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ABAP or Basis for a mainframe programmer

The pros and cons of ABAP over Basis.

I'm a mainframe programmer with about two years of work experience in COBOl, JCL, DB2, IMS, IDMS, FOCUS etc. I have an opportunity to transition into SAP ABAP or BASIS in our organization. Could you please let me know whether I should go into Basis or take up ABAP? I've heard that ABAP jobs are being outsourced, but Basis jobs are stable. Also, which one of these would help me get into Netweaver for the future?

Good question on ABAP versus Basis. I don't know if I would say that SAP Basis jobs are stable, but it's a lot less prone to outsourcing than ABAP. For that reason alone, I would definitely pursue Basis over ABAP.

One of the reasons that the Basis job market is not that stable is because more and more SAP customers are making a technical transition to NetWeaver. Technically speaking, there is no "Basis specialist" in a NetWeaver environment. Some of the skills and concepts are similar, but it's a different architecture that involves a much greater knowledge of web-based integration processes and protocols, as well as core technologies like the Web application server. In terms of how ABAP and Basis tie into NetWeaver, in reality, both do. Companies can do ABAP development in a NetWeaver environment, and many aspects of system administration in a NetWeaver environment (such as security roles and profiles) are things that the Basis consultant can transition into without too much of a problem.

Having said that, figuring out the area you want to move into is only half the decision. You also have to consider what your current skills are and how they relate to the area you are targeting. Your background is primarily in mainframe development. So, when you talk about moving to SAP Basis work, you are really talking about several skills transitions at once: from mainframe development to client-server development, from development to system administration, and from non-SAP to SAP. That's a lot of skills transitions to make at once. It make take you several years and a couple of job changes to get there. There are some excellent books on SAP NetWeaver already available. I would start by studying that architecture and then mapping back to the skills you have now. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: it's always better, when you're trying to break into SAP, to try to go where SAP is headed than to catch SAP from behind. Perhaps you will skip ABAP and Basis entirely and try to move into some aspect of NetWeaver systems admin or development. Learn all you can about web services and web servers and remember that this a major skills shift for you, so you'll need to be patient as you make several key changes.

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