SAP and Microsoft try to reboot Duet

The new Duet Enterprise software connects Microsoft SharePoint 2010 with SAP's ERP applications, echoing a strategy first formed in 2005

SAP and Microsoft announced Tuesday what some observers see as a reboot of Duet, the strategy first formed by the companies in 2005 to tie SAP's ERP (enterprise resource planning) software with Microsoft Office.

Tuesday's news centered on the general availability of Duet Enterprise, software that connects Microsoft SharePoint 2010 with SAP's ERP applications. Duet Enterprise will be sold through a new joint partner program.

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Duet Enterprise provides tools and preconfigured content that helps speed up the development of composite applications for SAP and SharePoint, according to an SAP document. Other features include single sign-on, management and monitoring tools, and support for offline usage.

Customers can create "collaborative workspaces that present information from SAP applications to users of Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Office," the document adds. Duet Enterprise also enables workflow integrations, such as allowing users to handle approval requests from an SAP application from within Outlook or SharePoint.

While the new product has similar features to the existing Duet, it is built on SAP's new Project Gateway integration framework, which provides "easy and standards-based access to SAP applications," according to a statement.

The companies may be trying to relaunch the Duet concept, since the software is seen to have so far "landed with a thud," said Jon Reed, an independent analyst who closely tracks SAP. "It was over-hyped."

Duet Enterprise gives them a chance to "maybe build a success story around SharePoint," he added. "Many if not most SAP customers are going to have some level of SharePoint adoption. There's definitely some appeal there."

But customers will not wish to do large amounts of development, Reed said. "To me, that's the biggest question: To what extent can this be largely a plug-and-play solution?"

SAP and Microsoft have a better chance of success this time, said Ray Wang, CEO and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

When Duet was originally released, the SAP and Microsoft technologies underpinning it were immature, Wang said. "As a result it was difficult to deploy and expensive. It was a great idea though, given that most organizations live inside the Microsoft environment."

"Fast-forward, and what we have now is some significant advancements in SharePoint 2010, which really transform how people access SAP data," Wang added. "SAP has also made improvements in their UI and how they think about integrating with external sources."

Still, Duet Enterprise's success will rest on key factors such as cost. It was not clear Tuesday how the software will be priced or whether it will be less expensive to buy from one vendor or the other. "Duet Enterprise can be purchased from both Microsoft and SAP," an SAP spokeswoman said. "Each company has defined its own pricing for the product."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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