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There’s been lots of noise about this in the aftermath of TechEd 2010. It is very explicit in the keynote given by Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP – and infused through the rest of the conference. When asked why, he answers that they’ve not talked about it for nearly 3 years and there appears to be some assumption as a result that NetWeaver is dead – and they wanted to refute that clearly to the market.

But from the messages I have heard there are some very clear changes happening to the NetWeaver platform. Here’s my take on the situation, nicely distilled into one blog post:

WebDynpro for Java and Visual Composer really are dead

For my money, WebDynpro for Java (WDJ) was not SAP’s finest moment. The theory was a good one – create an extensible UI format for SAP’s Java server which permitted cross-technology applications to be written – consuming from both SAP and non-SAP sources – so called xApps.

The problem though with WDJ is multifold. For a start it’s really expensive to program in. You write the UI… and then the integration. Second, and most important, WebDynpro for ABAP (WDA) came not long after and is better in most ways. It got the development effort and is far cheaper to develop in. There’s not much of a downside.

Visual Composer though is an interesting one. I actually really like VC and will miss it. They might not be removing these technologies and will support them until the end of life of their products but they are stopping developing on them. Given the effort that has gone into VC in 7.2 and 7.3 and the Integrated Planning integration, etc., this is a shame as I feel VC has real potential.

HTML5 rendering engine is on its way

No one would confirm or deny this (other to say that it was being looked at) but it seems logical. Such an engine would replace WDJ as the multi-device UI rendering platform. And allow the sort of quality user experience as is required.

It’s unclear when this engine would be most used but I’m thinking that it’s focussed on NetWeaver CE and BPM. 

AS Java is dead for SAP-only apps

This is just my analysis but it seems to be a direction. In ERP 6.0 they moved the HR Employee Self-Services pages (mostly) to WebDynpro for ABAP. And in ERP 6.0 EhP5 (Business Suite 7 innovations 2010) they move the rest of the HR content (mostly Manager Self-Services) to WebDynpro for ABAP. Praise be.

Of course CRM already did this. They did have the awful PCUI interface in CRM 4.0 and 5.0 which was wrapped up in a Java framework – and thankfully they wrote their own interface for CRM 6.0 and 7.0 based on the ABAP BSP layer. In CRM 7.0 you only need a Java Application Server (Java AS) for certain usage types. In CRM 7.0 EhP1 (Business Suite 7 innovations 2010) they reduce these further with the Multichannel work. CRM Service and Web Shop move into ABAP.

NetWeaver BI can be ABAP-only for many uses cases as of 7.3, especially in the light of Advanced Analytics for Excel, Xcelsius etc. having direct integration. And the ABAP based planning-modeler… see a trend?

There are some other Java Business Packages that remain, for e.g. MDM, SRM, but these are relatively niche products. Which brings me to my next idea:

Duet Enterprise might be a contender to the throne

Let’s face it, SAP can’t compete with Microsoft on investment in portal technologies. And portals are by their nature Mid-Market because they tend to reach out to occasional-use cases for the time being.

So why not co-innovate with Microsoft on an integration product and call it Duet Enterprise? And maybe build the ESS/MSS framework in it, to integrate with the new ABAP based services mentioned above. That is conjecture, but you can see where this might be headed.

NetWeaver PI heads to be Java only

Depending on your usage type, NetWeaver Process Integration (PI), the Enterprise Services Bus provided by SAP for free for SAP-SAP communications, is already Java-only as of NetWeaver PI 7.3. This is against the trend but it makes a lot of sense because it cuts out the awful message passing between ABAP and JAVA that used to take place. For every message.

It seems that on that basis, SAP are likely to make PI JAVA-only in a future release. Time will tell. 

NetWeaver CE is the other major reason to use Java

This leaves the conclusion that AS Java is really going to be focussed on PI and the Composition Environment (CE). This encompasses Business Process Modelling (BPM) and Business Rules Modelling (BRM) as well as some other tools. Currently CE can compile to Adobe Flex and WebDynpro for Java as well as Visual Composer.

Clearly SAP are looking to write a HTML5 rendering engine, for otherwise CE would be without a supported UI layer – apart for the new Webdynpro for ABAP support, which would be an ironic twist of fate. That’s not impossible either of course…

I don’t really see a downside though. HTML5 is standards compliant and browsers are headed firmly in that direction, as well as having support from Microsoft, Apple and Google, who are the major players. Mozilla Firefox will do as the market trends require. 

NetWeaver Mobile is dead. Long live SUP.

