An SAP employee has developed Scripting in a Box, which packages a full open source scripting environment onto a computer desktop or USB stick. Through a single script file, a development environment is automatically configured on a drive of a developer's choice. Preloaded sample applications inside the package are ready to connect to SAP back-end systems through a login screen.
"It shows how easily it is to connect to systems and make calls and modifications on the fly," said Craig Cmehil, who developed the free product. "Refresh the page and they can have the customized changes right then and there."
The environment supports Perl, PHP, and Python and Ruby and support for Ruby on Rails will be released as early as this week in version 1.0, Cmehil said. The package includes development tools, including MySQL open source database and Apache open source server, as well as the SAP RFC library, Perl, and Python SAP connectors.
Cmehil, who serves as an SAP evangelist at the SAP Developer Network, said that scripting is being used mainly by firms that are running a Web server with a PHP or Perl engine. Companies that don't have the resources to purchase SAP Portal also can choose scripting as an alternative, he said.
"It doesn't make sense for a company to tell its Java guys that they have to learn the scripting language," Cmehil said. "I hope Scripting in a Box will give the option to a company that is sitting there with five ABAP developers and they have a PHP or Perl based intranet set up and they want to start putting data from SAP into it."
Scripts are typically used to program graphical interfaces, but developers also use them to write programs. For example, a simple address book within an SAP application or a customer based application can be written in one of the scripting languages to reduce the size of the footprint.
"If a company is running a NetWeaver installation, you can use Web services with these languages as well," Cmehil said.
Prior to Scripting in a Box, developers had to install a connector to connect to the SAP component they wanted to work with a scripting language. Scripting languages are usually shorter and take up less space, Cmehil said. For example, a program written in Java could take 100 lines of code, but if it was written in PHP or another open source language it would likely be about 20 lines of code, he said.
Cmehil said he has been working to build out the scripting language community on the SAP Developer Network. Many developers have been calling for a package to make demonstrations to company managers about how the company can use PHP to create applications that integrate with SAP, he said.
"Often the initial conversation with a manager involved saying the cost benefits of scripting are there but in order to go with a project, you've got to get a number of different pieces," Cmehil said. "It was just far too complicated. A lot of people were having a problem getting the proper versions together"
The scripting community has been growing, Cmehil said. A recent survey shows that out of 37 million domains, 9 million had PHP installed. While most SAP developers are experienced in ABAP and Java, a growing number are learning PHP and other languages, he said.
"With Scripting in a Box, the SAP guy can unpack it to his drive and the PHP guy can unpack it to his drive and they both can try it out for themselves," Cmehil said. "It's an easy way for people in two different worlds to see the same thing together in the same environment."