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I have a lot of respect for the way AOK systems approaches the whole subject of IT so reading Tobias’s blog was simply a must . It turned out, that his suggestion for open source was something I had looked at earlier this year and so it was only a matter of finding time to respond. Intro… First off. I love Open Source. I got involved through a project to enhance the capabilities of my television receiver at home (it has a C API) and for purely selfish reasons I downloaded someones code, added my personal improvements and eventually these made it to the open source version available to everyone. That’s great for me because there’s no competitive advantage in my receiver working better than my neighbours (but there is an advantage for the manufacturer competing with other vendors) and my improvements are future-proofed because they made their way into the code supported by a complete community. And to be honest the risk is minimal (worst case – I lose TV reception for an instant and have to reboot) but this has never happened. And were there dark evil parts of the code that could damage my receiver? Well I checked the source code and the forums and felt confident enough to live with the risk, after all I’d compiled it myself. Status Quo… I hope you won’t be disappointed to learn up-front that what applies to a TV receiver does not necessarily apply to Business Software and I learned that open source is not an option at SAP. The blob of code (AKA SONiC) created by Lars Rueter together with Thilo Brandt will not be released as open source. Why not open source… There are good reasons against this. I won’t go into detail. I won’t even summarize because even doing this would be misleading. I’ll just say that I have discussed extensively with learned colleagues in other areas (e.g. technical, legal..) whose opinion has always been worth respecting and whose respective areas are such that I just don’t have the background, experience or basic knowledge to even begin communicating the arguments down the line (Chinese whispers). That’s a fact – move on. Pragmatic approach… Part of the goal of any open source is to serve as example code rather than out-of-the-box solutions. And that is how Lars and Thilo created the code in the first place. And that is why you’ll find it in the example downloads section in the first place. Will it work out-of-the-box if you deploy it without checking? That’s a risk no sane IT manager would take. But it’s existence sure is useful and saves a lot of time starting from scratch. The only hurdle left was to make sure that it really can be handled as software that can be iteratively improved by a community. That turned out to be trivial and solved by SDN itself. There’s a subscribe (watch) mechanism that you can use to learn about updates. So all I had to do was create a thread that is subscribable to promote innovation (“let’s add this…”) and make this public. UWL – SAP Office Notifications Connector (SONiC) Even though there is an download-example forum I chose to make this subscribe-post public in the forum related to the business aspect of the code (NetWeaver Business Task and Process Management forum – BPM) because I hope that is where most of the ideas for improvement will be generated. What won’t work… There’s still effort required on our side to add suggested improvements to the code. This means that the process of deciding what is included is and what isn’t is not democratic or as fast as it could be with more open access. At the same time, it is still simply example code so we cannot offer an SAP stamp on the code to say this has gone through a complete QA process to make sure that it is not dangerous or unstable. It is simply example code. Nevertheless we hope that this is a useful step for customers and partners alike and one which will survive the test of time. The code in this case was not ABAP but Java but I don’t see a problem using this approach with ABAP either. The approach is not innovative. It’s pragmatic. But maybe that’s the best approach to take. Epilogue Last week Google released their new search engine for digging up source code. http://google.com/codesearch You can specify the language (e.g. Java) as well as other attributes, such as what license is involved. It would be nice to see ABAP added to the language list (there are already other proprietary languages tagged already) but for the moment I hope you’ll agree that what I have described here is a reasonable approach.
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  1. I wouldn’t say that all open source code is not deployable as standard(eg Apache). I dont think any sane manager would deploy software without testing it first whether it was proprietary or open source.

    Open source software can also help the adoption of certain technologies quicker in a business environment as it allows IT managers/system admins to alter to suit their needs.

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    1. Alan Rickayzen Post author
      >> I wouldn’t say that *all* open source code is not deployable

      Thanks for the correction Cathal.

      I absolutely agree with this.

