process of knowledge workers is improved and more efficient with DUET.
Another example is the possibility to use a web service that plots an address on a map. If you combine this with your CRM or ERP system you get an instant view on where your customer is located and how to plan a trip. Again an example of process efficiency as you do not have to switch to another application to do this.
Also you can link several solutions into one new application, for example SCM functionality combined with an Analytics application. Bring the information together on one place, and it is obvious that you will support your knowledge workers in making decisions on base of accurate information.
In my current project we integrate SAP ISU, SAP CRM and some custom made applications into composite applications. These applications will be used both internally by back office agents as well as externally by front office agents and even by the customers themselves. Three target audiences for the same functional components. Only the user interface is different, as internal call agents will have more functional possibilities than the customers.

Hype or real?
Composite applications are no hype anymore, it is reality. Within this new era of application realization they are here to stay. More and more applications will be modeled on top of existing functionality. By integrating functionality that is based on best practices you create next practice applications. Knowledge workers and SAP consultants have to focus on how to model a business process and to translate this process into reusable components.
With the composite philosophy you can follow your ideas, not the IT release strategy. You are able to quickly deliver next practice composites to support your differentiating processes. You can do business as you want to do business – and of course you want to be outstanding in the way you do your business. Remember that E-SOA or a portal is not a goal. An efficient innovative process that helps your knowledge workers to do their job effectively will keep you in business.

Sessions at TechEd that you do not want to miss

CE100 SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1 in Detail 
CE150     Defining Composite Processes with Guided Procedures in SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1 
CE151     Developing Composite Applications with SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1 
CE153     Modeling in Visual Composer for SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 

CE200 Architecture Guidelines for Composite Applications 
CE207    Real-World Examples and Experiences of Composite Applications 
CE253     Service Composition with SAP Composite Application Framework Capabilities in SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1 
SOA213   Enterprise SOA at Work Using the SAP Composite Application Framework  SDN-member session
SOA250   Enterprise SOA Today: Developing an End-to-End Enterprise SOA Scenario 
CE350     Advanced Service Composition with SAP Composition Application Framework Capabilities of SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 

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      Author's profile photo Twan van den Broek
      Twan van den Broek
      Blog Post Author
      I am sorry that the table HTML didn't work out very nice.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      ...and some of the best of them are quietly being built by customers and partners in the manufacturing industries using SAP xMII.

      Here are a few examples:

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Do you foresee a future , where IT dept cease to exist..and business process owners would have the ability to design apps on their own ?

      On a cynical view , what problems could arise with composite apps ?

      And my last question, all composite apps in my opinion.. are heavily layered and abstracted.. we build apps on top of existing apps.. which in turn r built in top of somethin else..

      Doesnt this result in redundant layers.. which serve little purpose ? Should we redesign/reinvent whole s/w products to support mashups from scratch (which my reduce the layers/abstractions ) instead of going with current products which had a diff design paradigm with different priorities ?

      Would love to hear your opinion ?


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Never happen.  That would be like giving the entire world's population a hammer and saw and assuming they knew how to build a house...a lot of the houses would fall down, catch fire, be cold and drafty, and look awful.

      What you need to do is a stratified approach that allows mashups to be developed in a well-controlled sandbox, and mainstream line-of-business composites/apps developed by professionals.  In fact, even in the mashup arena, the configuration of the intermediate services and data that would be consumed by the mashups need to be written/configured by someone.

      The big danger of "unbridled end user empowerment" without a sandbox/limitations is that computing, network, and storage resources could easily be brought crashing down with an errant query, security risks could be greatly increased, and integrity of data substantially compromised.

      There is a middle ground, though.

      Author's profile photo Twan van den Broek
      Twan van den Broek
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Bharathwaj,

      The IT department will not cease to exist, core IT processes will still have to be supported by IT professionals. The added value of an IT department will be determined by its possibility to co-work with the business department. If both departments are on an island, then there is no synergy and no room for improvement/innovation. Only when both business and IT work together on business challenges, innovation will come to live.

      Cynical on composites, well that's hard 😉 But of course if you build your composite out of your own services and some web services that are available on the internet - you have to manage some risks. For example availability of those web services, make clear agreements with the provider, preferably in a service level agreement. And security, please make sure that with new composites your current backend systems are not badly influenced. Some downsides, but managable and it would be a great waste of opportunities not to start with composites on base of such downsides.

      Redundancy? You combine functionality in a new application that was not availble up till now. No redundancy. If you want to start with composites you need core components. And yes, if they are built with old paradigms, you will face some 'challenges'. The new paradigm is about services, components and a strict separation between the application layer and the user interface layer. I always suggest in development projects to build components, even when the functionality is only meant to be used in the traditional SAP GUI environment. If you build components now, you can get advantage in the future if you want to re-use that specific piece of functionality in your innovative composite!

      Kind regards

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I am very interested in building my skills in this new application dimension, my first question here is, where are the data input through composite application users interface store, in the original application's database tables or the you need to build a new database repository for your data?

      How also how can I have a test environment to learn how to build such applications?

      Hope to hear from you.


      Author's profile photo Twan van den Broek
      Twan van den Broek
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Roland,

      Composites are built on top of existing functionality (services). That means that the data storge is already handled by those original functions. Your composite facilitates in combining different services that are available in different systems. The combined functionality is presented to the end-user in its own user interface.
      Of course if you need new data storage you can create a custom one. Within the composition environment you have the tools to do so.

      A test environment is availble via the SDN subscription program ( or via a SAP discovery server (

      Good luck with your first steps in the area of composite applications.

      Kind regards, Twan