A lot of buzz is being generated in the market around Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise SOA, AJAX and ESOA seem to be coming in closer together. Starting with social computing, a lot of SAP customers are now taking a serious look at these tools and making them more enterprise worthy in terms of bringing about business applicability. More and more loosely coupled services seem to be cluttering the marketplace with new business models being thought through for such young-startups. A trend that one was once fuelled the b2b boom; the new-age of the web now seems to be turning more real. Largely, the consolidation of the market also seems to be fuelling the growth of this thought more. SAP’s ESR – standalone and PI-Linked, the evolution of the Integration builder into the Enterprise SOA builder – the architecture of the underlying ERPs when you note the evolution of Oracle and SAp is bottom-up. IBM and Microsoft seems to be coming top down. There will certainly be newer business models for hosted applications trying to get a chunk of the pie with SaaS as a model. Though this is what customers keep telling me, they also seem very skeptical of BYD, with many of them already seem to have written it off (funnily enough, attributing the reasons to the recent reshuffle within SAP with the tilting of the tectonic scales making SAP a more marketing and sales driven organization). The power of the ecosystem that SAP has been creating around with BPX, SDN, iCOD, RIG etc., which have been more or been shaped up in the conventional sense of the marketing hype and buzz certainly has got SDN and BPX to a level, which more or less is at a stage of stagnation. Whats next? More people? No, it certainly cannot work that way. More evangelists, more marketing buzz will probably add a few more thousands to the endless list of the users (who taper out as well over a period of time), the time is ripe for a quantum innovation around the same. Let me share a few thoughts around the SAP Ecosystem 2.0 (If I may). Of all the customers that I get to meet, thanks to the ESOA Workshops, most of them are looking for a private business network that helps them define an entire value-scenario in terms of various business processes, being addressed as a heterogeneous solution of multiple product vendors, with SAP being one of the key process drivers. The ask seems to be more of Private business networks for collaboration in terms of vertical processes, the need for privately run ecosystems of system integrators, customers, specific themes of discussions and addressing the solutions around the same.
Gone are the days where any network can claim the growth of the same by adding sheer numbers of people, it certainly calls for a new line of thinking, some innovation. Some of the key points that will come by in defining the new ecosystem 2.0 will be as follows:
a. Formulation of Private Business Networks: With Project Plexus in the offing to extend the collaborative network for geeks and dorks, SDN and BPX cannot remain a Facebook for geeks. The value of an ever expanding ecosystem will need different handling. A network which is more exclusive and private, more specific and collaborative with very specific objectives that goes much beyond the conventional norms of the definition of ecosystem. Ecosystem 2.0 will be more value-scenario drive, focused on short-term objectives like the CDG initiatives, driven by customers, system integrators, SAP and even competing products. And such initiatives cannot be run by SAP alone, but such networks, private and specific will need to leverage Web 2.0 tools, be driven by an Extended ecosystem, and owned by System Integrators. And SAP needs to be at the epicenter of such hubs and needs to function as a business exchange based on the suggestions of such networks. Imagine SDN/BPX becoming more like a mutual fund of such exchanges run and networked by other networks. The Other vertical networks could also be newly spawned, formulated by large system integrators, or the formulation of such networks within existing social (yet corporate) networks formed by LinkedIn, Facebook and Xing.
b. A Web 2.0 platform that makes a seamless integration possible for the networks of tomorrow: These go hand in hand. The ability to transform system dumps or key SLA triggers will need to go beyond uwl integration with portals. It has to take the shape of being automated into a blog or a wiki, integrated with chat engines, have the ability to be shaped into web-widgets (blidgets) or desktop widgets and give a BPX the power to work more on a management by exceptions. Twitter can be made more corporate and could be used more than a mobile application for such matters. SLAs in business processes, and their respective triggers will need to become more integrated into applications (Galaxy being the first logical move in that direction with the composition environment driven by BPMN. PI would need to evolve more into an ESB and focus more on B2B Integrations.
c. A vertical, business process driven focus that fosters the use of such networks that could help spawn the creation of agile applications: No doubt, the world of composites opens up an entirely new thought process of addressing customization in a new paradigm, this loose coupling of business logic from the stable core of best practices as part of the core ECC solution needs to be addressed more as a strategy for large SAP shops, than being looked upon as a piecemeal approach of a bunch of best-of-breed solutions that might end up becoming more a newer way of cluttering up an existing landscape with best-of-breed solutions coming into the IT landscape of powered by Netweaver solutions, certified for SAP Netweaver solutions, xApps or what-have-you. A sound strategy around customizations needs a closer and a harder look during the upgrade process itself, where key chunks of ABAP development need to be identified to be snuffed out as part of a medium-term strategy. The need for upgrades can only be justified as something beyond a technical upgrade, and a functional upgrade takes a long time to fruition. Identification of Customizations that can be turned into services, ES-bundles and composites is something that customers are really interested in. The world lives beyond SPAU and SPDD.
d. Faceless applications are a better bet than Composite applications any day: While customers of SAP and System Ingetartors grapple with the unnecessary slew of the Composite applications onslaught, certainly, the long-term approach recommended for customers would be in the investment around a sound Integration strategy to help them focus more on interoperability and the usage of the PIC process for service provisioning and consumption through a unified ESR as a single enterprise-wide Registry/repository strategy. This would help them focus more on the creation of services and service bundles, or faceless composite applications that could be consumed in a UI of their choice, based on their portals strategy. More on this in my next blog. But this is the key Interface between Web 2.0 applications and ESOA with RIA. Partner developed composites or SAP built composites as a long term strategy will not work for organizations embarking on a SOA journey as it makes no practical sense to clutter up the System landscape in a new way.
e. Second life is serious stuff: With IBM investing in over 35 islands in second life, SAP cannot afford to miss out the Web 2.0 bandwagon and Linden Labs. With folks selling Linden dollars on ebay, imagine the COIL (Co innovation Lab) of SAP in Palo Alto and Japan existing in Second Life. System Integrators (including Wipro), have done the same. The focus on SecondLife would be more around driving CAG, RIG and the connectivity of such geographically-separated Labs to be brought together seamlessly to foster and promote joint development of Co-Innovative solutions amongst SAP Customers, System Integrators and SAP. It remains to be seen when TechEds, Sapphires and ASUG sessions would be conducted Live on Second Life, making these a lot cheaper for folks around the world to collaborate, learn and explore ideas around the new paradigm of ESOA. Sample this – whoever thought Twitter could be enterprise-worthy?
The enriching of the extended ecosystem is not restricted in new UIs or the spawning of new RIA that would masquerade as the new Ecosystem. Ecosystem 2.0 will be defined as the collaboration between SAP Customers, System Integrators, SAP and ISV – beyond the SAP ecosystem alone. Organizations around the world grapple with the adoption of SOA (not just ESOA), the steps taken by SAP in terms of Project Plexus and Project Galaxy certainly seem to be in the right direction. A move that will undergo a of changes in the next couple of years as SAP tries to get its arms around the entire concept. Till then, its focus-time for SAP customers on the Enterprise Service Infrastructure, rather than on the esoteric and sublime to create a “seamlesstomorrow”.