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SAP TechEd 2001: Collaboration love fest

SAP chief Hasso Plattner said his company intends to promote collaboration and adopt more open business strategies in his kickoff address at the SAP TechEd 2001 conference in Los Angeles.

Earlier this year at its Sapphire conference in Orlando, SAP announced it would embrace collaboration and adopt more open business strategies.

SAP chief executive Hasso Plattner made it clear these were more than empty words in his keynote address at SAP TechEd 2001 in Los Angeles Tuesday.

ABAP, the proprietary language of SAP, is no longer the one and only option for developers. Platter proclaimed Java an "honorable member of the suite of program languages that we use". This means that there will be a common foundation for MySAP components, where programs written in Java can be called by ABAP, and vice versa.

View from the floor

The first day of SAP TechEd 2001, one of the major SAP events of the year, was surprisingly foggy.

Gloomy, unflattering light illuminated the Los Angeles Convention Center throughout the morning. However, the weather didn't bother the roughly 3,000 attendants. SAP developers, users, and IT managers made their way to the event and seemed to be in good spirits.

The Sept. 11 attacks appeared to have affected attendance, as many educational sessions were less than half-filled and a few exhibitors complained about the lack of attendees.

Some booths had long lines, the most popular being Compaq. Their secret: raffling away iPAQ handheld computers in daily drawings for those who filled out surveys. BMC Software's booth also drew people with the lure of giveaway. The prize: cool radio-controlled beach buggies.

TechEd took no risks with security. Security personnel stood guard around all the entrances, and a few dog patrols sniffed around the building. Few attendees had any concerns regarding security. Instead, many commended SAP for proceeding as planned rather than canceling the event in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Four weeks ago, we were debating whether we should cancel this event," said SAP head Hasso Plattner said, "And then we got an overwhelming feedback" that people still wanted to come.

The new deal comes in the form of a new Web Application Server and a promise of a radically new philosophy of openness and flexibility. The new key words are "open standard" and "technical interoperability."

This will enable collaboration beyond business boundaries by integrating applications and Web services in one common Web infrastructure, promising a host of benefits for developers and users alike. Lower cost of development, individualized front-ends and no risk of conflicts between Java and ABAP developers are just a few of the advantages SAP predicts as a result of the move.

"The portal is designed in a way that is totally agnostic to the underlying application services," Plattner said. He said Siebel or any other customer relationship management system is as much a customer as the mySAP CRM system.

Big impact

This could have a big impact on the legions of ABAP and Java developers around the world. Among other things, the move will prolong the life cycle of ABAP. This is important to customers, who have invested billions in ABAP solutions, as well as SAP themselves who have an estimated 10 billion dollars stake in ABAP assets in

Plattner also responded to previous reports suggesting SAP's new marriage with Java 2 Enterprise Edition leaves Microsoft's .Net out in the cold. He forcefully reasserted that SAP is not turning its back on .Net in any way, and instead promised tighter integration with Microsoft Office solutions in the future.

Another trend that carried over from Sapphire was SAP's newfound humbleness. Plattner admitted that SAP has been less than responsive to customer needs in the past.

"We simply ignored what didn't fit into the R/3 egg," he said.

Part of the reason was the dotcom pressure, where the focus was more on the Internet than the customers. But, he promised, this is changing. Going forward, the goals are to meet customers' needs, to make it easier to connect different computer systems, and reduce cost of ownership for the users, he said. He also promised to improve the quality of white papers to help customers and developers better understand what is going on.

Portals praised

Shai Agassi, chief executive officer of SAP Portals, sang the praises of portals as a key technology concept of the future. He listed benefits such as increased productivity, the unification of massive amounts of information, and increased flexibility, using newly released SAP Portals 5.0 as an example. Plattner said that portal technology is superior and portals will continue to pick up speed in the market in the future.

The attendees said they were positive about SAP's new openness gospel, but not doing cartwheels.

Lawrence Gamble from DLA, was involved in a major project at his company that would need some reviewing in light of the new SAP announcement. He said he was enthusiastic but cautious about the new ABAP/J2EE-marriage.

"It better work," he said.


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