SAP is finally taking a decisive step in the B2B market through its partnership with Crossgate. The move has great potential, but success hinges on how quickly SAP can convince its users that it is really committed to B2B.
On 23 February 2010, Crossgate, a B2B integration service provider, announced that SAP will resell Crossgate's B2B functionality as an extension of SAP's application functionality under the name SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate.
SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate is a B2B gateway that allows companies to exchange purchase orders, forecasts, invoices, delivery notes and other documents electronically via their SAP applications. SAP currently sells and maintains this offering. Delivery is through a centralized canonical B2B repository and integration with SAP applications is currently available through direct Intermediate Document (IDoc)/Remote Function Call (RFC) application interfaces, in combination with SAP Process Integration as a middleware layer, and, in future solution road maps, via direct consumption of Enterprise Services. Deployment of the solution can be on-premises or in combination with Crossgate's B2B services offering (B2B 360), which is a managed service offering that Crossgate can deliver from its data center.
SAP is finally taking a decisive step in the B2B market with this move. It is doing so through a partner, but in its own name. The premise is simple: SAP clients represent a large part of today's economy, and each one is bound to have to trade with others. It promises a simplified approach to sharing information across trading partners without requiring separate B2B translators.
Although all SAP customers use IDoc, the heavy customization that is common with SAP deployments means that the output from SAP into the IDoc message is often unique to each instance, even though the structure is common. However, extending SAP ERP's functionality with a B2B service offering provides more value for SAP clients, and a more comprehensive and standardized way of running multienterprise processes with non-SAP clients.
This approach to partnering echoes Oracle's recent alliance with E2open to offer a B2B services in conjunction with Oracle's TMS (see "Oracle and E2open Deploy BPN to Simplify B2B for Global Transport Processes" ), but SAP's partnership with Crossgate is much deeper, and started two years ago. SAP's direct role as an investor in Crossgate and its direct reselling of the Crossgate solution is SAP's strongest ever commitment to a B2B services solution.
The idea is intrinsically very powerful and has great potential. But many SAP clients already have B2B infrastructure in place, and would need strong motivation to switch to a new one, even if SAP offers it directly. SAP must quickly rally its sales force to recognize the potential opportunity that exists within its installed base. Many customers are rethinking their B2B strategy on the heels of SAP consolidations or upgrades. Also, concerns about Crossgate's small size (compared to SAP) and the long-term viability of NetWeaver PI might affect SAP's attempts to execute its vision (see "SOALogix Acquisition Muddies the Waters on the Future of SAP NetWeaver PI" ).
SAP customers requiring B2B infrastructure: Examine the range of splits between B2B software and services that SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate provides, and assess how well it matches your B2B integration needs.
SAP customers already running non-SAP B2B infrastructure and non-SAP customers trading with SAP customers: Monitor the uptake of SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate among your trading partners. Continuously compare the running costs of your non-SAP B2B infrastructure with the potential costs of an alternative based on SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate.
SAP Customer using Seeburger adapters for B2B: Don't worry, as this announcement does not affect the current partnership between SAP and Seeburger. However, SAP Information Interchange by Crossgate seems to be the B2B offering that SAP will strategically bring forward for B2B.
"SAP Steps Into the Growing B2B Services Market Via Crossgate" — SAP has formalized and strengthened its alliance with Crossgate as it makes a decisive move into the B2B infrastructure market. By Paolo Malinverno
"Magic Quadrant for Integration Service Providers" — Expanding globalization, larger communities, e-invoicing, service-oriented architecture, more-sophisticated processes, cloud computing and improved service-level agreements are driving integration service providers to new levels of maturity. By Benoit Lheureux and Paolo Malinverno
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