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Just recently I got into a discussion “concerning WD open source framework” on Twitter. Lots of mentors and other fans of Web Dynpro immediately seconded my more on a joke based mentioning of such a possibility. I didn’t expect this.

As you might know there is a general change in open source policy at SAP. So far we only used  specific open source products specifically in the tools area for Java (like eclipse). But just using those frameworks makes you very dependent on the work of others. So we still developed proprietary frameworks like MOIN  or MOdeling INfrastructure. Meanwhile we had to find out that this is much more expensive then just to integrate with frameworks that are under development by the open source community like the EMF and GEF  frameworks developed mainly by the eclipse foundation. This changed politics and now the biggest part of SAP contributions goes into the Web Tools Platform (WTP). 

Now, why did we do so? The most easiest explanation that proprietary software makes more money  surely is not the truth. Development software especially for Java surely is not a main revenue driver for SAP. The real reason is that there is a lot of work to enter the open source world. 

Unfortunately in a large company like SAP there are a lot of people involved in all kinds of things and many of those people are non developers. This means they need to be convinced that what is done with open source makes sense for the company and is something more then a socialist idea to spread the assets of the firm. The biggest part here is that lawyers, who’s job it is to tell management about the risk of open source, can find a lot of such, you bet. (Most of which is irrelevant to small contributors, don’t ask!)

But back to Web Dynpro. WD is my favourite when I explain why open source makes sense for SAP. What we did there was to develop a quite sophisticated framework for UI development. At the same time of course, there have been developments in the community to have comparable functionality on non SAP platforms also. The effect of this was that nowadays besides ISVs who develop multi platform anyways, even SAP customers ask for support of those frameworks. Suddenly we find ourselves in the situation that we have to support other frameworks too – and this is not the idea we had in the first place.

So why not put WD into open source? In my opinion this train already was gone. Proprietary today is a word that in the community at best should be used for your competitors products. But putting WD into OS is in general estimated as too late. I really was surprised to see many people stand up for this. May be we can move something here.

To make it very clear: I’m not in the place to decide for such a step, I’m not even working for Web Dynpro itself. I’m more like a catalyst here, giving voice to the community who does not want to confront SAP with a maybe uncomfortable wish. Let me say so much: many people inside the company likde this idea very much.

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  1. Renald Wittwer
    Hi Benny,
    I like the idea of putting WD into open source. This could generate a lot of attention for WD, the great architecture behind it, the very good concepts and at the end it could generate a lot of attention for SAP.
    My first thought was: It is already open! The reason: I come from the ABAP side and actually it is “open” on terms of that everybody can see implementation. And here we come to one problem: Should be WD for ABAP open, too? This would be great but I have some doubts that this will happen.
    But a great idea!!! I was dreaming for a moment!

    Best regards
    Renald

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  2. Lee Chisholm
    Anything SAP can do to contribute to Open Source will ultimately get it further.  Look at Google, all their hottest stuff they build is open source, and is perfectly serving them in their business needs.

    SAP could benefit from opening up more of it’s software since it will bring in more business closer to it’s flag ship proprietary products.

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  3. I wished this conversation had started a couple of years ago..hope it is not too late for that open source train.
    Not sure I would start a Facebook group for this, but if there is anything any of us can do to get this ball/conversation rolling please let me know.
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    1. Chris Whealy
      I did start this conversation years ago, but no one was interested because generally speaking, big corporation management had (has) a difficult time seeing a workable business model for open source.
      Nonetheless, I think there is a shift in understanding now.
      I agree with Benny in that I think WD Java is a perfect candidate for being moved into OS arena.
      Chris W
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  4. Michael Nicholls
    While making WD open source sounds like a good idea, I’m not sure how we (SAP) would make the run time side of it supported on different runtime frameworks. I assume by “Open” you mean it will work on other J2EE platforms.
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    1. Chris Whealy
      Hi Michael
      Yes, running on any standard Java server.
      I can’t give you all the details, but lets just say its not a difficult you might imagine it to be.
      🙂
      Chris W
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  5. Daniel Ruiz
    what I see, there are way too many things before something like that happen.. consider the runtime, it’s SAP AS only.. after that, consider it’s nature: metadata source, which needs to be generated everytime you save something, not to consider the UI restrictions. who would use it? – I think first WDP needs to change some key concepts, then think about going to OS would be quite easy.
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    1. Benny Schaich-Lebek Post author
      >..consider the runtime, it’s SAP AS only..

