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Author's profile photo Erwin Tenhumberg

Open Source at SAP in 2010

As the year end is approaching quickly, it is time to look back at what has happened around open source software in 2010, both in general and at SAP specifically.

Matt Asay called 2010 “The year open source went invisible” as almost all organizations use, integrate, support and contribute to open source software these days independent of their business domain or their business model, or how Matt summarized it: “2010 was the year that open source ceased to be a competitive differentiator for vendors and instead became standard operating procedure for everyone”.

On the other hand open source software was very visible in the sense that there was a long public debate about the “open core” business model and the fact that we saw a number of community forks popping up including one around my old project (I joined SAP in 2008 coming from Sun Microsystems where and ODF were key focus topics for me).

2010 probably was not a year of big bang type open source announcements by SAP. Instead it was a year of steady and solid progress regarding SAP’s growing engagement in open source.

According to the Eclipse committer statistics of the Eclipse Dash project, SAP is now the 4th largest corporate contributor to Eclipse projects based on the number of active committers. Eclipse Dash shows 22 active committers as of today, but the actual number of SAP committers is around 27 as projects like EGit, jGit, Tycho and Mylyn Reviews are not included due to a (still) missing integration of GIT-based respositories into the Eclipse Dash statistics.

Eclipse Dash shows SAP committers contributing to 16 Eclipse projects in 2010, but considering what I wrote above, the real project number is higher as well, i.e. somewhere around 20. A few new Eclipse projects are currently in the proposal / creation stage, and I am confident that SAP will co-initiate, join and participate in a number of those, too (e.g. Libra). Stay tuned!

SAP is also increasingly active outside of the Eclipse Foundation. Two examples at the Apache Software Foundation are Apache Chemistry and Apache VXQuery. SAP is already using quite a bit of Apache technology, and as a consequence will also start contributing to more Apache projects going forward.

SAP’s strong involvement in Eclipse projects and growing participation in Apache projects shows that SAP likes the frameworks, the services and the governance models that these independent organizations provide, just like the frameworks, services and governance models that standards organizations like OASIS offer. Nevertheless, in 2010 SAP also became active in a number of projects outside of Eclipse and Apache. For example, SAP open sourced the SAP NetWeaver Server Adapter for Eclipse at and decided to join the Gerrit code review tool project at Google Code.

In order to make the adoption of open source technologies easier for our developers and thus to increase and optimize SAP’s engagement in open source projects, we at SAP improved and streamlined our governance processes. One externally visible proof point for this is our adoption of the tools from BlackDuck software (you might also be interested in Open Source – from whitespace to Black Duck or this press interview). In addition, SAP increased internal and external evangelism and thus organized, sponsored, hosted and participated in a number of internal and external open source events.

This year SAP organized two successful Eclipse DemoCamps in Pictures and Videos from the Eclipse DemoCamp in Walldorf and Sofia, sponsored and / or participated in EclipseCon, the Eclipse Summit Europe (ESE), the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), the two Open Source Think Tanks in Napa and Paris as well as LinuxTag and Latinoware. For the Eclipse Summit Europe 2010 the SAP employee Bernd Kolb was the program chair, and at EclipseCon the SAP employee Lars Vogel even won the Top Contributor award. Finally, SAP organized a number of internal open source events like webinars and workshops including external guest speakers in order to increase the overall open source expertise within SAP and to foster knowledge sharing and community building. For example, Open Source at SAP in 2009, SAP held another internal SAP Open Source Summit which saw a more than 100% increase in participants compared to last year.

SAP also increased its activities with respect to interoperability with and support for popular open source solutions and related open standards. For example, SAP started to more proactively reach out to customers who are using open source technologies in order to understand their interoperability requirements. In this context, customers and partners can now also easily contact SAP’s Open Source Office via email (see the lower right area of the open source page on SDN). For a number of open source technologies the “documented” and “visible” demand by SAP customers and partners is still very low, so that we at SAP first need to understand the situation better before we can make the right investment decisions. Thus, please tell us what your open source interoperability needs are!

Unfortunately, the otherwise often praised huge variety of competing open source projects including forks and derivatives does not make life easier when you have to integrate and support those solutions. In theory the answer should be standards, but unfortunately often the desired integration scenarios are not covered by the scope of existing standards, and as a consequence one has to pick and choose which open source projects to integrate and support. For example, the various flavors of like Oracle Open Office, IBM Lotus Symphony, LibreOffice, RedOffice, etc. have slightly different UIs and feature sets and in some cases even have different extension / programming models which are obviously not covered by the / ODF Support in SAP Software. Nevertheless, the new SAP NetWeaver 7.3 product is a very good example of a new SAP product that significantly improves the support for standards and open source (e.g. Mozilla Firefox).

Finally, SAP Ventures, which is SAP’s venture capital arm, added another open source company to it’s investment portfolio in 2010. In addition, to past investments in open source vendors like Alfresco, GroundWork Open Source, Intalio, JasperSoft, Zend, etc., SAP Ventures is now also an investor in MuleSoft.

All these open source activities by SAP haven’t gone unnoticed by the outside world as a number of external statements show. The analyst firm The 451 Group calls SAP a “case study for open source engagement”, IDC Europe acknowledges that “SAP is significantly more active in the open source community than two years ago”, and the InfoWorld blogger Savio Rodrigues concludes “SAP minimized risk while adopting open source, so can you”. Another result of SAP’s growing engagement in open source might be the large number of open source related blog entries on SDN, i.e. the ones filed under the categories “Open Source”, “Eclipse”, “Scripting Languages”, etc. Apparently, the open source community within the very large existing SAP developer community is growing as well.

All in all, as I said earlier, 2010 probably was not a year of big bang type open source announcements by SAP. However, looking back I think SAP clearly demonstrated that it is very serious about its open source commitments by making significant contributions to a large number of projects. Therefore, I’m pretty sure that we will see SAP’s engagement grow even further in 2011. Again, stay tuned!

Thanks a lot to all the different open source communities as well as to my colleagues at SAP who made SAP’s various open source contributions happen! I’m looking forward to 2011! Happy holidays and a happy new year!

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Erwin,
      Going forward, do you see SAP moving away from creating their own processes and solutions in the technology space (Netweaver and NWDI) towards providing extensions to open source solutions? Or are Netweaver and NWDI considered standards based and perhaps in the future open source initiatives?
      From an outsiders point of view especially NWDI does not seem like something that brings SAP closer to open source and standards but rather seems to move towards proprietary processes and technology.

      Having been marginally involved with SAP Java technologies for the last 8 years it would be nice to have seen a fundamental shift, but at the moment there seems to be more of good intent in the open source and standards space than strong delivery that is visible on the ground level at customer sites (where it matters).

      Please take this in the context that I have mainly been involved with SAP Netweaver PI/XI and SAP E-Commerce so my opnions are based on these narrow sectors.

      Keep up the good work!