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Let partners CE β!

In May 2006, Community Advisory Group ‘Composition Platform‘ was launched during Sapphire in Paris. It was established as a work group for requirements, feedback and piloting around SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment. Over the months to come, the group expanded to 13 members who reviewed and discussed all facets of composition in the context of enterprise SOA and SAP NetWeaver together with the SAP development organization. Last week, on 26 June 2007, the group members came together for the final (and closing) roundup.
Time to look back at an exciting year of co-innovation.

 

How it all began

Beginning of 2006, the concept and realization of a next-generation environment for modeling and developing composite applications was gaining momentum within SAP. One of the key goals was to enable partners and customers alike to create their own composite apps. So why not invite architects and development managers from this target audience to sit together with SAP and look into the various aspects concerning the new product to come?
And so it happened:

  • The then emerging Enterprise Services Community provided the necessary framework for open, confidential discussions (such as non-disclosure agreements)
  • I was happy to assume the role of the group leader and sent out the invitation letters for the kick-off meeting on May 29th during Sapphire in Paris
  • Invitees confirmed promptly
  • And Community Advisory Group ‘Composition Platform‘ was on its way to become one of the first community groups ever…

Invitation

The first meeting…

… was a lively brainstorming session. Non-SAP participants were asked to bring forward their point of view on three questions:

  • What is a Composite Application?
  • When would you build a Composite Application?
  • What is a Composition Platform?

The ideas were written down on cards, pinned on a board and thematically arranged.

Brainstorming Session

This input sparked off animated discussions: everybody brought in further substantial arguments, and boundaries between SAP and external participants were soon blurred.

And the results?
A composite application was viewed as characterized by the following key aspects: driven by a business process, standards based and standardized, re-use of building blocks, connect to one or several backend systems.
For a composition platform a crisp specification was established: simple, fast, accessible. Moreover it should enable many different roles to collaborate on one platform (business process expert, product manager, developer).
And when would the participants build a composite application? It should come as no surprise that the motivations for building a composite application reflected the broad range of companies involved in the discussion (e.g. independent software vendors in comparison with system integrators). Read more details in the section Composite Application Use-Case Document below.

We agreed to match this external view with the SAP plans on composition (then still confidential) in the next meeting. And as a matter of course for everybody, Community Advisory Group ‘ Composition Platform ‘ was born.

Further Progress

We decided to have monthly conference calls and further face-to-face meetings. By the end of 2006, 13 partners from 6 countries and 4 continents had joined the group. Quite some time zones to bridge!
As mentioned above, the first activity was to match the group findings with the SAP plans on composition. After a first glance at the high-level bill of material of the upcoming Composition Environment, advisory group members were very satisfied with what they had seen. Essential requirements such as standards support and model-driven development were clearly tackled by the new solution (see e.g. the solution brief on SAP NetWeaver CE). No wonder: SAP was about to become the first Java EE 5 certified platform vendor in September 2006!! Nice foundation for a state-of-the-art model-driven toolset, isn’t it?!

Throughout the whole lifecycle of the group, a lot of feedback and ideas came up, got clarified with SAP NetWeaver development and finally introduced to the requirements process.

Further face-to-face meetings took place at TechEd in Amsterdam in October ’06 and at the SAP headquarters in Walldorf in March ’07.

CAG-CP Meeting

Piloting SAP NetWeaver CE

Talking about software is one thing, getting your hands on a fresh product something completely different. And way more fun! The advisory group got access to first milestones of SAP NetWeaver CE as early as October 2006, more than half a year before the official ramp-up started. They got further milestones right out of the development process in the course of the group activities.

Piloting Timeline

Everybody knows that pre-shipment software often behaves more like a fidgety young horse rather than a dutiful dressage horse. So, what can you do with it?
To say it with facts out of the group:

  • Technidata announced the successful port of their EH&S Web Interface to the SAP Java EE 5 server on their Website in November.
  • LinogistiX’ full-fledged Java EE 5 compliant warehouse management solution was ported to SAP and presented at the Jax Conference in Frankfurt in April this year.

Apologies, if I can’t list all successful projects of the other group members here, some are not public yet 😉 But for sure you will see official products in the future that have their seeds in this group.
Well, of course not everything works as expected on development milestones, and after a while you tend to know one or the other error message by heart. Same here, yet my feeling is that we got much farther than with pre-releases of other vendors. You don’t see partner products running on a pre-release that often.

Composite Application Use-Case Document

Use-cases for composite applications were one of the work streams we were focusing on right from the beginning. As part of the group’s work, a classification of composite application use-cases was put to a test. These use-cases were derived from previous experiences with more than 100 ISVs and system integrators.
The advisory group was asked to:

  • Verify the validity of this classification
  • Check whether there are further relevant use-cases in addition to the ones already identified
  • Prioritize the use-cases according to the relevance for the group members.

The outcome was published as a whitepaper on SDN, ranking among the top 10 documents for several weeks after release.

Use-Case Whitepaper

Seems we were not the only ones with that topic on the agenda.

The Closing

With begin of ramp-up of SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1, it was about time to complete the advisory group. On Tuesday of last week, 26 June, the members dialed in for a final review. To sum it up: that new type of collaboration in a Community Advisory Group was seen as very valuable by all participants (both non-SAP and SAP). Going into the nuts and bolts of a new product with technical experts from all sides is a definite benefit for everyone involved.
A special thanks goes to the advisory group members; it was their exceptional commitment that made this success.

Stay tuned for future early technology adoption programs!

 

P.S.:
CE β = see better 😉

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