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SAP Developer Network spreads NetWeaver message

SAP technology strategist Jeff Word is heading up SAP's Developer Network, an online community that represents SAP's new outlook on life. The company is giving away code samples and Web-based training, and providing a forum for users to swap war stories: the good, the bad and the ugly. SAP programmers are standing by, to offer help and suggestions -- and address complaints about things like documentation almost immediately. Word sat down with to tell us why SDN is taking off, and why it took so long to get here.

SAP is not known for saying things like 'Chevron had a bit of a nightmare problem -- and now you can all read about...

it.' I can only say that's the Shai effect. SAP is opening up in every way possible. Shai's vision for this is that every person in the SAP eco-system will participate in this community and share knowledge. That is the grand vision of NetWeaver. What happened?

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Well, he has rants. Basically, the documentation sucked. That's basically what he said. Now if you are an implementation partner, this is amazing stuff to read. Now you can avoid the same trouble. Even better, all of SAP's people, our product managers, the guys who write the documentation, they read this stuff, too. The product manager for this actually read this the same day that he posted it, and changed the documentation. He incorporated the new stuff within 24 hours.

Once people see this they flip out. Honestly. You can't imagine the reaction. They say 'My God. Thank you. This is the best thing SAP has ever done.'

Yes. It's 100% based on the SAP NetWeaver platform. It's our portal. It's our knowledge management. It's our collaboration. It's our Web application server. NetWeaver is running the whole thing. How technical do you have to be to use it?
An end user probably wouldn't find much that they would be interested in. But if you are remotely technical, you will. Even business analysts have to know some of the details of NetWeaver, as far as what the portal can do, and they are going to find great stuff here. We have different areas. If you are a developer, then you are going to see very different stuff on portals than if you are a business analyst. Are the SDN users surprising you with innovations?
Yup. One of the best things is these Web logs. I want to show you one by a guy named Joe Albert. He is the portal architect for Chevron Texaco, obviously a very large SAP customer. He's in charge of an entire portal implementation for, I think, 24,000 employees. He's an ex-ABAP guy. Now he's a NetWeaver guy. One of his best stories was about going live with Employee Self Service. Is this making your BAPI guys nervous?
No, it's making their life easier. Now they just have to publish a list of the BAPIs for all the Java guys to call from. And the Java guys work in the same environment that the ABAP guys do now. SO the ABAP guys have just offloaded a lot of headaches, basically. Now they can do the job that they want to do -- which is building cool stuff in ABAP. Why didn't SAP start SDN before now?
Because for the longest time, SAP has pretty much ignored developers, though not on purpose. It's just that the SAP experts who were out there really were a tight knit group. They really didn't need an online community. They already had kind of an informal community. What changed that?

Shai's vision for this is that every person in the SAP eco-system will participate in this community and share knowledge. That is the grand vision of NetWeaver.

Jeff Word
SDN strategistSAP
NetWeaver. Now we have a Java identity and a.NET identity. We are really combining the traditional SAP guys with the more Web-based, front-end guys. Traditionally, when a Java guy needed to write an application and pull data out of an SAP system, he just kind of threw it over to the SAP guys and said 'Hey, write me an interface for this.' Now that we have a full Java engine inside the SAP Web Application Server, every Java developer is now a SAP developer. They don't have to know all the gory details of SAP. We have really opened up the world to a whole new category of developers.

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