Thoughts on NetWeaver Gateway
After a recent SAP Mentor webinar with the Gateway team (which I did not attend so had to listen to the replay) I tweeted “Replay of #SAPMentors Gateway webinar did nothing to convince me to jump on board”.
As I, and many others, have been saying consistently for about a year I think that SAP’s strategy to charge for pieces of the technology stack is flawed. SAP has built its software business by selling applications and bundling in the technology platform that the applications run on. i.e. When you buy ERP you get NetWeaver included. This is a pretty easy to explain and justify. It is the applications that provide the business benefits so that is what SAP charge for.
Recently SAP have added a couple of components to their technology stack. The Sybase acquisition gave them access to SUP and they have developed SAP NetWeaver Gateway “a technology that provides a simple way to connect devices, environments and platforms to SAP software based on market standards“. SAPs stated intention is to charge a license fee for both these technology pieces – although your guess is as good as mine as to what that will be. (Snide side comment – Perhaps the reason that SAP can’t name a price is that they have no idea what the value is?) For NetWeaver Gateway I heard two different pricing models mentioned by SAP representatives at SAP TechEd. One was to charge by data volume and the other by number of service calls.
As an independent developer I expect that I am just the sort of person SAP should be courting with these products. Independent Developers and ISVs will build the “hundreds of partner apps” that they keep referring to whenever someone asks them for a list of currently available mobile applications. So, maybe naively, I expect SAP would want me to vote with my feet (or at least my code) and start building apps for both the Unwired Platform and NetWeaver Gateway. (Side note – I still don’t know if SUP means SAP Unwired Platform or Sybase Unwired Platform so I am using more generic terms)
So let’s say I come up with my own killer app. It is an all-singing all-dancing mobile application that will provide huge business benefit to lots of SAP customers. In fact it is so good I can sell the idea to my favourite customers (those that trust me) with a business case that they will jump at. So I have the idea, I have the funding and foundation customer commitment – I am ready to go. So time to decide what technology I should use to build my application with. Let me focus on NetWeaver Gateway but I think similar arguments apply to the Somesortof Unwired Platform.
SAP collateral tells us that NetWeaver Gateway “offers connectivity to SAP applications using any programming language or model without the need for SAP knowledge by leveraging REST services and OData/ATOM protocols“. Without drilling down too much on the semantics of this statement I don’t see NetWeaver Gateway as that at all. I see NetWeaver Gateway as a programmer productivity tool. It provides a method for exposing SAP functionality using those standards mentioned – but we ABAP developers have been able to do that for years. Some of us have even built frameworks of varying sophistication to do things like expose backend functionality as REST services, parse SAP data structures into JSON or OData or XML or anything else we fancy. Some of these frameworks have been shared with the community via SDN and Code Exchange. I am not saying I am not interested in a toolset and/or framework from SAP that does this sort of thing as well, I am. But really the value proposition is that NetWeaver Gateway will save me development time on the backend in publishing the services I want to consume in my application.
BTW – I do not believe NetWeaver Gateway saves me any time developing the front end application despite all the great “app in a minute” demos we have seen. Whether I use NetWeaver Gateway to expose services or I handcraft my own as long as I conform to industry accepted standards the front end development tool should be able to introspect and the runtime consume these services identically.
So back to my killer app. Why should I take the funds my customer has committed to my app and pass some of them onto SAP? Even assuming I could get a straight answer from SAP on what the price would be – why should I do it unless the benefits outweigh the costs? How can a recurring pricing model on a piece of technology be weighed up against the value of saving me development time on a project I already have approval for? And why should I just let dollars go to SAP for my idea? And by the way my customers’ employees (the target audience for my killer app) are already licensed to use SAP anyway. Why should they pay again? (I have a few other objections as well but you get the idea.)
Returning briefly to the Sublime Unwired Platform – how do I justify the cost (albeit unqualified) of this platform against the benefits of my single, albeit killer, app? I can’t. And even if I could why would I confuse my customer with extra technology and extra licensing when I don’t need to? I wouldn’t.
So that’s the old ground. Sorry for taking so much space as I know you have all heard that before.
But the real problem has nothing to do with NetWeaver Gateway or the Someothername Unwired Platform.
The real problem is that SAP are struggling to find a way to monetise the millions, probably billions, of users they envisage connecting to their customers’ SAP systems via the internet. These will be their customers’ customers, their customers’ suppliers, their customers’ prospects, Joe Average searching for the cheapest widget. Basically it could be everyone in the world with a smart phone.
This is a new-ish problem, but I am sure SAP looked for old business models to learn from. I suspect the business model they took on board is that of the utility companies. IDEA! Let’s put a meter on the edge of the SAP landscape and charge for use just like the electricity, gas and water meters on the edge of everyones property. (In case I wasn’t obvious enough – SAP NetWeaver Gateway is the meter) Kar-ching! Brilliant!
And this brings up another worry for me. I am concerned that SAPs interest in the success of their meter will lead them to make it the centrepiece of every new development. So no matter what the problem the answer will include NetWeaver Gateway and/or the Super Unwired Platform whether or not they are the most suitable technology for the specific solution. In this respect we have been here before – just think of the applications that have been or are being ported from Web Dynpro Java to Web Dynpro ABAP.
As a final note let me add, 1 billion users paying $2 per month equals $24 Billion per year. And that could be for just one app.