Bit Torrent Style Collaboration in the ES Packages Wiki
The ES Packages Wiki started life as a book intended to describe the general idea of ES Packages and document the services in each specific package. ES Packages are collections of services that will be released as part of the enhancement packages will update mySAP ERP 2005. The goal of ES Packages is to provide services that support the creation of composite applications to solve new problems and support innovation. The first batch of ES Packages, to be released in December 2006, contains services to support customer fact sheets, integration of manufacturing execution systems, manufacturing work instructions, electronic bill presentment and payment, document management connectivity, and integration of quality mangement systems. Every six months or so a new batch of ES Packages will arrive. But this summer, after we had created a detailed outline of the book Tesha Harvey, who helped lead the project, discussed the idea with the team and realized that a book would be out of date before it was published. A book could describe the form of ES Packages, but it would never be able to keep up with the way that services were updated, the tips and tricks that would emerge as SAP customers and partners the new forms of composite applications based on the services that would emerge, and ideas for new services. To meet all these needs the idea of the ES Packages Wiki was born. The wiki would explain everything needed to put services to work including the intended audience for the package, the process components and business objects involved, and of course, the enterprise service provided. Explanations of how to use the services include descriptions of detailed scenarios. So far, so good. For all of these purposes, a web page or a PDF would do. Where the ES Packages Wiki moves into the realm of shared content ownership and many-to-many communication is in the sections of each ES Package provided where users can add ideas about best practices, testing, integration with other SAP or partner applications, and sample code. It is in this regard that the wiki will become a place not just for SAP to talk to the customer and partner community but for experts to talk to and collaborate with each other in the same way that is supported by many other areas of SDN such as the forums, blogs, and the SDN wiki. As Shai Agassi pointed out in his keynote at SAP TechEd in Amsterdam, the ES Packages Wiki is intended to be a key foundation for SAP working with its customers. Right now, the ES Package wiki will educate everyone about just what ES Packages are and what services are going to be available in December 2006. After these services hit the market, the wiki will be the vehicle for communication based on the experience of putting the services to work. The other part of the ES Packages wiki that makes it a hybrid of sorts is the relationship with the ES Community. While the ES Packages wiki is an open space for collaborating about how to use the services provided, it is not intended to replace the well-established channels for customer suggesting new services and collaborating on their design. The ES Community has all the mechanisms in place to allow SAP and contributors to collaborate and protect their ownership of intellectual property. Wikis are not about such structured processes, so such discussions will be directed to the ES Community. So, what does this have to do with Bit Torrent? Well, remember that Bit Torrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing system that allows users to get access to files in the network. Files in a Bit Torrent network are stored on all of the computers in the network and when a new member of the network requests a file the file is downloaded by retreiving bits of each file from hundreds or thousands of peers in the network. When you use Bit Torrent for distributing files, amazing things start to happen. For example, if you want to send a file through traditional methods from a web site to thousands of computers, each computer must download that file from a central computer. If you distributed a file through a Bit Torrent network, then the central computer downloads the file 10 or 20 times in the network, and the rest of the thousand downloads happen by computers in the network sending the file to each other. This masssive peer-to-peer communication reduces the bottleneck and expense of 1000 downloads from a central computer. (BTW, I got the idea for all this use of Bit Torrent from a company I recently discovered called Pando, which runs a hybrid large-file transfer network that adds some aspects of central control to the Bit Torrent’s peer-to-peer capabilities.) To my thinking, the ES Packages wiki will be like a massive file distribution in a Bit Torrent network. The initial content provided is equivalent to the first 10 or 20 downloads. Then, the use of the wiki by those customers and partners represent the peer-to-peer communication. The hybrid nature of the ES Packages wiki is the way that certain types of discussions are moved the the ES Community. Will the ES Packages work this way? Only time will tell, but if the thriving activity on SDN is any indication, it is likely that the ES Packages Wiki will be lively place.