A Brief History of SAP NetWeaver

With Sybase integration into SAP, I have met several of my colleagues who are not aware of the history behind  Netweaver.   And recently, googling led me to chapter in George Anderson’s “Teach Yourself SAP in 24 hours” in which he articulates the history of Netweaver in succint and lucid manner.  I have reproduced the content below (without George’s permission, hope he doesn’t mind) with the intent that this knowledge might interest the broader “sapanese” community.

A Brief History of SAP NetWeaver

Prior to the introduction of SAP NetWeaver in 2004, a large part of the SAP technology stack was synonymous with the SAP computing platform. We often referred to this stack simply as the SAP Basis layer. And despite seeming complex at the time, the stack was indeed simple by today’s standards. SAP supported a handful of operating systems and databases, all systems were built on Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP), and the systems could be extended a bit (to include tax bolt-ons, faxing systems, printing solutions, and the occasional other system or two) but were generally part of a somewhat isolated SAP-only landscape.

Today, we still use the term Basis, and it still conjures up images of a technology stack that needs to be administered, maintained, and monitored. But things are much different. Sure, system administration tasks such as performance monitoring, tuning, and security need to be performed. We need to monitor and support internal and external systems, make sure our email systems are connected, and so on. And we still need to manage the development repository of SAP’s ABAP programming language and database objects. However, the relative simplicity of the client/server era that gave birth to SAP R/3 is long gone, and the complexities of the post-client/server era are all around us. Basis has grown up and raised a family, but none of the offspring left for college or struck out on their own. And we’re faced with managing and maintaining the whole lot. A quick trip back to the crazy days of the late 1990s is in order.

Back to the Future

With the Internet boom of the 1990s, the demand for applications to adapt to the Web was vital, and SAP was particularly keen to get a jump in this area. As a result, SAP introduced its Web Application Server (WebAS). WebAS essentially extended the Basis technology stack to the Web by integrating SAP’s Internet Transaction Server (ITS), formerly a separate product, into SAP’s core technology stack. SAP then introduced SAP Java to provide a platform-independent model for web development, followed by connectivity and support for Microsoft .NET (consistent with the company’s vision to adopt open standards while providing customers with a choice of development options).

WebAS was SAP’s initial move to offer a standalone technology product that could be installed independently from the SAP business modules as either a traditional ABAP technology stack, as a Java technology stack, or as both. The goal was to separate the technical layer from the business layer so that companies could perform more modular upgrades rather than being forced to upgrade the technical and application stacks at the same time—a process that consumed a lot of time (including hard-to-arrange business application downtime) and money. This more componentized model paved the way for the release of SAP’s next wave of innovation: NetWeaver.

Introducing NetWeaver

In 2004, SAP introduced SAP NetWeaver and broadened the technology stack concept into a complete integration platform. Finally conceding to the idea that large-scale businesses ran more than just SAP, the idea was to simplify how SAP connected with other business systems and applications. The earliest NetWeaver foundation included WebAS ABAP and Java components. SAP’s mature Business Warehouse and Enterprise Portal products were tucked into NetWeaver, as well; the former enabled underlying reporting and basic business intelligence, whereas the latter extended the SAP user interface in a new way to the Web. A hub-and-spoke integration technology called Exchange Infrastructure (the precursor to today’s SAP NetWeaver Process Integration) allowed SAP and non-SAP systems to connect more easily. And SAP worked to develop and share a methodology around people, information, and processes to bring these first NetWeaver components together.

As each Business Suite component was updated, SAP took the opportunity to NetWeaver-enable them, In this way, SAP R/3 Enterprise eventually morphed into SAP ERP Central Component (ECC). Applications like SAP SRM soon followed, while brand new components like SAP Product Lifestyle Management (PLM) benefited developmentally from a clean slate. Other SAP NetWeaver products followed and through valuable additions to SAP’s application portfolio, quickly complicated what was once a fairly crisp vision.

The SAP NetWeaver Umbrella: Six Areas

SAP NetWeaver provides the foundation for Business Suite. But many specific products fall under the label of NetWeaver, too. The NetWeaver umbrella has become so crowded in the past few years that SAP finally organized this portfolio of applications, utilities, and tools around six areas (sometimes called domains or themes):

  • Foundation management
  • Middleware
  • Information management
  • Team productivity
  • Composition
  • Business process management
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