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SAP Business ByDesign Software Technology Review

 

Software Tools & Technology Review

Business ByDesign is a browser-based cloud solution developed on a multi-tenant architecture and leveraging Microsoft's Silverlight user interface presentation technology. The SaaS ERP system is updated with enhancements and new releases semi-annually. Similar to Microsoft products, where service packs are issued for updates and enhancements, SAP has an enhancement release pack that includes community-driven enhancements, additional feature sets, and improved business process support such as a procure-to-pay option with integration to the SAP Business Suite—a workable solution for processing and automating payments between head-office and satellite offices or subsidiary transfers and billings.

On-Demand Platform as a Service

SAPs on-demand Platform as a Service (PaaS) consists of what the company calls the "Next Generation Core" (based on the Business ByDesign architecture) and "Next Generation Edge" (a lightweight platform that merges SAP's SaaS technologies River (a cloud development framework to connect SAP on-premise systems to cloud apps via a Gateway) and Oxygen (the environment in which StreamWork was developed)). In a more practical sense, Core PaaS services tend to support transactional processing or business processes while Edge PaaS services tend to be lighter-weight and support purpose-based utilities or point solutions. Or from an SAP product perspective, ByDesign and the Line of Business apps leverage the Core while utility programs such as Carbon Impact stem from the Edge.

The Core and Edge extension platform capabilities are also built upon NetWeaver—the same software technology as used with SAP's on-premise systems—and considered the primary service-oriented architecture (SOA) and integration platform. NetWeaver provides the framework for runtime custom development and integration with other applications and systems. NetWeaver was built using ABAP (SAP's proprietary programming language) and other tools.

The PaaS strategy and underlying technologies are intended to support multiple cloud infrastructure options such as the SAP cloud, a private cloud, or a public cloud such as Amazon's EC2. However, at this time not all cloud delivery options are available for each SAP on-demand product (i.e. Business ByDesign is only available on the SAP cloud).

SAPs on-demand PaaS delivers a unified technology stack with a multi-tenancy architecture, standardized UI and integration to SAP Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) components such as the HANA in-memory computing. The on-demand PaaS permits partner developers and ISVs to build new on-demand transactional and other cloud applications as well as lightweight application extensions to existing on premise (e.g. SAP BusinessSuite, B1) products.

The PaaS UI was built with Microsoft's Silverlight technology, but does not leverage much of the feature-rich and interactive presentation capabilities. This may actually turn out to be a positive thing if Microsoft ends up sun setting Silverlight—a very likely event in our opinion. ByDesign Studio-based add-ons can use web services to access the ABAP-OO-based ByDesign cloud system and leverage ByDesign's Silverlight UI.

System Integration Capabilities

SAP uses open standards for integration, such as allowing C, C++, and Java EE, to facilitate system integration to J2E Server, Microsoft .NET, and IBM WebSphere, all of which are compatible for integration purposes. Since ByDesign is also developed with NetWeaver, many of the integration capabilities are similar to the on-premise versions. The NetWeaver SOA acts as the integration point and as the application programming interface (API) to consume services or connect other applications.

The web interface, cloud delivery model, web services, and SOAP provide integration methods to ByDesign. SAP also certifies its integration partners to verify their industry as well as technical and functional expertise. However, there are few certified Business ByDesign partners at this point, and industry add-ons that are compatible with the on-premise version may or may not be compatible with the SaaS ERP product.

Since most organizations already use Microsoft products, such as SQL Server, Office, and SharePoint, SAP and Microsoft have partnered to deliver two-way integration to leverage the collaboration aspects of SharePoint and Office desktop applications. Duet Enterprise delivers interoperability, building blocks, templates, and tools for developers and IT professionals to build and extend solutions for end users. For IBM users who use the DB2 database and Lotus Notes, another integration solution, named Alloy, is available.

Additionally, SAP has partnered with Google to deliver packaged integration to Google Apps, as well as support for platforms to integrate the Google Android mobile OS and Google App Engine. Programmers will be able to use the App Engine to build applications and integrate them into ByDesign, providing a broader ecosystem to productivity related applications. This integration is not yet available, but expected in the later half of 2012.

Although SAP has several major hardware and software partners (HP, IBM, and Fujitsu, to name a few) that sell appliances with both hardware, applications, and databases, turnkey systems are not necessary with the SaaS option, as the web interface provides the UI, and delivery is handled through the cloud.

Software Customization Capabilities

With ByDesign's newest release, development tools play an important part of system extensibility. The ByDesign SDK (software development kit) is object oriented, Visual Studio-like, based on .NET C#, and uses Silverlight—and ABAP is not a prerequisite.

Beyond the ByDesign Studio SDK, development tools for SAP include the following: 1) ABAP Workbench, 2) NetWeaver Development Studio (NWDS)—an IDE for most of the Java portion of SAP technology, mainly building business web applications but also creating SAP Enterprise Portal projects and SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, 3) NetWeaver Development Infrastructure (NWDI), 4) Visual Composer—SAP's graphical software modelling tool, a web-based application that permits business process experts and developers to create business application components, without coding, 5) SAP Enterprise Portal Content Studio, and 6) SAP Composite Application Framework—a platform for designing and using composite applications. These tools include SOAP and web services capabilities to ease development woes.

Certified business partners have integration and customization experience to facilitate changes to the ERP software. The SAP partner network also plays an important part in the expert communities. These are forums where partners, corporations, ISVs, developers, analysts and others share ideas and resources to further SAP collaboration. Many of the partners and SAP itself have developed add-ons that extend base functionality or that can be configured to specific organizational requirements.

Many customization options are available for SAP through its own add-on modules or solutions created by partners for unique requirements or industry-specific feature sets. These customizations can be accessed through the SAP Store and partner network. For example, some of the customizations and add-ons available are spreadsheet server, self-service BI, wood/lumber/furniture customization, collaboration and project management applications, email marketing, social customizations (including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook), manufacturing rough cut capacity and cross-plant planning, extended compliant manufacturing integration and pharmaceutical add-on (ECMI), voice picking capabilities, food/beverage, recipe management, ETO, MTO, project management, shop floor data collection, and additional resource scheduling.

Platform changes are also possible. Customers that run IBM applications with a DB2 database can switch to ByDesign's DB2 database. Through a software optimization offered from IBM—IBM DB2—SAP migrates users to allow them use of a DB2 database with Business ByDesign.

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