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Introduction

Recently I had a brief discussion about NetWeaver and OpenSource with Benny Schaich, SAP’s platform evangelist for the Composition Environment. Later Benny posted a tweet on Twitter and we continued the discussion, part of which is reproduced here:

Momentum gained

At this point, more people joined the discussion on Twitter and it gained momentum. Two days later, Benny posted a Web Dynpro for Open Source? in which he discussed the topic more thoroughly and explained the different positions towards OpenSource inside SAP. A lively discussion ensued in the comment section, which is a must-read.
One week later, Jochen Guertler, the Product Owner Web Dynpro Java Web Dynpro for Open Source, spawning more interesting responses:

Dear Web Dynpro community,
please have a look to Benny´s blog under Web Dynpro for Open Source? raising the question whether Web Dynpro Java should become Open Source.
It would be very interesting for me to here your opinion about this. What are the benefits in doing this? What are the risks? Would YOU like to actively contribute?
Thanks in advance
Jochen (Product Owner Web Dynpro Java)

The Fear of Vendor Lock-out (Worse than Lock-in)

To tell you a bit about my background regarding this discussion, my employer is an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) that has been working with SAP and ABAP for over ten years. Recently it has adopted SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment as a development platform and started several CE-based development projects. Now whenever a new project is around the corner, the same discussion begins:

  • Should we use CE or should it be a pure Java EE project?
  • How important is it for for the software to run on non-SAP platforms?
  • Do we want to build a product that only SAP customers can use? Aren’t we deliberately narrowing our market too much?
  • Can we develop this in our NetWeaver landscape but so that a customer can run it, say, on JBoss?
  • Can we develop this so that it can be relatively easily ported to, say, JBoss? With a pure Java EE heart and using NetWeaver Composition Tools only at the surface where they can be easily replaced?

For someone who knows the Composition Tools included in the recent CE releases 7.1 and 7.1 EHP 1, such discussions are painful: You’ve got the best development tools you could ever want, but your customers don’t have the runtime, and maybe your potentials customers don’t want to become SAP customers just because your application is so great.
(In fact, becoming an SAP customer and running NetWeaver is still a huge step if you compare it to having the intern set up a JBoss or LAMP server.)
What does this mean for ISVs? Using NetWeaver tools locks them out of parts of the market. So they use them less than they would like to, because the fear of losing customers is greater than the fear of using only the second-best User Interface design tool.

Web Dynpro for Everyone

Web Dynpro is a good example. As SAP Mentor Dagfinn Parnas pointed out in response to Jochen Guertler’s forum post:

[…] Therefore, I am very positive to the open-sourcing of WD for Java if
a) it fills a “niche” and provides something more than the open-source solutions which exist today.
b) it provides value back to SAP
The key features which make WD stand out are
1) Model driven
2) Standardized UI
3) Rendering engine independent
I don’t know of any open-source solutions which have the same key features, so requirement a) should be fulfilled. […]

  Every Java EE developer I have spoken to agrees that Web Dynpro for Java is unique, great to use, and an extremely valuable and impressive tool. (They say the same about other NetWeaver Composition Tools when I demonstrate them.) They understand that it speeds up the development process, adds agility and maintainability, and makes the user interface easy to use through coherence and standardization. But they point out correctly that UIs based on Swing, JSP, JSF, etc. can run everywhere. And that is exactly the future I would like to see for Web Dynpro.

Built on NetWeaver, Runs Everywhere

I want all the developers who hesitate to use Web Dynpro to be able to produce plenty of Web Dynpro based applications and release them to a market that encompasses the whole range of Java EE runtimes. Run it on JBoss? Glassfish? No problem. If SAP release an OpenSource Web Dynpro runtime, it could be adapted for all major Java EE implementations so you could run your Web Dynpro applications everywhere.
As Web Dynpro pope Chris Whealy wrote in the comment section of Benny’s blog:

