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Sapphire '02: A closer look at SAP's J2EE strategy

ORLANDO, Fla. -- SAP's new technology platform, SAP Web Application Server, supports SAP in its own ABAP environment and SAP in a J2EE environment. Users will be able to develop unique Java applications and Web services, as well as provide connectivity to third parties such as Microsoft .NET and IBM's WebSphere.

Byron Miller is an ERP analyst with Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass. Miller studies strategy and technology at SAP, Oracle and J.D. Edwards. At Sapphire '02 he spoke with SearchSAP news editor Ellen O'Brien about SAP's commitment to J2EE and what it means for SAP and other ERP vendors.

Won't SAP's pro-Java stance influence other ERP companies? I would think it certainly will. Now, if Larry Ellison...

stood up and said: 'Bill, you need to be more Java-centric,' how do you think the world would react? It would just be like 'Yeah, what else is new?' This is different. It shows the message is not exclusive. Is this a war? I don't think it's a war. It's a philosophical issue. To me, going with Java is no more a statement against Microsoft than it is a statement against any philosophy that wants to have an absolutely environment-centric development. It's a philosophical positioning; it's a marketing position. Is it what SAP subscribed to? At least ever since there's been R/3. Why is the great divide -- between .NET and Java users -- so important from a SAP perspective? The big issue is that SAP wants to maintain its database and operating system independence. The only environment that they can do that in, at the moment, is the Java environment. Otherwise, it would take one of two things happening -- either fully developing .NET for other environments, or fully allowing Java environments to be part of the .NET environment -- or Windows directly. How did SAP arrive at this Java-centric point? There's been a huge move toward the Java applications space as the space to build Internet apps. When you are SAP, and you are thinking 'Where should I should put my money for an Internet environment? Should I go more toward ABAP, or should I heads more toward an open-field technology?' The answer, I think, is pretty simple. If you say 'Gee, I want to have something where there is a lot of talent, where there is a good deal of momentum, where I won't be accused of having run off and reinvented the thing on my own again, and I want something that can be portable against multiple platforms.' Then you end up being on Java. Should .NET users worry they are being abandoned? I don't think they should feel abandoned because SAP has not given any indications that they would like to abandon the people who want to run on .NET. Should they be concerned? That really depends on your view of Microsoft and whether you want your whole world to be Microsoft-centric. You have to realize that the only people out there supporting you are from Microsoft. So if Microsoft goes down the tubes, or gets split up, or diminished in character, there is no second hosting company that is saying 'We are going to build Bill's stuff.' Bill isn't even saying that he wants anyone to do that. So the only concern is whether Microsoft is going to be there forever, and is going to be able to support the environment they are building. Is it a real competition? Quite frankly, at this point, I don't think that the Microsoft can support the very largest, high-end SAP systems. I don't think there is anyone in the world, right now, today, who would run one of these 50,000-user programs on .NET or Windows. It has yet to prove to have the same stability as the Unix environment. What did you think of Plattner's message to Microsoft in his opening keynote when he said "Mr. Gates, tear down that wall." That was an interesting message because it says: 'Bill, where in the world are you going with this exclusivity thing?' But I don't think it's a new message. I don't think it's a new message from SAP. I don't think it's a new message for a lot of people in the world. I know of other ERP companies that are trying to figure out 'Do we go Java, or do we go .NET?' Or, are they going to have two different flavors? Just because it can be heard coming loud and clear from SAP, doesn't mean it's a new message, or a new Holy War. How should users view the SAP/Java relationship? SAP is staying on its multiple open-platform case using Java. It's not staying on a Java course. There's a difference. For the time being, staying on its open platform source, does means staying on a Java course.

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