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The SAP Portal strikes back

If we talk about the war of portal products, SharePoint has won some battles recently. The NetWeaver Portal was defending its positions, especially among SAP customers, Oracle and IBM were fighting hard too, but many pundits rumored that Microsoft would win the war. This year, however, we can see SAP preparing for a strike back in the form of a “next major release”, well, let’s just call it 7.3.

Let me start with my “war report” starting from last year. In TechEd 2009, SAP made it clear: “Focus is on applications and processes. Our goal is to be best in class at supporting your business processes and applications – either as standardized service by your corporate IT or as self-service for a line of business. Capabilities for content management, collaboration and custom development enrich such applications and processes and can be complemented with 3rd party vendors. KM is positioned as basic content services to enrich application scenarios in the SAP NetWeaver Portal. It is not a full-fledged Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution and it will not evolve into one.”

The user friendliness and Office integration features of SharePoint together with the above repositioning of the SAP NetWeaver Portal resulted in a lot of interest in interoperability between the Microsoft and SAP portals. Several companies concluded that the NetWeaver Portal can be best used in the application web-enabling area and SharePoint for collaboration, document management, etc. When it comes to federating these two portals, there are some technical limitations, but bridging the gap between these two worlds is the biggest challenge. Different vendor visions, different competence centers at customers, different mindsets, etc.

Version 7.3 on the other hand, will bring important new features, which, in my humble opinion, will keep more SAP customers happy and less willing to look into SharePoint or federation with SharePoint. A lot of components of the portal will be improved (general performance, KM, Web Page Composer, etc.) and new ones will be added (e.g. wiki), but I am most curious about two things:


  • SAP NetWeaver Portal, enterprise workspaces (EWS).
    EWS is already available as an add-on for NetWeaver 7.0, but I think the message will spread on the market when 7.3 will be generally available. It enables end-users to integrate and run structured and unstructured assets using a self-service approach. It is based on Flex, so basically it offers the kind of bottom-up approach combined with user friendliness, what made SharePoint successful.
  • Java 5 support.
    The fact that in 7.3 all Java-based products will run on the same Java application server means that CE and the Portal could be set up on the same box. It is excellent news for customers who would like to start small with CE, e.g. with BPM. As a side-effect, the NetWeaver Portal will be used more.

Portals generally can do so many different things: web-enable applications, document and content management, collaboration, mashups, workflows, search, dashboards, mail, calendar, etc. SAP is not going to try to be best in all areas, but rather focus on business processes and applications. On the other hand, thanks to the above improvements, I expect more SAP customers to use the NetWeaver Portal more extensively.

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  • Like your blog but i’m afraid the new release will be to late to regain it’s formal position as a true horizontal portal product. Even within it’s portfolio the role of the EP is not clear. Or as gartners states in it latest portal quadrant: “Clear succus NetWeaver Portal’s role has become obscured amid a growing array of user interaction technologies and approaches, including SAP GUI, the NetWeaver Business Client, Duet Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint and SAP, and enterprise collaboration efforts like StreamWork”
    Full report on
    • Hi Pim,

      Of course there are more access channels to consume SAP content, not only the Portal. The SAP GUI has been there before the portal, the Business Client is newer, but has very similar positioning as the SAP GUI. I don’t think they are dangers for the Portal, different user groups need the GUI than the Portal. Streamwork is an interesting one, I agree with you. How it will integrate with the SAP Portal is not clear to me, but again, Streamwork is not that far at all to compete with the Portal.


  • Tamas,

    Java 5: I remember a presentation where SAP stated that 7.3 will also run on Java 6. And in the same presentation SAP made it clear that CE is another product: NW 7.3 isn’t CE 7.3. Will NW 7.3 include all features from CE?

    EWS: This product is Flex based? Well, than I cannot use it. What made SharePoint successful is the integration with Office: Workspaces, lists, tasks, offline editing. The SharePoint protocol is released by Microsoft, but I never saw it mentioned in one of the 7.3 presentations I assisted.

    br, Tobias

  • Funny – it was really clear to me coming out of SAP Tech Ed ’09 that Portal had a strictly limited lifespan (it’s current format).

    Now, everything I have seen and heard since then indicates this is not really the case which leaves the area very grey to me.

    What we do know is that SAP are moving towards open standards,interoperability and Java is not a generally preferred development platform for the SAP community.

    SAP Portal still has some cards to play, sure. And the next release will bring along functionality that has been a long time in the pipeline so it will be interesting to see where the community takes it.

    Although for me, this doesn’t equate to a ‘strike back’.

  • Hi Tamas,

    Thanks for your blog.  One of the things you didn’t consider is the potential impact of the NWBC HTML client that is delivered with 7.02 .  I was shown this by a SAP pre-sales consultant, and it is effectively a replica of the NWBC delivered in HTML via the ABAP ICM.  I think there will be a proportion of SAP customers who will be happy with using just this and coupling with an existing Sharepoint installation (for instance) to provide collaboration capabilities, rather than installing a SAP Portal.  Don’t get me wrong … I am a fan of SAP NetWeaver Portal and have worked with it for years.  But SAP is sending mixed messages here or taking somewhat of a ‘scattergun’ approach to things.  Another example is the continued development of Business Objects InfoView to act as a portal for BO reports.  When we ask SAP whether we should place our BO reports in SAP Portal or in InfoView we get a response of ‘whichever we prefer’.  It feels like SAP is placing a bet on every horse it can find.