SAP NetWeaver is a complex platform consisting of many components, like (Twin-)WebAS for Java and ABAP, XI, EP, MDM. Not everyone understands what NetWeaver really is about. Additionally, the Ramp-Up process in progress makes things more complicated for some customers. As I recently read in a forum topic, someone asked a question how to get support with problem X concerning WebAS Version 6.4. The reply to his question was not really useful: it was the advice to call an SAP agent (in case the questioner is involved in the Ramp-Up process).
The idea of the Ramp-Up process at first glance seems innovative: customers get the chance to receive and test pre-production versions of future releases. This is nice! But what about the people not involved in Ramp-Up (which is the vast majority of us SDN participants)? In the past, SAP published more and more evaluation versions of innovative packages, like the WebAS itself, EP, GUI Machine (now Visual Composer). Additionally, SAP DB can be downloaded for free.
Blue print for a new Ramp-Up
So the conclusion should be, taking both SAP’s and the potential customer’s interests into account, to split up the current Ramp-Up process into at least two phases (there are several phases already but with different character than what I describe here): The first or Initial Ramp-Up Phase would include only selected/qualified customers as per status quo.
The second or Consolidation Phase would include all SAP customers willing to participate. Perhaps there could be an Intermediary Phase in between the described two phases.
The granularity chosen for designing the Ramp-Up process is not a matter of concept, but of detail: The main importance is not whether there were two or three phases. It is to introduce a mechanism to allow non-sophisticated customers (non-superstar companies so to say) to take part in the Ramp-Up process beside the superstars. Why? Well, for the customer, the Ramp-Up has some advantages:
- Early accesss to a premature product showing important characteristics of the future release, and
- possibility of giving feedback to SAP concerning implementation wishes very specifically useful for the customer.
I did not enumerate the aspect “Sending a bug detected to SAP” because this is one of the reasons why SAP introduced Ramp-Up, I assume. To be fair, it must be said that Ramp-Up is a melee involving interests of both sides, which truthfully seems OK.
When thinking of enabling ordinary customers for Ramp-Up, the question arises which conditions should be applied. Well, of course it would be overconfident to ask for equal conditions for all. This cannot be the aim. Some customers are more equal than others, should be the motto without being ironic. But the philosophy of SAP – and I believe it having observed this – should be and probably already is to deliver an evaluation version for the most important/most requested/most marketable components like WebAS or EP. As the liberalisation of Visual Composer indicates, SAP sees an advantage in demonstrating sophisticated, innovative technology. IMHO this is what crucially influences technical decisions on the market.
SAP gained many fresh experiences through the Ramp-Up process of NetWeaver. Never in the past decade had a product of such complexity undergone this phase. Let’s wait and see what the perception of SAP from this is.