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Björn Schotte – CEO of Mayflower, which we invited to TechEd earlier this year – invited us to the International PHP 2006 Conference, which was held in a hotel near Frankfurt airport. Oliver Frick and I went there, with the aim to both present what we are doing and our current goals to the PHP community as well as get some feedback. We were so excited and a bit nervous venturing out into the world that we spent so much time preparing that we didn’t get a chance to post about it before hand here on SDN. I was giving a presentation and Oliver had a talk scheduled, on the ‘Management Day’, our hands were full and our heads a jumble.  Why was I a bit nervous? Well this was the first time I should hold a speech officially (for the company, not only for myself) and we weren’t sure how many of the participants were interested. The conference, after all, was about PHP and not about SAP, and we could only guess how many persons there had any connections to SAP systems. It turned out, from about 200-300 participants (numbers from the organizers, haven’t counted them myself 🙂 I had an amazingly 10% which were highly interested and I had quite some positive discussions showing we were on the right track. So I’m very happy with this conference. It went smoothly, was great fun and also business-wise a success.  But I’ll give you a chronological overview, starting on Monday.  Monday I arrived shortly before Oliver’s presentation. Before him there was a success story from Uwe Kremer (Mitsubishi Motors) which was about connecting to a SAP system. I attended the remaining of his interesting presentation, and then listened to Oliver’s talk which was well received.  Later during the buffet and evening conversations I did some networking. There were quite different people attending. The PHP conference was held together with the Open Database conference, and I first ended up at a table with some of the database guys. I chatted with a person doing Firebird database support and saw one person from Sun Microsystems as well as employees from MySql.  Later I changed tables and went to a group of younger coders, partly freelancers. One woman was responsible for the ‘Base‘ project – an academic search engine utilizing FAST technology on the University of Bielefeld. They were obviously a group of people well-known to each other. I found out they are regulars on #php.de on Ircnet.  Tuesday My presentation went very well, with about 12 attendees. Given that there were a number of other tracks on the same time these were the persons really interested and I was quite happy with this number. There was some productive discussion going on, so in the end I used the full time slot of ~70 minutes.  As we expected, there are different groups of users which could be distinguished: First, our direct customers, who wishes to connect their backend SAP system to some kind of PHP system (of different size) and ideally not touch any ABAP in this process. Then service companies and freelancers who offers such services and wishes to have more help (in terms of documentation or tools), with some SAP and some PHP knowledge (one did already know Scripting in a Box, a few remembered the SAPRFC connector being presented two years ago). And lastly also individuals which a strong PHP background, but no SAP experience so far, who wish to extend their offered services by first increasing their knowledge in the SAP area.  One very interesting item was mentioned several times that the ‘SAP guys’ (the team responsible for the SAP system in various companies) wouldn’t let anyone else get access to ‘their data/system’. This is something that has been made clear on numerous occasions in the past to us and we are of course discussing the best ways to approach this both internally as well as here on SDN. Since SAP is not going to offer a support channel for Scripting Languages it makes it difficult but on the same note since SAP is SUPPORTING the community here and abroad with more information and more direct contact we do have a chance of slowly changing the mind set of those out there not 100% familiar with the numerous ways of connecting to SAP.   IBM was present for PHP and I talked for a while to two guys from IBM about their involvement. They partner with Zend and also work on bringing the world of backend systems – like SAP systems – and scripting closer together. They seem to have a different focus, though.  Later I joined the security track, with a highly interesting speech from Johann-Peter Hartmann from Mayflower. In the evening there were also live demonstrations of the problems with XSS (cross site scripting). A few ideas how one could harden applications against such attacks were exchanged. Since accessing SAP backends usually implies handling business-critical data having security considerations in mind is always a good idea.  A bit of music and networking and talking to several people later I left at around 11pm.  Wednesday The Wednesday had a slow start, and was extremely foggy – luckily only outside. But after that I had some nice and inspiring talks, and exchanged quite a few business cards. This again showed that there is a high interest in this area and to help these people it was a good thing to be officially present at this conference.  While the general topic of bridging between PHP and SAP gained good interest, the shown interest for our tool was rather low. Probably it was implied that help from SAP meant whatever would be necessary, and the tool is a part of it – but only needed when actually being in the state of using it, not during high-level planning or general considerations. Interestingly, two persons from a small PHP coding company I talked to which have never seen or used a SAP system before were highly interested in how they could actually contribute 🙂  In summary I think this was a highly interesting conference, I really enjoyed it. And I used every possible opportunity to mention our SDN (and gave out a bunch of USB hubs with the SDN URL on it for remembering), so let’s see what happens here.   I’m looking forward to it.
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  1. Alvaro Tejada Galindo
    Hi Frederic:

    Nice blog, that PHP Conference was great -:)
    You mention that the ‘SAP Guys’ wouldn’t let anyone else to touch they’re systems and data…Totally agree with you…Here’s the same thing…People who I talk with about Scripting Languages, doesn’t look my “work” with good eyes…It’s something like being a Prophet in your own land…

    They just don’t want any PHP, Rails o Perl developer to take their jobs…Which is something I don’t think of course -:) Being a developer from both worlds, I think that cooperation is the key…SAP (As I always say) should start to promote Scripting Languages a little bit more…But would help the other face of the pie…Customers…

    Customers don’t want Scripting Languages backends…Because as they’re free open software, they think that is not secure enough…And of course, first thing they ask is…”Did SAP support this?”…What can I tell them?…Well…In a sense of way, yes…SAP support it, but not in an official way…

    Sadly, people must be educated when it comes to Scripting Languages / SAP integrations…I use my personal blog for it, because people get there looking for non SAP related stuff…and when browsing…They start to get interested in SL and SAP…It’s a slow work, but without the support…It’s the only way to go…

    To finish…Please don’t fall asleep -:)… I think that sending the Scripting Team to a PHP Conference is a great way of getting positive feedback and good contacts…

    Greetings,

    Blag.

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  2. Matthias Pigulla
    Hi Frederic,

    like the years before this year’s PHP conference was very inspiring and we returned home with lots of new ideas and some interesting approaches.

    Nice to read your summary here — I’m glad you even remembered the two guys from the small PHP coding company 🙂 We are using PHP as our main language for developing web applications since the release of PHP3 back in 1998.

    As we haven’t had any contact with SAP so far it was interesting to attend your talk. There were some other developers in the audience with a similar background and actually I had the impression that most of the participants were either using SAP but hardly had any PHP experience or the other way round. So hopefully the “scripting languages” initiative is able to bridge that gap a little.

    Unfortunately it seemed to me as if it was hard for developers with a profile similar to ours to contribute to your efforts — the things you mentioned in your outlook all require more profound SAP and/or Java skills, but IIRC there was little to contribute if you are in the PHP camp :(.

    To get my feet wet at last, I got the “ABAP Objects” book. That book comes with the NetWeaver 2004s ABAP trial version, so I hope I can try out the SAP Scripting Tool with that. Maybe this setup can be used as the “sandbox environment” a few people asked for at the conference. I will also attend the OOP 2007 conference and take part in a workshop about developing Eclipse-based applications, hoping that that will prove helpful when it comes to playing around with the scripting tool’s code generator.

    One last thing: It seems as if your talk didn’t make it on the official conference CD, only the one your colleague held at the management day. Can you make the slides available somewhere?

    Best regards,
    -mp.

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