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IBM adds shortcut to SAP NetWeaver

SAP has moved in recent years to improve the flexibility of its integration architecture. Its most recent step was to launch the NetWeaver integration platform infrastructure, which seeks to apply XML and Web services standards to the problem of connecting SAP's applications with those of other software companies. NetWeaver also includes business intelligence software and a corporate Web portal.

Other enterprise software giants are not giving up their integration programs in the face of SAP's Web services. They are just updating these efforts to run with the new NetWeaver platform.

For its part, IBM has started to provide interoperability with SAP's NetWeaver '04 integration platform infrastructure through a software component within its WebSphere Business Integration suite. IBM WebSphere Business Integration Adapter for SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (NetWeaver XI) will help organizations to integrate application infrastructures based on NetWeaver with WebSphere integration solutions.

Potential customers for the adapter include the "over 8,000 joint customers that IBM and SAP share, covering 10,000 sites," said Scott Cosby, program director, WebSphere Business Integration at IBM.

Adapters such as these are popular products. "They allow customers to focus on the more important parts of doing integration rather than the nitty-gritty of how a certain application works," said Cosby. The new component allows customers to connect their existing WebSphere message and process brokers and WebSphere Application Server with the NetWeaver infrastructure so that applications can send and receive business data and events, such as XML messages, asynchronously.

The adapter, added Cosby, is well defined to work with SAP applications, offering "pre-built, pre-tested connectivity capabilities with NetWeaver" through the SAP API.

Like Web services, the adapter makes it easier for different applications to talk to each other. "In theory, [Web services and integration adapters] play in the same space," said Cosby. "You could do interactions such as these via Web services, XML or straight HTTP. But then you, as the customer, would have to figure out how they connect, what security is needed, go about trying to test it and then go into production. You'd be spending more time doing the integration of Web services and XML."

With the adapter, said Cosby, "we're taking the pain out of doing all the connectivity by putting it in one place."

The IBM Business Integration Adapter is sold as a standalone product, and is available only through IBM and its business partners. "SAP wouldn't make a similar kind of adapter," said Cosby. "They have an API that they've exposed, and we're just taking advantage of that."

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