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SAP TechEd 2012 attendees head to Vegas with questions

SAP's annual technical conference is set to begin on Monday, with attendees heading to Las Vegas for answers on everything from the NetWeaver Cloud, to how the company is engaging developers.

Gretchen Lindquist remembers attending her first SAP TechEd back in 2005. That year, the event was held in Boston, and as Lindquist tells it, it wasn't pretty.

For one, the ongoing Big Dig highway construction project wreaked havoc on logistics. "Traffic was awful; the hotels were not near the convention center, so you spent all your time on buses between the hotels," Lindquist said. "It was just dreadful."

Undeterred by the experience, Lindquist, a SAP security analyst at the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company in Houston, has attended every one of the SAP TechEd conferences in the U.S. since then. Like thousands of others, she will be in Las Vegas when SAP TechEd 2012 gets under way on Monday in Las Vegas.

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Lindquist said one of her favorite parts of SAP TechEd is the Demo Jam competition held on the first night of the conference, in which SAP customers, partners and employees demo custom-made applications in the six minutes each team is given.

"Even as a non-developer, watching the developers demonstrate their creativity and their ability to pull it off during the time frame, it really is often times very suspenseful," Lindquist said. "I may not have the same level of appreciation that a developer would, but just seeing the possibilities of what the solution can do, it's interesting and fun. Demo Jam is for everybody."

Lindquist, a volunteer for America's SAP Users' Group (ASUG) and who is leading the ASUG Influence Council Security Update session, as well as two networking sessions on SAP security, said one session she's most interested in attending is on making the installation of enhancement packs routine. Lindquist said Chevron just recently installed SAP ECC 6.0 Enhancement Pack 5.

"I would like to go and see what [I] can learn and bring back," she said.

NetWeaver Cloud announcements expected

While product-related news coming out of SAP TechEd is typically on the lighter side, independent SAP analyst Jon Reed said he expects SAP to make some kind of announcement about the so-called NetWeaver Cloud, a project also known in the past as "River."

SAP moved the NetWeaver Cloud, part of SAP's Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, to private beta at last year's TechEd. NetWeaver Cloud is an open standards development platform that customers and partners can use to extend core applications, as well as develop and deploy new applications.

"The reason we'll hear a bit about that at TechEd is because they're heading towards GA (general availability)," Reed said.

Reed speculated that if SAP doesn't make any announcements on River, it may do so at the SAP TechEd Madrid conference, which takes place Nov. 13-16. "They push like heck to get stuff out at Las Vegas, and if they can't, then Madrid is their fallback."

Reed said he also expects to see a developer licensing program for NetWeaver Cloud similar to SAP's programs for the HANA in-memory platform and the Sybase Unwired Platform for mobility.

SAP TechEd 2012: Developer initiatives

Developers like Ethan Jewett, an independent consultant based in Madison, Wis. who specializes in business intelligence and data management, said he's most interested in learning more about SAP's efforts to reach out to developers, a community he said SAP needs if they're ever going to meet their stated goal of having one billion users by 2015.

"They're making a lot of progress, but there's a long way to go," Jewett said.

In particular, Jewett said he's looking to find out more about downloadable SAP software that third-party developers need to build on SAP platforms and applications, intellectual property issues of developing that software, and customer licensing of development frameworks such as Gateway. If customers won't install Gateway because of high license costs, there's less of an incentive for developers to use them, according to Jewett.

SAP Gateway is an open standards-based framework that developers can use to connect non-SAP applications to SAP applications. It is also intended to make it easier to access SAP applications from mobile devices.

SAP wants developers to use Gateway as an interface technology for mobile applications, according to Jewett. However, for this to be an attractive market for developers, lots of customers need to either install Gateway or be willing to install it. The problem is that the current licensing costs for Gateway seem to be a disincentive for customers to use it, Jewett said.

"The question for third-party developers is, if the license is based on consumption through Gateway, why would a customer want to use Gateway? Why wouldn't they use the normal Web server in the Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) system?" Jewett asked.

Jewett said he expects SAP to announce a developer licensing program for Gateway either in Las Vegas or in a future venue, similar to the same programs for HANA and mobility that Reed suggested was in the works for NetWeaver Cloud.

SAP TechEd coming up short

Lindquist said that despite the sessions that relate to her work as a security expert, there aren't enough on SAP governance, risk and compliance (GRC) and related applications being presented by SAP itself. Lindquist said SAP doesn't consider GRC a unique technology because it's based on the ABAP platform, which receives significant attention at TechEd. But GRC -- and how to configure the software -- is unique enough to deserve its own dedicated sessions, she said.

"I hope to see it get even better for the folks in the security and compliance space, because there's virtually nothing on GRC at TechEd," Lindquist said. "There certainly is content at Sapphire on GRC, but that's more from the sales cycle perspective than the technical support side. I've heard a rumor that maybe next year that will change, and I hope that comes true."

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