      Consider this done!

      >…consider it’s nature:

      Consider this to port too.

      >not to consider the UI restrictions. who would use it?

      What restriction do you talk about?

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      1. Daniel Ruiz
        you dont have any freedom in the UI using wdp. this is one aspect of it’s nature, at least I consider one. about UI restrictions, well.. you dont need to go too far to see that you cannot develop custom UI element. templating in wdp is a pain, I say this after working with facelets or tapestry for example.

        don’t take me wrong, but even thou all these issues where solved, what it would offer “more” than jsf for example? – it’s a spec., already have some pretty good and well supported libraries that makes wdp looks like it’s missing one leg or two and has a way more developers already active with the tecnology.

        I just can’t see this going anywhere..

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        1. Benny Schaich-Lebek Post author
          Well, Daniel these where exactly my arguments. But there are a lot of people who know WD much better then I do and they seem to see a sense in it – as we can see by the comments.
          However, if you think in that way it should be discussed and I will look closely. Please let us know your concerns here: Web Dynpro for Open Source

          Let’s see what others have to say about it!
          Regards,
          Benny

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        2. Dagfinn Parnas
          I believe that the UI standardization is actually one of the key benefits WD. Yes, from a developer point it might frustrating, but from a maintenance, cost and standardization point of view it makes perfect sense. An open-sourcing can definitively lead to the development of new important and standardize UI elements.

          But lets continue the discussion in the forum thread:
          Re: Web Dynpro for Open Source

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  6. Matthias Steiner
    I justed wanted to say that I like the idea in general. WD4J has matured over the years and is certainly ready for prime-time. We @ Custom Development have built lots of projects using the technologie and I would not want to miss it anymore…

    Open-Source sounds like a bright future and this way WD4J may finally get a much bigger acceptance by the global Java community.

    The only challenge I see is to setup a working governance to keep a unified codeline. If this would end up in multiple sub-branches mainatined independantly the momentum may get lost…

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    1. Chris Whealy
      Personally, I believe if WD were to be released as open source, it would have to be under the terms of GPL and the principles of copyleft.
      As for codeline integrity, that would have to be maintained in a manner similar to the Linux Kernel Mailing List concept.
      This effectively means that all coding changes are discussed, argued over and developed in public.  These changes would then be documented by emails to the Web Dynpro Runtime Mailing List (for want of a better name).
      I believe this is necessary because internally within SAP, there are many development groups that rely on there being a stable version of the WD Runtime underneath their applications. They /cannot/ afford to have their work destabilised by random changes to the runtime.
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      1. Vijay Vijayasankar
        If there is a perception that going OS might make applications less stable, would SAP customers sign up for it? A key reason people buy SAP is that it is solidly engineered and that SAP provides full support for its code.

        Also, what about support – if it is open source, will SAP reduce support costs? or will it increase support cost because it makes problem resolution harder?

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        1. Chris Whealy
          The Linux Kernel is developed in a completely open manner, and is one of the most stable operating system kernels available.
          As for support, Web Dynpro is not a “product” in the SAP sense of the word.  This means that there are no specific license fees for the use of this middleware tool.  So in that sense, support costs would not change because you don’t pay anything for the specific use of Web Dynpro.
          It is clear that many operational details will have to be resolved in order for WD to function successfully in an OS environment, but all this blogging and Twittering shows that there is motivation on both sides of the SAP “fence” to reopen this discussion.
          Chris W
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