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SAP reaches out to Java developers

Austin Sincock is the author of Enterprise Java for SAP and a strong proponent for the development and use of Enterprise Java in SAP environments. A SearchSAP.com site expert, Sincock works as a consultant to global companies such as Kraft Foods and DirecTV. He spoke with SearchSAP.com about SAP's NetWeaver Developer Studio, the company's new platform for the development of Java-based business applications, and the SAP Developer Network, a new online community for SAP developers.

How does Web Dynpro tie into the new NetWeaver Developer Studio? It appears that the NetWeaver Developer Studio...

will be the development environment for Web Dynpro. That's an important shift from last year, when SAP was talking about Web Dynpro as a product that would stand on its own. Now they're integrating it into an open-source environment. This is speculation on my part, but SAP could be waiting for WAS 6.30 to become generally available before they release the NetWeaver Developer Studio. This will create a more cohesive development framework, rather than a bits-and-pieces approach. What is Web Dynpro, and what's its status? Web Dynpro is actually modeled on another open-source tool set called Struts. SAP used Struts in earlier products. They built Web Dynpro on the Struts model-view-controller (MVC) pattern approach. SAP plans to ship Web Dynpro with the release of the SAP Web Application Server (WAS) 6.30. But you can get a head start on Web Dynpro by downloading the free beta of WAS 6.30 Developer Edition today. Which Java/SAP tools should SAP clients use more often? The most important one is probably the Java Connectivity Builder (JCB). It has a browsing tool with graphics, for BAPIs and RFC interfaces. You can also generate Java proxy classes that are easier to use than the SAP Java Connector (JCo) classes.

Last but not least, JCB is not tied to a specific release of the application server. One of the reasons it is so underused is that it's hard to find. It was released with the SAP 6.20 J2EE Server Engine. Most developers can get this tool, but you have to get it on CD from the SAP 6.20 J2EE Full Edition. SAP released two versions, and you need to get your hands on the full edition. What are the main trends in the Java/SAP development space these days?
The biggest new thing is the NetWeaver Developer Studio, which is an extension of the open-source Eclipse development tool. From what I've seen, it looks like SAP is trying to create a more visual development environment, rather than force Java developers to get down and dirty, into the code itself.

SAP also is putting together an SAP Developer Network (an online community) that just went into beta and should go live sometime in September. I think SAP is looking to better support its developer network. Enterprise Java seems to be the platform of choice for SAP, but they're also looking at larger issues, such as integration and .NET connectivity. The SAP Developer Network is definitely something to watch going forward. What's a common misconception about Java that SAP users have?
A lot of people assume that Java is only good for building front-end applications. SAP has put an emphasis on Java as a user-interface tool, which may have skewed the perception of Java. In reality, enterprise Java tools like JCo and JCB are really good for providing middleware integration.

If you have a customized database that you need to tap into SAP or vice versa, you can do this very easily using Java and JCo.


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What can you tell me about the new SAP Java Resource Adapter (JRA)?
About two years ago, the Java Community Process (JCP), a Java technology spec community, introduced the concept of Java Connector Architecture (JCA). The idea was to enable developers to take a JCA-compliant connector and plug it into a common development environment. This creates a kind of common developer interface, regardless of which back-end vendor is being used. At the time, SAP had JCo, which was not JCA compliant. To remedy this, they modified JCo to make it JCA compliant. That's how they came up with JRA. One caveat: The current version of JRA is a beta and doesn't support things like connection pooling and the features you really need to build enterprise-scale applications.

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