When Vishal was asked what SAP’s mobile strategy was, he said “Sybase Unwired Platform”. Now aside from getting the product name wrong (it’s actually now called SAP Unwired Platform), I think his prediction is spot on. Or did I mean strategy?

Let’s see this another way. They can’t kill SUP because the European Commission would have them for breakfast for forcing SUP customers to move to the NetWeaver Mobile platform. Anyhow they don’t want to do that, it would just upset people.

Now if we assume that SAP know they can’t keep the current double-middleware situation (if you want to implement SUP you currently also need NetWeaver Mobile), then they must kill NetWeaver Mobile – moving the features required from NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 into SUP. I can’t see any other way that situation can play out.

Someone will sort out naming conventions

 

Actually this is more of a plea than anything else, to Jonathan Becher (EVP for Marketing at SAP). I heard one senior exec at SAP who will remain unnamed get confused between Support Package Stacks, Enhancement Packages and major Versions. Is it any surprise with names such as Business Suite 7 innovations 2010 (or BS7 i2010 for short)?

EhPs are OK but let’s keep them consistent. Let’s move everything to EhP5. NetWeaver 7 EhP5. Not 1. Please. I know it skips versions but it will confuse people less. 

 

Conclusions

If I’m right on all these predictions, NetWeaver is well and truly alive but it will change its face in the coming months and years.

NetWeaver Java will be 100% focussed on integration and composition scenarios and will have fewer UI build technologies and be cheaper, faster, and leaner to support. In short – playing to its strengths and trying to stop being all things to all men.

And NetWeaver ABAP is the foundation for Business Suite and with it Innovations 2010 – and if you want to invest in SAP technologies, invest in ABAP. If you did that 15,10 or 5 years ago, your investment will have been protected. It isn’t changing any time soon.

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17 Comments

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  1. Ivan Femia
    Great Blog John, at TechEd these news were into the air… No one confirm but everyone could taste that smell…

    WDJ can no longer compete with WDA, the migration of a lot of transactions to WDA/FPM is the confirm witch is the right way.

    NetWeaver Mobile have to migrate to SUP, no other solution is on the way.

    I’m waiting for Project Gateway and Phoenix these gives a lot of chance.

    Ivan

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      Glad you enjoyed it. I agree Gateway and Phoenix show promise but they are still very immature technologies and we will see how they do.

      The pricing structure for Gateway in particular is unclear and whilst I have heard unconfirmed rumours, nothing that is printable yet. Therefore it is unclear how customers will react to the pricing model.

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  2. Faycal CHRAIBI
    Hi John,

    That’s an excellent analysis. And that’s pretty what I infered from the various conferences that were held this year during the TechEd.

    There is a clear trend to go back to ABAP. I would also add the tendency to move everything on Solution Manager to the ABAP based workcenters (including SLD in near future?).

    Since the release of CE, I have favored it. Clearly it was a great addition to the NetWeaver family, but then, there seemed to be a lack of proper vision for it.

    It stood between a UI rendering engine and some kind of middleware. It did some BPM but then we saw Aris integrated in PI. Clearly SAP did not provide a good guidance on what would be the role of the Composition Environment within your landscape. They’d rather deliver it as a great swiss knife you could use for several things.

    Now this might change with the next releases.

    As for PI, it would make sense to move it from a dual stack to a single stack application. The back and forth messaging between the two was way too much resource (and response time consuming). Now I only fear that this might result into some kind of performance degradation, as the ABAP stack played a major role in the routing of messages.

    Now what will they do with other functions such as the BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) ? I suppose as well that the ABAP workflow part will kiss good bye.

    Another trend I have noticed is the growing usage of the Eclipse platform. As you might know, you can code ABAP in Eclipse and it has new usages for the BPM. That in addition to the various usages it had in the Java world.

    Future will tell, and it looks promising though. And I’m pretty excited to see how this goes.

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      Glad you enjoyed. I don’t think that I’ve put anything out there that isn’t already hanging in the air, but I’ve tried to get it all in one place.

      CE & BPM seem to be gaining clarity as of Solution Manager 7.1 and the process mapping side is being properly integrated in a later release, I hear (at long last).

      From everything I hear, the move from PI as a ESB into Java only, improves performance substantially. We will have to wait and see how that works in the real world.

      Very good point on Eclipse, though I think that ABAP developers will hang onto SE80 for as long as they can!

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    2. Christian Loos
      Hi Faycal,

      CE is now clearly focused on Business Process Composition, so BPM and BRM are the most prominent tools. However, for process composition you also need UIs, services and local persistence. That is why we offer WD/J, VC and CAF.

      You are clearly right on the Eclipse part. With the upcoming 7.3 release, also the ESR tooling is integrated into the NWDS of CE.

