TechEd 2001: SAP's new Web Application Server

What does SAP's new commitment to openness mean and what is the company's new Web Application Server all about?

The big announcement at TechEd 2001 in Los Angeles was SAP's new commitment to openness.

This new open-standards infrastructure will be a boon to integration and scalability, and could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in SAP history. Many developers at the event said the move was strategically correct, and, some said it was a necessary step to stay competitive.

So what does this mean and what changes will take place and when?

First of all, this is a company-wide commitment. This means that, going forward, everything SAP releases will adhere to the new vision of open standards.

Java will remain a fully functional development tool alongside ABAP, without any risk of sudden changes in SAP policy. SAP chief Hasso Plattner said he recognizes the industry acceptance of Java and SAP will submit its Java-based technologies to Java standards bodies.

"We have to come to terms with standards," he said in his keynote speech at TechEd.

Web Application Server key

The key product announced was the new Web Application Server, which is the platform for applications that provide these open-standard Web services. This is not a new product, but rather an enhanced version of current SAP solutions.

One Java developer summed it up as "taking the good legacy of SAP and knocking down the walls that kept it boxed in."

The first totally J2EE-compatible release of the product will be named Web Application server 6.20. It is scheduled to take place mid-2002, said Ulrich Klingels, Product Manager at mySAP Technology in Walldorf, Germany.

He also stressed that SAP is joining the Java-community, not the other way around. SAP will adapt to Java, but will also be a strong addition to the community for driving future enhancements, he said. In the end, everybody gains from pulling in the same direction.

"The goal is to have the same functionality in Java and ABAP for real business professional Web Applications," he said.

One of the key benefits of SAP's new architecture is ease of integration. So what does this mean for companies that specialize in integration today?

Companies ponder move

Some companies said it could encroach on some aspects of their businesses, but also pointed out that there are many areas that still need their services and may even benefit from SAP's move. Alan Wong from Webmethods, one integration-heavy consulting firm, was not concerned about the impact on his company.

"Overall, we see a net positive effect," he said.

Sun Microsystems, the creators of Java, were also happy about SAP's move.

"We have taken a step forward in Web applications," said Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems. "The Web server has become the new Windows system; the new user interface,"he said.


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