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Questions, doubts greet upcoming SAP HANA developer kit

While some are intrigued with the idea of SAP releasing a HANA software development kit (SDK) next year, there are questions about how it will work and whether SAP is up to supporting the application.

SAP’s plan to roll out a software development kit (SDK) for HANA, its high-speed analytics appliance, is being met with questions -- and some skepticism -- by at least some experts.

Planned for the third quarter of next year, the SDK will include blueprints and templates for developers to more easily create new in-memory applications as well as reconfigure legacy applications to run on the new technology. It would be released as a part of an enhancement pack or similar update.

“It’s not something we’d wait to ship with a new version of SAP HANA,” according to Scott Leatherman, vice president of global marketing for SAP.

The development comes as SAP is stepping up its efforts to spread adoption of HANA among the SAP user base. Just last month, SAP announced it had set up a virtual sandbox environment to let developers -- including ones from smaller companies that have more limited resources -- experiment with HANA without having to spend any money.

“The goal of the sandbox is really to show that as for SAP, we care about developers and we rely on them to be successful,” said Anne Hardy, vice president for platform evangelism and developer adoption at SAP. “We want to make sure that we excite them. We also want them to believe that they can do business with SAP.”

However, developers like Ethan Jewett, a consultant with the German firm Business & Decision, have questions about the SDK.

Jewett wondered what kind of programming languages the SDK will support, whether the SDK can be used as a “standalone” application developers can use on a desktop computer or whether it will require the HANA system to work. 

“I think more standalone is better, but HANA’s a pretty different environment, so you’re not going to truly simulate the performance you get on a personal computer,” he said.

Jewett said he also wants to know whether the HANA SDK will be integrated with SAP’s ABAP development kit. 

“One of the major use cases is going to be running BW [Business Warehouse] on HANA, and that’s going to be a NetWeaver ABAP system running on a HANA database. So if you can get some synergy between the ABAP developer kit and the SDK, that would be perfect,” Jewett said. “I would imagine that’s the case but I don’t know.”

For now, however, SAP isn’t saying.

“Our SDK is in development, but we do not have a public roadmap as of yet,” Leatherman said.

Others are skeptical that SAP will be able to handle the combination of challenges that the HANA SDK will entail.

SAP’s enterprise applications are already difficult to support given the different way customers use and configure them, according to Michael Bestvina, a principal consultant with the London-based Xoomworks consulting firm. 

A former senior support consultant at SAP, Bestvina is familiar with SAP support challenges and said   supporting a HANA SDK is likely going to be that much harder.

That’s because there are no real limits on how developers are going to use the SDK. The range of possibilities is going to be long, he said, making it difficult for SAP to handle them all.  The fact that SAP BusinessWarehouse now runs on HANA complicates things further.

“It’s going to be a massive change internally for SAP support to not only have to support the database as a stack, but supporting an SDK on top of that is going to be a huge challenge,” Bestvina said. “It’s going to require a lot of support. My impression is SAP is still trying to get a handle on supporting the core of HANA.”

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