      Regards,
      Christian

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  3. Tammy Powlas
    But I attended the BusinessObjects 4.0 Dashboarding hands on session, and there are some ‘VC-like’ features included.  I mentioned that to one the product managers and he agreed with that.

    I noticed the latest support package of Solution Manager’s work centers are now all ABAP Webdynpros too (formerly they were BSP’s) – you touched on this with the CRM comment.

    Viva NetWeaver?  We shall see.  Thanks for posting a great blog.
    Tammy

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    1. John Appleby Post author
      I have no doube that BOBJ tools will provide the dashboarding abilities of both VC and WAD, but VC was so much more – a means of generating cheap lightweight apps in record time.

      Unfortunately for VC, the market killed it off because they never really got it – mostly because VC never had the UI flexibility needed (especially printing) for lightweight apps.

      Yes same with Solman, away from BSP. Those workcenters weren’t much good as they were and very costly to change.

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        1. John Appleby Post author
          Hi Yariv,

          As far as I know, VC has been sunsetted after NetWeaver 7.3 – was talked about in CD250 in Las Vegas. It is notably missing from the Best Built Apps book! Do you know different?

          Obviously it’s not “dead” because it will still exist, but without development budget it is likely to wither?

          Regards,

          John

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        2. RADHAKRISHNA PAI
          VC applications are about rapid UI development – why is the idea of coupling the VC core with the ability to render to HTML5 UI not on the table? I my opinion that would simplify it and open SAP applications to the world. The same engine should be able to render the UI for any device. looking for your comments on this. Thanks

          RK Pai(www.bridge-x.com)

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        3. RADHAKRISHNA PAI
          VC applications are about rapid UI development – why is the idea of coupling the VC core with the ability to render to HTML5 UI not on the table? I my opinion that would simplify it and open SAP applications to the world. The same engine should be able to render the UI for any device. looking for your comments on this. Thanks

          RK Pai(www.bridge-x.com)

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  4. Thorsten Franz
    John,
    Awesome blog, you put it very well. I think many of us in the CE or NetWeaver Java field haven’t heard the bang yet but the recent developments in this area will be quite a blow to many a CIO’s technology roadmap.
    Cheers,
    Thorsten
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        1. John Appleby Post author
          Maybe, maybe not. I suspect many people with BW installations have BI Java out of necessity and don’t use it as an Enterprise Portal.

          If so, those people won’t really mind either way. Obviously those people who use BI Java as a portal framework for reporting will probably consider their strategy more closely.

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  5. Matthew Harding
    Some scattered random thoughts triggered by your blog (hopefully they won’t come out too confused as I’m still a little jet-lagged):

    It’s taken a while, but I believe SAP are finally figuring out how key ABAP is to the strategy of business applications and their real differentiator from other vendors (simply compare the languages of other vendors to see if you can find a current, always debuggable, powerful yet possibly too easy to pick up language).

    I think we’re still a year or two away for BPM to develop to a platform to remove the need for ccBPM in PI and workflow, but it’s definitely heading that way.  Interesting thought I have is whether BPM will ever co-exist with PI, since the user interaction does imply a bit of potential instability to what must be a stable platform (the ESB).

    HANA (which I assume will gain a NetWeaver prefix in the future) is obviously exciting to the ABAP discussion, even if it’s a few years away from allowing us to build complex Universes directly on top of our ERP stack.

    On the Portal side, I briefly saw some good progress there though heading towards more of a SharePoint and Adobe collaboration competitor now.  Note – The NetWeaver Business Client direction seems (must be) a little unfocussed(?) with all the other UI layers that are evolving but maybe that was just me.

    Similarly, the MII and Event Insight solutions (not quite NetWeaver but kind of were) didn’t seem to gel too well in my mind as I would have envisaged more alignment here when we start to talk Historian style data.

    Visual Composer – Kind of glad it’s moving on really.  I’m still waiting to see a RAD tool come along that doesn’t just do reporting or basic flows. The problem is IMO that without building in artificial programming intelligence into the tool; it seems a nice marketing application which falls short in providing a strategic visualisation platform to an organisation.  Not sure where the MII VC integration falls though.

    On the Gateway side…I’m intrigued, but holding off judgement on that one yet. MI was always a battle to get going so it’s worth watching.

    Lastly, HTML5 is obviously a focus for SAP, but while we still have IE 6,7 and 8 in most enterprises, the change won’t be as fast as we all hope.  D’oh.

    Anyway, just piling a few opinions and thoughts on top of your excellent blog.

    Cheers,
    Matt

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