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.