At the 15 March press and analyst Q&A by SAP co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott, new middleware boss Vishal Sikka shed more light on the company's intentions for NetWeaver. Many of SAP's business applications customers use NetWeaver, both as a foundation for SAP's applications and to extend those applications using integration, portals, and custom developed apps. For about a year, the question has been how much additional investment SAP will put into NetWeaver.

Sikka made two comments that indicate how he's thinking about the NetWeaver portfolio.

1. In response to my question about whether SAP is concerned that Oracle's ownership of Java will put it at a disadvantage, Sikka started by highlighting SAP's work on Java performance, but then noted the availability of good open-source Java software to support the requirements of SAP customers.

What it means: I think Sikka was signalling SAP's willingness to rely on other vendors for the Java runtimes it needs for some of its solutions. By extension, SAP's own Java application server will be less important to the company's mission. Open source would be a way for SAP to obtain Java server software without having to build it itself and if necessary, avoid an unwanted dependence on Oracle for core technology. I view Sikka's posture as realistic, as SAP's own Java application server has a small market presence. A key question is how SAP would introduce third-party Java products to its customers without disrupting today's systems.

2. Sikka played up the significance of the new in-memory database included in the company's upcoming Business ByDesign on-demand enterprise software. Most of what I know about this in-memory architecture comes from the statements and writings of SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner. But SAP's Sikka and Hagemann Snabe both highlighted the technology as a) crucial to SAP's future competitiveness and b) evidence SAP has begun innovating again.

What it means: As SAP looks to the future for new middleware opportunities, expect a big push on in-memory execution technologies. For SAP's business solutions, in-memory databases promise to eliminate the need for separate transaction-processing and reporting systems. But will SAP also provide code execution, event processing, session management, parallel service processing, and other in-memory patterns as well? And will SAP expose its in-memory technology to developers for customization of its business applications and/or custom applications? We'll see at Sapphire. Stay tuned.

What do you think?