I have been following SAP new generation architecture for quite sometime now. In addition to business reasons, I was following SAP on my personal interest as well purely because of SAP's architectural approach in their product roadmaps. After Vishal Sikka joined as the CTO of SAP, the technology strategies of several products have been articulated much more clearly than before.
SAP has acquired quite a lot of companies in the last few years. And in the process, it has also acquired handful of technologies and frameworks in its product lines. If you are an SAP customer leveraging their products in several portfolios, am sure you would be wondering what their technology strategy is!. They have ABAP, Microsoft .NET, Java, Business Objects, Sybase Mobile Technologies, NetWeaver Mobile, etc. Using these bunch of technologies, they were also trying to come up with their home-grown mult-tenant architecture to host their on-demand offerings. Now, if someone wants to integrate any of their edge (e.g. mobile) applications with their core ERP, they need to be really aware of the multitude of choices and make a suitable decision.
Sometime back, Vishal Sikka had mentioned that SAP is following a Pace Layering approach to their architecture. What is meant by Pace Layering?. Here is an excellent explanation by James Governor of Redmonk. If you are an IT architect, you don't want to miss this one. According to SAP, SAP will abstract its software into multiple horizontal layers, which will allow for the evolution of each layer at its own pace, while at the same time preserving consistency.
Of course, Customers wouldn't like to leave behind emerging technologies when it comes to 'edge' applications. At the same time, they wouldn't want their systems to be constantly disrupted to adapt to the accelerating pace of changes. So, the challenge is - How do they preserve consistency and adopt to new technologies?. And that's where SAP's Architecture comes in.
In the recently held, SAP summit, SAP has unvield the architecture strategy for their On-Demand solutions. According to the strategy, "SAP's OnDemand architecture will be standardized on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering that includes "Next Generation Core," based on the Business ByDesign architecture, and "Next Generation Edge," a lightweight platform that merges SAP's lighter weight SaaS technologies". And all these would get deployed on SAP's next generation application server SAP NetWeaver 8.0. And the picture depicted in the above mentioned SAP article is worth a mention. It portrays the division of responsibilities across the on-demand stack. Sure, SAP has a long way to go in delivering this architecture. But, I believe the vision would streamline the architecture and help in delivering superior products.
Am still trying to figure out what has changed from last year to this year, to incorporate Multi-tenant capability in new SAP's On-Demand offering. Has SAP acquired new companies/new products or home-grown capability that is on par with SalesForce.com's multi-tenant architecture?. Will keep you posted, if I find it something interesting. My last impression on SalesForce.com multi-tenant architecture was that it is highly Database centric and good for lightweight applications. I don't believe the same approach can be scaled to complex transactional applications.