SAP Portals Partners with IBM - So What
The Financial Times reported yesterday that SAP and IBM
were on the verge of announcing an exclusive partnership for e-commerce
applications. For IBM, SAP would be the preferred provider, and
IBM would resell SAP software, taking part of the revenue.
Well, this was a shocker. The reputable Financial Times announcing
something as likely as the sun rising in the West.
We dont want to speculate on motives, but neither SAP nor
IBM were in any hurry to deny or to clarify, even though a simple
clarification was available. It is not SAP as a whole; it is not
all e-commerce applications. It is SAP Portals (formerly known as
TopTier), and it is the SAP Portal application (aka TopTier, mySAP.com
Workplace, or Baan Navigator) that will be resold.
Now this is about as shocking as the sun rising on time. The SAP
plan was always to make TopTier an independent subsidiary, with
founder Shai Agassi at the head. Shais job is to spearhead
negotiations with TopTier partners. TopTier needs partners, after
Remember, TopTier is essentially a desktop integration toola
portal that allows integrated access to multiple corporate applications.
It is in TopTiers interest to negotiate as many partnerships
with integrators and with application vendors as possible, just
as it is in WebMethods interest or Tibcos or any other
EAI vendors. An announcement that TopTier is doing exactly
whats clearly in its interest shouldnt shake anybody
Whats in it for IBM? There seem to be two broad possibilities.
- Installation of TopTier can require a lot of integration services,
plus more than a little software. IBM is well-positioned to provide
these. With sales of TopTierexcuse me, mySAP.com Workplacefar
exceeding even the rosiest estimates, there is no reason for IBM
to avoid scooping up a good share of the dough.
- If IBM sees the same market opportunities that I described in
Private Portals, they will act as a VAR and sell customized versions
of TopTier designed to manage specific kinds of B2B relationships.
The announcement reminds me of the IBM-Ariba-i2 deal, for two reasons.
First, Ariba and i2 had products that didnt go in without
serious services/integration work, so they needed integration services
partners who could market. So does TopTier. Second, people thought
the i2-Ariba deal was much more important than it really was.
If Im right, expect other, similar announcements of partnerships
between SAP Portals and other vendorshardware or services
or both. SAP Portals is a good product in a market (the portal market)
that is shifting its way. It needs partnerships and it will find
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