What is SAP Netweaver?

SAP Netweaver is a tricky topic to explain to a newbie because of the inherent complexity involved. Enterprise solutions are complex as they have to accomplish innumerable tasks for the various business activities. To further complicate the matters (but to simplify for the business organizations), SAP Netweaver is not about one solution or technology but it's about the entire IT landscape of an enterprise!

SAP Netweaver arrived on the scene of the enterprise software solutions in 2004 with its first release named Netweaver 2004. During a previous decade or more, the IT infrastructure of the companies had become populated with various applications and technologies from many vendors. There were different solutions for different areas. One solution was better than the others in its respective area. One was good for ERP, the other was good for collaboration and the still other was good for business analytics and so on. So over a period of time, companies acquired host of such applications and the heterogeneity of IT systems and applications became an accepted fact of an enterprise IT landscape.

Consequently, different departments of a company had different applications (SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft, Lotus, Java, .NET, etc.) and these applications were developed on different platforms (from IBM, SAP, Sun, Oracle, Microsoft, etc.). The companies had invested a lot of money into building this IT infrastructure and they also had developed and acquired skill-set to manage this infrastructure.

This heterogeneous IT infrastructure of the companies had many problems.

Different applications store different versions of the same data e.g. the customer details in the ERP application may be different from the one in a CRM system or customer service as the data is maintained at different places.

The business processes span over organizational and technological boundaries. To consider one example, when the supplier has delivered the raw material to the company and has sent the invoice for payment, it needs to know the status of payment. The ERP solution may take care of the processes within the company like Goods Receipt at factory gates, inspection and quality control and entry of invoice by Accounts payable into the system but it stops at the boundary of the company. The companies need to maintain good relations with its suppliers and avoid penalty and legal action due to late payments. This process involves an important stakeholder - Supplier - who needs access to some application meant for them only. The application would update the payment status from the ERP system and if it's on a different platform, then costly interface has to be developed and maintained between the ERP system and such an application to manage this process.

Likewise there are numerous business scenarios which involve different applications and platforms and to carry out the process, the users need to access different systems at different points. And once these processes were setup by connecting the systems through interfaces, the overall system is inflexible. And, in case of any changes required in future arising from any changes at the level of connected applications or a new business requirement, it's costly affair to incorporate that change resulting in high maintenance cost. So the total cost of ownership (TCO) of such IT solutions is high.

The companies need to grow and be agile. They need to respond to the changing market conditions but the inflexible IT systems won't allow the processes to change quickly and therefore, hold back the business. Owing to huge investments in the IT systems, the IT departments of these companies are in constant pressure to give results and justify those investments.

SAP Netweaver promised to solve these problems. At least with the first release it offered a vision in this direction and in the past decade, it has come a long way since then fulfilling this vision to a great extent.

SAP Netweaver is the application and integration platform for the heterogeneous IT landscape of an enterprise. It is technological platform embracing open standards and web-technologies. SAP Netweaver offers a set of tools and technologies to make the existing (SAP and non-SAP) applications to work with each other and build new applications taking pieces (services) from the existing ones. It serves as the technical foundation for enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA).

SAP Netweaver allows the integration and alignment of people, information and business processes in the organization across business and technological boundaries. SAP depicts Netweaver in the below picture capturing its core capabilities:

SAP Netweaver
Source: SAP Netweaver by Key capability(help.sap.com)

The next article covers SAP Netweaver resources for more information and SAP resources.

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