SAP TECH ED : SAP unveils developer network, ‘GUI Machine’

LAS VEGAS – At its TechEd ’03 conference Tuesday, SAP AG launched a new online collaborative environment for developers and demonstrated an unreleased tool to help nontechnical users model applications and generate the Java code to create them. But attendees here said they worried that the tool, code-named GUI Machine, might lead to underperforming applications and cause compatibility problems with existing programs.

According to SAP executives, the tool lets business analysts use a click-and-drag approach to model the workflow of an application and build a composite program based on existing software components. The tool then knits the components together with Java code created by the GUI Machine.

“I’m impressed with it,” said Suresh Kotha, principal technical developer for the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District in California. “However, behind the scenes there can always be a problem.”

Kotha said he expects that business analysts will initially need to work closely with technically skilled developers to assure that the code is optimized for the best performance. “We’re going to need to do performance-tuning for these apps, too,” he said.

John Miklos, a staff SAP consultant at medical supplies maker Respironics Inc. in Pittsburgh, agreed. “You could get bad performance if the back end code from the tool is not good,” he said.

Equally important, according to Kotha, is that the code be tested against existing SAP applications, particularly those whose code has been modified.

Both Kotha and Miklos said that before the product would be widely adopted at SAP installations, the company would have to give SAP experts access to the Java code so it can be modified for performance and compatibility purposes.

SAP also Tuesday unveiled its SAP Developer Network, a central meeting place for SAP’s technical staff, independent developers, partners and customers. The SAP Developer Network will offer users a central location for technical support. And SAP users with Online Service System customer support accounts will be able to access their support services and information through the new Web site with single sign-on.