There has been a lot of buzz around SAP's composite applications, xApps, lately. SAP claims big marketing success with 800+ customers, 100+ showcases and 80+ references to sing xApps' praises since its introduction in late 2002. As we enter the "second generation" of xApps, with Duet functionality, Project Argo and hundreds of new xApps on the horizon, we decided to check in with veteran SAP guru Josh Greenbaum to take stock of where we are and what we can expect from xApps in the years ahead.
SearchSAP.com: Is it still too early for xApps?
Josh Greenbaum: No, in fact there a number of them being deployed by a large number of customers. XRPM and XMII are two good examples that I know of. The use cases are customer-specific — meaning that there isn't an xApp for every customer. But there are definitely reasons to be deploying xApps today.
S: What will it take before composite applications become truly mainstream?
JG: They already are, insofar as there are lots of composites out there. Composites based on NetWeaver — particularly those developed in-house — will become mainstream once NetWeaver is deployed at a critical mass of customers and those customers understand the developmenent requirements for composites. I think critical mass will come in the next three to five years, possibly sooner, if the upgrade rate increases.
S: Is SAP doing enough to foster xApp development?
JG: Yes, and it's important that SAP not force-feed xApps on its customers. The use case has been built on real ROI, not a cool-technology justification. There are lots of mini-xApps on the way, and lots of partners who will be deployed to push these new xApps into the market. This eco-system approach is the right way, and it will yield the necessary results in due time.
S: Do you think ISVs will take an interest in xApps for the NetWeaver platform?
JG: Absolutely, now that the partnership and eco-system models have been well-defined and there are good examples of successful deployments in a number of industries.
S: Has SAP done a good job educating the user base about xApps?
JG: Is there anything they could do better? I think they need to keep pushing the concept, there are still customers who don't understand these applications' role or their relationship to SAP's ESA strategy. But in general, this education process doesn't happen overnight, nor should it.
S: SAP said they're gunning for 100+ analytics, 50+ personal productivity and 30+ mobile xApps in the year ahead. Do you think this is the right direction for SAP? Should they consider other areas that may benefit from xApp technology?
JG: This is a good start, a very good start. More specifically, I think a key direction will be towards fulfilling vertical industry requirements, and a number of the analytical xApps will fit the bill. When it comes to industry-specific xApps, there can't be too many xApps out there.