      As I explained above it’s about risk-taking. I use plenty of open source in my private life without compiling or extensive testing. There’s also plenty of open source at there that can be deployed in a business environment (e.g. Firefox).
      Alan

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        1. Alan Rickayzen Post author
          Don’t go knocking sheep. I used to look after about a dozen when I was young.

          They could teach many of us a thing or two (before they get eaten) 🙁

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          1. Nigel James
            >> They could teach many of us a thing or two

            Like how not to go through an open gate which is open before them with plenty of encourgement from behind.
            Like how to smash through a closed fence which is designed for their safety and protection.
            Like how to totally frustrate someone who was trying to do something benificial for them like give them medicine.

            I used to ‘look after’ a couple of thousand of them which is part of the reason I am an SAP consultant now and not a farmer. Sheep are good for two things meat and wool.
            They are not intelligent.

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  2. Anton Wenzelhuemer
    … There are good reasons against this. I won’t go into detail. I won’t even summarize because even doing this would be misleading. I’ll just say that I have discussed extensively with learned colleagues in other areas (e.g. technical, legal..) whose opinion has always been worth respecting and whose respective areas are such that I just don’t have the background, experience or basic knowledge to even begin communicating the arguments down the line (Chinese whispers).

    No details, no general statement, no knowledge. What is it good for?

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      1. Alan Rickayzen Post author
        Eddy,
        Re: Your essay –  sweet.
        But in the context of this blog which describes a small simple connector which is simply an offspin from something else, but nevertheless useful…
        I guess I touched a raw nerve.
        For the sake of clarity, the emphasis is on ‘pragmatic’.

        Alan

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      2. Anton Wenzelhuemer
        Hi Eddy,
        I read it back then very carefully and didn’t agree with the tone of the whole article (thought it to be kind of biased) though each point is of course discussable.

        I just questioned the sense of such an non-sense statement; or was it meant the opposite way, i.e. bold, disencouraging any further discussion?

        Last but not least I wonder why you supposedly use Firefox, if there’s that nice commercial and well crafted IE?

        regards,
        anton

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        1. Eddy De Clercq
          Hi Anton,

          Everybody has the right to have his/her opinion and I’m very happy that you ventilate yours as I do. Of course you don’t need to agree with me.
          I ventilated my opinion in this article, because I don’t understand the fuss when somebody say something ‘wrong’ about the ‘holly cow’ open source.
          I don’t think that the comparison on the browser can generalised. First of all, MIE isn’t commercial, since you don’t pay for it as such. Secondly MIE 7 looks a lot better than MIE 6.
          But at the end you know that there is only one MIE, which makes it easier for me to support. How many clones and derivations of Firefox does there exist? Same thing for Linux. Do you get support from those who are building all these flavours? How can you provide support to your customers/users then? If you do want support, you need to pay like with RH and suddenly things aren’t that OS anymore.
          If you build an app for your users/customers, do you allow them to alter the code? If so, are you giving support, even for the code you didn’t write? And at the end, you want your pay slip at the end of the month, no?

          Open Source applications are not the synonym of quality, nor that ‘closed’ applications are, commercial or not.

          Eddy

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          1. I think thats the whole point of a community behind open source software. It is true that OSS software on its own doesnt mean everything is gonna be cheaper and easier but with a solid community behind an Open Source project often allows you to support all those niche areas.

            If you encourage your users to share the knowledge and experience, supporting software can become alot easier. Especially all the edited code, where the cmmercial organisation behind the project can stick to supporting the standard. Not that much different from SAP primary support and SDN.

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            1. Guido Brune
              Hello,

              I think that Eddy’s article is about developing good software and not about at core about open source/commercial. 

              Unfortunately haven’t much expericiene with Open Source, but I have the feeling that the appoarch
              of developing Open Source e. g. more democratic involment and motivation for contribution is somehting  with is different from commerical software development process.

              I don’t know if is a FACT, but at least an opionion.

              All the best,

              Guido

              P. S.: The Quality Feedback assistent of Firefox
              is much more transparent than the one from MSFT.
              That’s a fact.

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