With momentum building behind its Enterprise Services Architecture and NetWeaver integration platforms, SAP AG is banking on a transformation from applications vendor to platform provider, and the company is betting its future on its ability to build a developer community around NetWeaver.
Fully aware that only widespread adoption from the ISV and systems integration community can make NetWeaver become a development environment of choice, SAP officials announced earlier this month the hiring of George Paolini.
As the senior vice president for Platform Ecosystem Development, Paolini will report to Executive Board member Shai Agassi. Paolinis charter will be to take SAPs ISV partner program to the next level.
Back when Java was a new technology, Paolini was chartered with building an ISV community. Today, hes largely credited with turning Java into the worlds largest third-party developer community. SAP is hoping he can work similar magic with NetWeaver. Paolini said he faces a few more obstacles this time around.
Dispelling the concept that SAP is proprietary "is a big piece of it," said Paolini in Palo Alto, Calif. "SAP was built on proprietary technology. Obviously the world has changed, and SAP has done a good job of changing with it. Now were going from a follower to a leader."
Paolini will model the creation of the NetWeaver developer community on his work with Java. The NetWeaver community, however, will focus on building an SOA (service-oriented architecture) framework on top of NetWeaver.
"The goal here is really to take the rich heritage of the company, which is all built on the ABAP [Advanced Business Application Programming] language, and extend that through a set of WSDL [Web Services Description Language] interfaces as a set of services that can be incorporated into a set of applications," Paolini said.
Paolinis first step is to define how SAP will publish services, and the specific service interfaces for the community—a task that goes hand in hand with SAPs internal effort to componentize applications. Initially Paolinis group will work to define three to five very generalized, horizontal services and then add more specific industry-based services later.
Beyond that, Paolinis efforts will be to build a community similar to the JCP (Java Community Process) that includes partner participation in developing a services framework (which Paolini expects to roll out early next year). He is also looking to other models for inspiration. He cited the Eclipse Foundation, which took the JCP and modified that by adding a consumer group that lets companies provide feedback on how the technologies should evolve.
Paolini will also build on top of two fairly new programs started by SAP: SAP Developer Network, which has about 100,000 participants, and the Powered by SAP NetWeaver program, for ISVs that want to build and certify applications on NetWeaver. That initiative started last year and has scaled to about 1,500 members.
Enterprise performance management software developer OSIsoft Inc. is a NetWeaver partner that has recently seen the fruits of SAPs labor in the ISV community—after several attempts at reaching out to SAP, SAP about six months ago contacted OSIsoft with some interesting partner information. OSIsoft delved deeper and is now in a development relationship with another ISV.
To this end, OSIsoft is rewriting its BAPI (business API) interfaces to Java, which will enable it to interoperate with other partners on the NetWeaver platform. Whats compelling about developing on the NetWeaver platform is the ability to work with partners, according to Gregg Le Blanc, technical strategist at OSIsoft.
"Our BAPI-based applications are still going to work, and they work very well; you have to have a better reason than just new technology to rewrite applications—and thats interoperability," said Le Blanc in San Leandro, Calif. "Its not just rewriting applications; its finding new strength in the partner ecosystem."