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LAS VEGAS–The developer and user ecosystem is central to SAP AG’s core strategy and exists as a component across the entire value chain that is building products, assembling them into an offering, selling to market and providing support and services, said SAP’s senior vice-president for the global ecosystem and partner group.

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada at SAP TechEd, Singh Mecker said the Germany-based software vendor believes in leveraging the innovation and knowledge of the community so that customers are not locked in “from the metal to the UI.”

“We bet on an open ecosystem,” said Mecker.

SAP has several communities and initiatives available for developers to build apps atop SAP. Project Gateway is for non-developers to build apps that access data in SAP systems. “It allows the easy extensibility of the apps, as well it allows us to reach and target the users we would not reach with a traditional SAP application,” said Mecker.

Duet, a technology offered in partnership with Microsoft Corp. works as an SDK (software development kit) of sorts to build lightweight add-ons atop SAP.

Business ByDesign, SAP’s on-demand mid-market enterprise resource planning offering has received a large degree of interest among developers to build atop it, said Mecker. (The hosted offering experienced a delayed broader availability until version 2.5 was released this past summer.) The ecosystem can expect an SDK and app store for easy app distribution sometime in 2011, added Mecker.

While SAP’s use of open source some years ago was a bit spotty, the company has really embraced it in the past couple of years, which has in turn had an impact on its ecosystem. In the fashion of open source, SAP introduced Code Exchange, part of the SAP Developer Network, as a place where community members are encouraged to create and exchange intellectual property.

“SAP (is) really allowing for and actively encouraging the development of this IP,” said Mecker. “So it’s kind of an open source concept.”

Moving forward, in support of its three-pronged strategy of innovating around mobile, in-memory and cloud, Mecker said SAP will create specialized micro-communities based on those topics sometime in 2011.

One customer, Henderson, Nevada-based caterpillar tractor dealership Cashman Equipment Co., is new to SAP technologies and is looking to replace its 40-year-old legacy systems with SAP including software for materials and warehouse management, supply chain and finance. Attending SAP TechEd was the company’s IT manager Don Erlanger who told ComputerWorld Canada that the broad ecosystem of users, developers and partners was part of the reason the company chose SAP. “That was a driving factor that ecosystem,” said Erlanger. “We did our research on the SAP Developer Network and the Ecosystem Hub. It’s amazing.”

Given Cashman’s IT department, composed of eight members, doesn’t yet have the in-house resources to develop its own systems, the company is relying on an ecosystem partner. But Erlanger said he is also taking advantage of the developer community to learn about third-party apps in development specifically for the car dealership industry because SAP doesn’t really have that capability available.

SAP’s move to integrate the Business Objects portfolio and its direction to innovate in the mobile space aligns well with Cashman’s own mobility strategy, said Erlanger. The company has distributed iPads to its product sales and service representatives to hasten order processing. “Today that process is so convoluted that it goes around and around and by the time it gets to somebody it could be a couple of days,” said Erlanger.

Currently, Erlanger is demoing internally the use of Business Objects Explorer on the iPad.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau


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