SAP Labs are role models for globally distributed development organizations, contributing effectively to the goals of SAP’s business units. Bridging the gap between local market demands and SAP’s development organization, SAP Labs set standards for excellence in innovation, efficiency, and reliability. They are recognized centers of local talent and expertise, establishing a strong foundation for SAP development in the future.
As innovation management is a strategic responsibility across the SAP development organizations, various approaches have been established. SAP Labs allow R&D centers to be established where innovative talents or environments exist.
SAP Corporate Research: Sourcing innovative technology
SAP Corporate Research for example is a dedicated global organization that makes use of SAP Labs and other locations of innovation to acquire access to the most innovative technologies. To do so, SAP Corporate Research follows a multi-step business process: To identify which technology has the potential to be accepted by the market, SAP Corporate Research has to be in constant dialogue with a variety of organizations, primarily universities and other non-profit research organizations.
SAP Corporate Research has established a significant network spanning Europe, Africa, Australia, and America to collaborate with world class researchers on how to apply their research in a business scenario identified by SAP. Here, SAP researchers are working hand in hand with members of world renowned institutes such as Stanford University, MIT, ETH Zürich, Insead, TU Darmstadt, or TU Dresden on joint projects. The outcome of these projects will be provided both to SAP’s global development organization and to customers and partners, where appropriate.
Modern corporations seldom have all the technological elements to address an emerging market. Waiting until all elements have been developed usually presents the corporation with a very crowded market place. The approach of SAP Corporate Research is to realize its own strengths, realize the strengths of potential partners and jointly be the first to develop the kind of applications that can profitably dominate the market. Last year SAP Corporate Research partnered with IBM to rapidly deliver SAP’s Learning Management System to a worldwide market. One current thrust is a partnership with Nokia Corporation to provide a superior Pervasive Computing solution.
SAP Corporate Research also works together with the infrastructure experts of SAP’s Global Partner Program to evaluate upcoming technologies in terms of their usability in landscape environments of mySAP Business Suite solutions. One current topic in this program is the implementation of Service Virtualization and Data Virtualization in a combined Blade-Server and clustered NAS filer environment.
Prototyping new solutions
After the technology has been identified, it has to be applied to a business scenario or an application. One example is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. As RFID wireless devices and enterprise assets evolve from being single, isolated objects to distributed Auto-ID systems, enterprise software will have to become distributed systems as well. Entire enterprise software solutions will evolve from software systems that assume where products are and provide delayed instructions on what to do with them to systems that are told what to do by the products themselves in real-time.
SAP Corporate Research, in collaboration with several product groups and industry-oriented development teams, is currently developing a Smart Items Identification (Auto-ID) Infrastructure, called SII, as part of its Items research program. SII will enable businesses to manage and communicate Auto-ID data in a transactionally-relevant format across the value chain. SAP is currently executing prototype versions of this infrastructure with Procter & Gamble and Metro AG. The SAP Auto-ID team is also collaborating with several academic organizations and consortia. These include the Auto-ID Center, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Rutgers University, the Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum, the M-Lab, and the World Internet Center.
SAP Corporate Research, in collaboration with SAP Global Marketing, has also recently established an RFID Customer Influence Council, which includes Gillette, Metro AG, Nestlé, Osram, P&G, Philip Morris, Unilever and the US Department of Defense. Working with visionary customers, consortia and partners is critical to the entire innovation cycle, from understanding customer problems and developing industry standards to piloting and developing solutions.
Transferring technology and skills
Transferring ideas from research into commercial products is, of course, one of the key goals of any corporate research organization. Effective transfer can only happen when there is trust and cooperation on both sides. With the Smart Item Infrastructure project at Palo Alto, SAP Corporate Research began by not only building and understanding technology but also working with customers and understanding the market demand. From the beginning SAP Corporate Research worked in tandem with product marketing groups and senior members of the product leadership.
As the technology and the opportunity became more real, SAP Corporate Research started working with potential product managers and engineering leaders for SAP’s Warehouse Management products. After spending many hours of mutual discussion, a joint project plan was developed for incorporating RFID Java technology from research with the existing Warehouse Management and Task Resource Management products. This proposal was taken forward by the product group and approved. Strong cooperation has been built between two very different and geographically distant teams.
Trusted innovator and other services
With the recent start of the 6th European research program, SAP Corporate Research is again increasing its footprint as a strong player in European research. A large number of research projects are currently in preparation that cover all SAP Corporate Research programs. With its strong commitment in publicly funded European research, SAP Corporate Research will:
- influence the overall European R&D agenda (worth EUR 4 billion) to help execute the SAP strategy in the long term
- conduct collaborative research with a number of SAP’s customers to address upcoming challenges
- acquire additional financing
SAP Corporate Research subsequently targets the provision of research and technology to product groups that incorporate additional contributions coordinated from world-class external research organizations. An important step in determining the required capabilities of new SAP products is the product definition cycle. Stakeholders form task forces to define and discuss product requirements. The role of SAP Corporate Research in this process is three-fold: First, the organization contributes to state-of-the art analysis in the field that the new products are related to. Here, SAP Corporate Research illuminates the problem space and identifies whether solutions already exist. Second, SAP Corporate Research relates stakeholder contributions, trying to identify requirement contradictions and gaps. Third, SAP Corporate Research innovates through research, conducts feasibility studies and prototyping, and therefore contributes to solution paths, illustrates potential future look-and-feel, and accelerates the learning curve for product development.
SAP Labs: At the frontline of innovation
SAP Labs are based in locations where leading edge technology is researched, developed and brought forward to become attractive solutions. This is the ideal environment in which SAP Corporate Research can profit and synergize.
The Integration Platform Team of the Sophia-Antipolis SAP Labs in France has created different solutions and technologies to define and manage elements of a portal application in the following areas:
- Portal runtime technology (PRT): The PRT provides an API, a runtime and a development model to define, build, and execute applications in a portal environment. From the PRT perspective, a portal environment is a website that serves as a starting point for information, services and applications on the Internet or the Intranet.
- Portal application development tool (PAR tool): The PAR tool is an IDE extension available for Eclipse (SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) 6.0, 5.0) and JBuilder (SAP EP 5.0) allowing the development and packaging of a portal application.
- Configuration framework (CF): The CF is a set of technologies including a Java framework and a runtime architecture that is used to define, load and manage configuration elements of an application. The CF solution supports any kind of Java application. In the SAP EP platform, the CF is delivered as a core service and offers configuration management support for portal applications.
SAP Labs France is also home to SAP’s UDDI development team. UDDI is open standard technology for finding Web services. In addition to product development, the team also operates SAP’s server node in the public UDDI Business Registry. SAP, together with IBM, Microsoft, and NTT, operates the public UDDI Business Registry to provide vital infrastructure, free of charge, to the worldwide community of Web service users. This UDDI is a vital element within the context of xApps composite applications and Web services.