A vast majority of large enterprises have a heterogeneous solution stack with substantial investments in both SAP and Microsoft products. For those companies, the concept of surfacing SAP through the broadly deployed Microsoft UIs resonates very well. In that context, the initial release of Duet got many of these companies excited. However, it is fair to say that Duet 1.0 and 1.5 have never become the huge success that many had hoped for. After all, it was the first attempt to unite two completely different worlds, both technically and culturally.
The upcoming release of Duet Enterprise has the potential to change this. It is a complete revamp of the technical architecture from the ground up which has some significant improvements to previous versions of Duet. The focus has also shifted away from delivering specific vertical scenarios to providing a platform of base capabilities. The following three improvement areas will all contribute to a renewed interest in Duet Enterprise.
Rationalised architecture based on standard components
Currently, Duet is reliant on a proprietary Duet Server for handling the communication back to the SAP system. Apart from installing additional bits on the SAP NetWeaver Web Application Server, an additional server is required to host the Duet Server.
Duet Enterprise will no longer have an additional server component and will purely be based on the SAP NetWeaver stack and the SharePoint platform. With the Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint 2010, new and improved capabilities for accessing business data have been baked into the SharePoint platform itself, providing Duet Enterprise with what it needs to communicate with SAP.
Not only will no additional infrastructure be required, the ongoing maintenance will leverage the existing mechanisms of both NetWeaver and SharePoint for managing upgrades and other maintenance tasks. With a landscape of standard components, the total cost of ownership is significantly reduced.
No additional client footprint
Duet 1.5 requires comprehensive configuration of all end user PCs. The required client components include the client runtime, SQL Server Express, Visual Studio Tools for Office and Office 2003 Web Components. This is another contributor to a relatively high cost of ownership.
The majority of the functionality in Duet Enterprise will be accessible through SharePoint, only requiring a browser on the client side. In other words, Office is no longer a necessary prerequisite for deploying Duet Enterprise. It is only required to cover offline scenarios.
Thanks to the symmetric architecture of the SharePoint BCS on the client side in Office 2010, the optional offline capabilities for Duet Enterprise will ship as part of Office 2010 itself, effectively meaning that having Office installed is enough to enable the offline scenarios. Furthermore any custom code required by the clients is managed and deployed through SharePoint Server.
Foundation capabilities and tools
In the current version of Duet, the pre-canned scenarios cannot be customised or extended. In contrast, the emphasis in Duet Enterprise is on providing a foundation of core capabilities upon which organisations can build their own business scenarios as required. The technical interoperability is provided out-of-the-box and companies can concentrate on delivering the business functionality following the principles and guidelines of a supported framework and using the existing development tools in the respective technology stacks.
This is a very important improvement for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it allows organisations to build and customise solutions to meet their specific business requirements. Particularly in the big end of town, this is going to make Duet Enterprise vastly more attractive than its predecessors. Secondly, this foundation will provide an opportunity for partners to develop vertical solutions in specific industries. A healthy eco-system of partners will foster the ongoing innovation required to make the platform a success on the long term.