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SAP exec talks partners, platforms and the SAP economy

Learn SAP partner ecosystem trends. SAP's Zia Yusuf discusses the developer network, NetWeaver development fund usage, and why he thinks SAP's model beats's.

Last year, analyst firm IDC raised the possibility that the "SAP-induced economy" generated by SAP partners and other ecosystem members could be in the range of $80 billion to $90 billion. So recently sat down with Zia Yusuf, executive vice president of SAP's Global Ecosystem and Partner Group, to find out more about the SAP economy, SAP partners, the NetWeaver development fund, and why he thinks SAP's model works better than's AppExchange.

How does the SAP Developer Network (SDN) tie into the mission of offering value to the SAP partner ecosystem?

Zia Yusuf: When an SAP systems integrator wants to go out and collaborate with consultants, developers or customers, SDN is a primary vehicle. Also, ISVs are very active in terms of learning from the discussion on SDN and taking it back into their products. Adobe leveraged SDN to get product feedback on Adobe Forms. Also, ISVs can discover each other as partners on SDN. SAP needn't be involved.

How is the SDN doing in terms of activity and demographics?

Yusuf: There are 1.1 million members who write an average of 6,000 posts a day. The response time to a question is, on average, 17 minutes, and 80% of the community consists of non-SAP people.

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Can you give us an overview of recent usage of the NetWeaver development fund?

Yusuf: We've invested in six to eight companies in the last year. One of our most recent investments was in the HR [human resources] company Nakisa. We've also invested in ArisGlobal, Questra, Conformia, and Visiprice. Most of our investments are in applications companies, solutions where there is a clear fit with SAP. We resell some solutions, and in a select few, we make an equity fund investment.

Why hasn't the Web 2.0 model of development and customization -- as exemplified by, say,'s AppExchange -- caught on in e-business? Is this not a viable model?

Yusuf: This is where didn't get it right: It's not about getting hundreds and thousands of small applications and selling them through a channel. Those aren't business-critical applications. It's about providing a system that lets customers run their businesses every day. Now, on top of that system, we add enhancement packages, a multitude of ISV applications. You can also use our composition environment to consume services from SAP to create a new process, a new on-demand composite application you can build for yourself.

Still, it sounds as if there's a tension between the idea of the platform with built-in functionality and this new environment of add-ons, especially add-ons contributed by partners.

Yusuf: The platform is the core. It's stable and solid. These other elements sit on top, but they can also be scrunched back into the platform. So you can have next practices [i.e., emerging practices in a particular industry] outside the platform, but they can be pulled back in if they become core to customers.

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