[…] 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

   Get the developers, and you will get the end customers

Dear SAP, if you get the developers – the EcoSystem! – on your side, they will create software that runs everywhere but runs best on SAP. ISVs working with NetWeaver as a development platform will gain a foothold at non-SAP customers. Over time, these non-SAP customers will understand that running NetWeaver will enable them to become even more agile and respond to changing business requirements more quickly by using the Composition Tools or other parts of the NetWeaver suite.
It will be a win-win-win situation:

  • Market shares for software built on NetWeaver will increase, allowing developers to use the best tools without fearing to lock themselves out of parts of the market.
  • Non-SAP customers can choose from more and better software.
  • SAP gains new customers by lowering the entry barrier into the SAP world and allowing potential customers to get a taste of its product suite.

Join the discussion at SAP TechEd 2009 in Vienna

At SAP TechEd 2009 in Vienna, fellow SAP Mentor Anne K. Petterøe and I will be hosting a brief Experts Networking Session titled “Web Dynpro Java as OpenSource? Open Discussion – Built on NetWeaver, Runs Everywhere”. If you’re at TechEd Vienna, please join us on Tuesday, 1:30 PM, in Networking Lounge 5 near the SCN Clubhouse. I hope that Benny Schaich and other experts from SAP will join us for this 30 minutes session.

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6 Comments

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  1. Vijay Vijayasankar
    I have been following this topic keenly for last few days – and am no wiser at the moment. I don’t know what it takes for Web Dynpro java to become OS, but I trust the experts who commented on the other blogs that this is somehow possible.

    But what is in it for SAP? How does SAP make money out of OS, and how do they protect the IP on it?

    Also, would this ever be “pure” OS? or more like a mix of some OS and some properitory source? If it is a mix – then I can see some rationale for SAP taking this route. SAP could still license some “enterprise grade” parts of the solution and sell it for some money, and still get some credit for doing OS. Since EU is big on OS – I suppose SAP has something figured out already for taking this route.

    Will someone be covering this topic in Phoenix teched next week? 

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  2. John Travolta
    I think the idea of Web Dynpro becoming Open Source, is great, mainly for developers and ISVs, opening a new world of opportunities.

    For SAP, I will say it can benefit from three situations (just ideas):
    – Support -> no big deal in terms of real money, if we consider the huge support that potential customers, ISVs and others can obtain from SDN community for free, but who knows in critical situations, what customers are willing to pay; 

    – Two different set of Web Dynpro tools -> one set of Web Dynpro tools free of charge and without any visual modelling plugins, and other full set including all available plugins and modelling stuff. Like happens for Flex Builder, where for free we can get a compiler and SDK, but if developers or ISVs wants a more visual tool, have to pay for it.

    – BPM and BRM, more powerfull technology -> I will say that any customer have to pay a license for it, anyone can obtain a small Web Dynpro runtime version free of charge, but BPM and BRM runtime “add-on” have to be paid.

    Besides all this, from experience, let me say that if SAP wants to compete with others Open Source frameworks/technology, SAP has to invest in performance improvements first.

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  3. 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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  4. Kenneth Moore
    Isn’t WD4J dying a slow death?  I didn’t think SAP customer acceptance was that great.  I know the java developers may love it because it gives them a foot into the SAP door (jobs).  Would this really benefit the customers whose main development knowledge/investment is in ABAP?
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  5. Phani Rajesh Mullapudi
    A very Interesting thought-provoking blog though. This may die out as a thought, but if someone from SAP picks this up & does some work on it, we can see a Wider Audience for SAP WD4J (if not WD4A).

    Personally I support WD4A, but then we cant do away with ABAP system.

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  6. Shobhit Garg
    For a UI technology to evolve and stay in market I feel it’s very important to let it evolve according to the latest trends and make the developer community dive into it. Making Webdynpro OS would be a great step forward in this direction. Ajax dynpro is already underway and sap already has a wdlite platform based on swt that allows making apps for mobile devices.But the problem is that with so many new technologies evolving it becomes difficult to adapt dynpro accordingly. Opening up the framework would allow developers to adapt the framework to their needs and  keep it in pace with the latest trends.

    cheers
    Shobhit

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