SAP courts developers with NetWeaver platform

SAP AG is maneuvering to bolster its NetWeaver platform as a viable alternative to competing application development environments with a new program to court Java and .Net developers.

The company planned to announce a new initiative to support these two development communities at its SAP TechEd conference in Las Vegas this month. The program, which will feature Web sites, forum discussion groups, and sample code, is designed to extend the same type of support SAP has traditionally provided to developers who use the APAB (Advanced Business Application Programming) language to those interested in using Java and .Net, said SAP spokesman Bill Wohl. APAB is a programming language for SAP’s R/3 ERP.

“There is a larger group of developers … who haven’t felt like they were part of the SAP family,” Wohl said.

“We’re not going to choose programming languages for customers. Customers have a deep set of skills for Java programming and .Net programming, and they want them to leverage their skill set in the SAP environment.”

This outreach effort is crucial for SAP to position NetWeaver as an alternative to IBM’s WebSphere and Microsoft’s .Net. NetWeaver, the next-generation of mySAP, is the platform for SAP’s e-business applications, xApps (cross applications), and its ERP applications. It features an application server, portal technology, composite application framework, business warehouse, and exchange infrastructure and serves as the foundation for SAP’s Web services strategy.

“It’s absolutely essential that SAP give the WebSphere and .Net developers a place in the sun with NetWeaver,” said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

“They cannot succeed without having mainstream developers involved. Developers want to develop in languages they are comfortable with but to deploy on platforms that give them a mass market.”

IBM and Microsoft have successfully cultivated a loyal community of developers, making this type of program almost a requirement for SAP if it hopes to play in the application development and integration platform environments, said Mike Gilpin, vice-president and research director of Forrester Research.

The integration market has evolved to support two camps — infrastructure vendors such as IBM Corp. and BEA Systems Inc. and application vendors such as SAP. Each appeals to a different audience, according to Gilpin.

“IBM and BEA appeal to customers who are doing more development. They also tend to have more complex environments, more heterogeneous platform strategies with more need to integrate with legacy mainframe apps,” Gilpin said.

SAP’s market typically has Java developers who lobby for a solution they are familiar with, Gilpin added.

“SAP might find that the Java developers would gang up against them and advocate the use of another solution,” Gilpin said.

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