SAP has changed its historically proprietary business strategy in favor of the Java and the J2EE standard. Web Application Server 6.2, when it becomes available, promises to change the landscape for SAP and Java developers and managers.
SAP's Web Application Server (WAS) 6.2, introduced at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco and reintroduced at SAP TechEd in Los Angeles, represents a major step away from SAP's historically proprietary framework by pledging compliance with the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) specification from Sun Microsystems and the Java Community Process.
Since the June 4, 2001 JavaOne conference, SAP has thrown itself into the Java world in full force, committing its mySAP.com portal technology to include the new WAS technology and pledging to become an active member in the community process that guides new versions of the Java language. Additionally, SAP announced integration of 3rd party Java tools, especially JBuilder from Borland, as its preferred development platform.
Recently, SAP customers have focused on interoperability, and WAS 6.2 is SAP 's response. Changing its direction, SAP chose to augment its home-grown BSP (Business Server Pages)/ABAP language with the J2EE standard JSP (Java Server Pages) and JSP Tag Library. By expanding on its Business Connector technology and supporting Web Services, SAP is now focused on interoperability with non-SAP systems, including .NET.
Like other ERP vendors such as Peoplesoft, JD Edwards, and Baan, SAP has supported Java for some time through its Java RFC Interface and, most recently, through its SAP Java Connector (JCo), which removed the requirement to use a Corba Server as Middleware. However, only with the new latest release of WAS has SAP become fully immersed in the world of J2EE.
SAP hopes to take advantage of the large number of Java developers and Java based solutions that have proven J2EE to be a mature enterprise-level development infrastructure. WAS allows ABAP and J2EE applications to run side by side and extends the J2EE specification in ways that benefit SAP developers. By supporting the MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture inherent in J2EE and extending the JSP Tag Library, WAS offers a compelling development environment for Java developers.
WAS promises to make Web Applications, which have been notoriously difficult to write due to the constraints of Internet protocols, easier to create and maintain through their full lifecycle by capitalizing on the Web Dynpro development framework and change-control management. Web Dynpro is the next evolution of SAP's Dynpro technology specifically geared towards Web applications. This framework consists of high-level constructs that application developers can use as building blocks to assemble Web Applications to work with multiple devices, including portable digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones and Web browsers. WAS 6.2 also works with any operating system, hardware, and database that SAP currently supports.
When WAS 6.2 is available and mature enough for large organizations, it will be a giant step forward for SAP and ABAP developers. However, as the Gartner Group points out, the first version of WAS 6.2 will probably not be available until 2002. Additionally, they mention that those planning integration projects in late 2002 and early 2003 should evaluate WAS but should compare it's features and maturity with established vendors. Earlier integration projects, should consider third-party alternatives.
Author Jeff Marin is director of training and education at Gamma Enterprise Technologies, Inc., and the author of "J2EE vs. .Net." Jeff is responsible for the growth of Gamma's Learning Center. The company provides software solutions to create, deploy and optimize critical business applications. Gamma is a technology partner with SAP.