Earlier this year at its Sapphire conference in Orlando, SAP announced it would embrace collaboration and adopt more open business strategies.
SAP chief executive Hasso Plattner made it clear these were more than empty words in his keynote address at SAP TechEd 2001 in Los Angeles Tuesday.
ABAP, the proprietary language of SAP, is no longer the one and only option for developers. Platter proclaimed Java an "honorable member of the suite of program languages that we use". This means that there will be a common foundation for MySAP components, where programs written in Java can be called by ABAP, and vice versa.
The new deal comes in the form of a new Web Application Server and a promise of a radically new philosophy of openness and flexibility. The new key words are "open standard" and "technical interoperability."
This will enable collaboration beyond business boundaries by integrating applications and Web services in one common Web infrastructure, promising a host of benefits for developers and users alike. Lower cost of development, individualized front-ends and no risk of conflicts between Java and ABAP developers are just a few of the advantages SAP predicts as a result of the move.
"The portal is designed in a way that is totally agnostic to the underlying application services," Plattner said. He said Siebel or any other customer relationship management system is as much a customer as the mySAP CRM system.
This could have a big impact on the legions of ABAP and Java developers around the world. Among other things, the move will prolong the life cycle of ABAP. This is important to customers, who have invested billions in ABAP solutions, as well as SAP themselves who have an estimated 10 billion dollars stake in ABAP assets in mySAP.com.
Plattner also responded to previous reports suggesting SAP's new marriage with Java 2 Enterprise Edition leaves Microsoft's .Net out in the cold. He forcefully reasserted that SAP is not turning its back on .Net in any way, and instead promised tighter integration with Microsoft Office solutions in the future.
Another trend that carried over from Sapphire was SAP's newfound humbleness. Plattner admitted that SAP has been less than responsive to customer needs in the past.
"We simply ignored what didn't fit into the R/3 egg," he said.
Part of the reason was the dotcom pressure, where the focus was more on the Internet than the customers. But, he promised, this is changing. Going forward, the goals are to meet customers' needs, to make it easier to connect different computer systems, and reduce cost of ownership for the users, he said. He also promised to improve the quality of white papers to help customers and developers better understand what is going on.
Shai Agassi, chief executive officer of SAP Portals, sang the praises of portals as a key technology concept of the future. He listed benefits such as increased productivity, the unification of massive amounts of information, and increased flexibility, using newly released SAP Portals 5.0 as an example. Plattner said that portal technology is superior and portals will continue to pick up speed in the market in the future.
The attendees said they were positive about SAP's new openness gospel, but not doing cartwheels.
Lawrence Gamble from DLA, was involved in a major project at his company that would need some reviewing in light of the new SAP announcement. He said he was enthusiastic but cautious about the new ABAP/J2EE-marriage.
"It better work," he said.
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