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SAP jazzed up over Java

ORLANDO--These days it's clear that SAP is lining up in Java's corner. The German ERP giant has announced that it will integrate its applications with third-party software through Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). Plus, SAP has formed a partnership with Java software developer Borland Software Corp. in Scotts Valley, Calif.

At Sapphire, searchSAP Assistant News Editor Christine Campbell sat down with Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz, vice president of application integration at SAP, to learn more about SAP's plans for Java and what these recent moves mean for SAP customers.

What is SAP's stance on Java?
Java has become very important for SAP. SAP started embracing Java years ago with components like the configuration and pricing engine. It went on with the GUI (graphical user interface) for Java, relieving or solving the problem of having a GUI for various environments, like Unix or Macintosh.

We use Java as a platform-independent technology, even three to four years ago, for components which we knew had to run in different environments. Recently, with the strong focus on Internet technology, the use of Java has extended to cover, in particular, Web user interfaces. Web user interfaces typically need to be heavily customized to certain environments. They need to be customer-specific, especially in environments when they need to be targeted toward customers and other partners. Should companies using SAP look into hiring Java developers?
If they need to adapt (applications) to their requirements, which they have to change frequently, then they should certainly look for Java skills. If they are more on the side of using generic applications, which are more in the enterprise space, then it's not that urgent or that necessary to hire Java skills now.

Over time, the amount of Java usage within the whole operation will increase. If somebody wants to develop or extend their corporate environments, Java developers are required. In the marketplace and exchange space, many new functions are based on Java tools. How will the partnership with Borland enhance SAP's Java strategy?
The JBuilder platform from Borland is one of the favorite development platforms of Java developers...We've standardized JBuilder for SAP development. This is not exclusive, so other development environments can be used. How do the customization capabilities of Java enhance SAP's software?
Customization within SAP normally means configuration of pre-defined software modules. In this space, I believe customization means changing the action of the users and changing the page design. Page design needs to be highly customized, and again, Java helps because the Java server pages paradigm is well understood, well supported by many tools today. What are SAP's plans in the future for Java support?
Going beyond Java for front-end development, we also will prepare for using Java in full-scale business applications, including back-end functionality (and) heavy database-reliant applications. We know that we still have to invest in the Java platform to really get that scalability. One (project SAP is working on) is building an industrial-strength J2EE application server. Of course, our applications will run on any J2EE-compliant server.


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Ask your Java questions in our developer forum What is Java best used for with SAP applications?
From the SAP development point of view, right now we're concentrating on process development. For components, which need to be embedded in various environments, then Java is the language of choice. One of these would be the bill presentment and payment module.

From the customer point of view, customers can use Java today to expand user interfaces. Customers can also integrate existing Java applications with SAP components using Java connector technology. Connector technology is available today. It can be downloaded from the Web. Customers can use it right now and do integration between applications from other vendors and homegrown applications with SAP.

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