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Last week, there was a press conference in San Francisco where SAP made major announcements in the database and mobile space.  The statements regarding the mobile space were fascinating inasmuch as it demonstrated SAP’s strategy to use partnerships to expand its reach into new developer ecosystems.

By collaborating with Adobe, Appcelerator and Sencha, SAP will enable millions of developers to effectively build mobile apps based on their choice of client architectures — from native to hybrid Web container to mobile Web. Developers will be able to do so while leveraging an industry-leading enterprise mobile application platform from SAP.

“As a leader in the enterprise mobility market, SAP is constantly looking for innovative ways to serve our customers and partners, and advance our vision for this market,” said Sanjay Poonen, president, Global Solutions, SAP. “By joining forces with leading mobile app development vendors like Adobe, Appcelerator and Sencha, we are making it easier for large communities of developers, in the millions, to innovate on our platform. We believe SAP is the only mobile platform provider delivering on the promise of an open platform architecture that supports innovative third-party development environments and tools, providing flexibility for customers to implement the right mobile app every time.”

[SOURCE]

This approach was, however, focused on the mobile space.  Since I am interested in the OnDemand space, I started to think about SAP’s OnDemand developer ecosystem.   The “cloud” is a critical cornerstone (along with mobile, in-memory and core/ Business Suite) in SAP’s fundamental strategy. I was curious – Was the same strategy (use partnerships to attract new developers, etc) present there as well? What role did the acquisition of SuccessFactors (with all its cloud DNA) fit into this puzzle?

Note: By “OnDemand developer ecosystem” I mean a developer ecosystem that is focused on OnDemand/Cloud topics rather than a cloud-based developer ecosystem.

Note: This is the first part of a two-part blog on SAP’s OnDemand developer ecosystem.  This blog will focus on the current situation for such developers. In Part 2 of this blog series, I’ll examine how the acquisition of SuccessFactors fits into this puzzle, discuss why an OnDemand developer ecosystem is so important and give a few suggestions how SAP can create a successful OnDemand developer ecosystem.

SAP’s OnDemand developer ecosystem or the lack thereof

Note: It is critical to make distinction between SAP’s OnPremise and OnDemand developer ecosystems. This blog just focuses on the OnDemand ecosystem.

SAP has a variety of OnDemand solutions available  and a few offerings (for example, Neo) which are still in Beta.   Almost all of these offerings are SaaS and the involved applications were largely created by SAP.  Some have SDKs (ByDesign), others (StreamWork, BIOnDemand) have REST APIs that are available for developers to extend these applications.. The majority are an integral part of the SAP’s OnDemand architecture – there are a few (SAP Information Interchange OnDemand, E-Invoicing for Compliance OnDemand and Sourcing OnDemand) however, which have a strange position in that they are described as being “OnDemand” but currently don’t run on the ABAP or Java PaaS platforms.

Here is an overview of SAP’s Cloud offerings that was presented at last year’s Influencer Summit in Boston. It is useful as a reference for the following discussion.

/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/image001_93393.jpg

After I decided to analyze SAP’s OnDemand developer ecosystem, the first question was: “Where do I start looking?”  Since we are talking about developers, SCN appeared to be the logical choice.  I purposely avoided any private communities for such developers.

Note: Some might say that the new SCN has just been launched and the appropriate content might not yet be present.  I’d respond by saying that the problem existed in the old SDN as well.

The next question was “how do you determine whether a developer ecosystem for a particular product line is present?”  I decided to look at the resources that are available. “Resources” is defined broadly and includes such things as forums, blogs, code examples, sandboxes to test the platform, etc.

The next question was “how do you determine whether a developer ecosystem is healthy and vibrant?” This characteristic is based on the assumption that the ecosystem is present in the first place. Some metrics used to answer this question might include the level of activity in forums, number of blogs, number of blogs written by non-SAP developers, etc. Other more subjective factors might include developer-friendly licensing, etc.

I’m dividing my analysis into SAP’s SaaS and its PaaS offerings.

SaaS Offerings

Note: I’m only examining the actual situation for developers.  There might be lots of plans for OnDemand applications (Sales OnDemand SDK, etc) that are still in progress.

Note: The following lists are based on my extensive research on SCN. If there are other sources, then this is another example of the misguided strategy regarding the OnDemand developer ecosystem.  For example, I started looking at the forum for Business ByDesign but I noticed that there was very little activity.  After doing some digging and asking on Twitter, I discovered that there is a whole different community set up for ByDesign developers – separate from the open environment of SCN.

/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/image002_93394.jpg

[SOURCE]

If other relevant resources that I haven’t mentioned are indeed present, then the question must be asked: how will the casual developer who is interested in the platform/application in question find the information? Such individuals won’t look as extensively as I have.

Resources for Developers: Content

Product

Discussions

Blogs

Documents

Comment

StreamWork

110

19

34

Business ByDesign

82

1

28

BIOnDemand

420

0

39

Many discussions but most concern other BI topics

CarbonImpact

0

0

0

No separate content area – part of Sustainability

Sales OnDemand

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN

Travel OnDemand

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN

SAP Information Interchange OnDemand

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN appears to be part of PI area

SuccessFactors Business Execution Suite

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN, no public area for developers on Success Factors site

E-Invoicing for Compliance OnDemand

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN

Sourcing OnDemand

0

0

0

No separate content area in SCN part of OnPremise area

Other Resources for Developers

Product

Codex Projects

Wiki Pages

API publically Available

StreamWork

3

96 pages- own Wiki area

Yes

BusinessByDesign

2

58 pages – An empty wiki space

No (Might be available in the private community)

BI OnDemand

23 pages An outdated wiki space

Yes

CarbonImpact

1

0

No

Sales OnDemand

0

0

No

Travel OnDemand

0

0

No

SAP Information Interchange OnDemand

0

No

SuccessFactors Business Execution Suite

0

0

No (Might be available in the private community)

E-Invoicing for Compliance OnDemand

0

0

No

Sourcing OnDemand

0

0

No

PaaS

Note: There are currently no real PaaS offerings from SAP. I’m including River, because it is more a PaaS than a SaaS. However, its future position is largely unknown.

Resources for Developers: Content

Product

Discussions

Blogs

Documents

Comment

Java-PaaS /Neo

0

0

0

There is a private community for those involved in the Beta.

ABAP-PaaS

0

0

0

River

57

0

7

Product

Codex Projects

Wiki Pages

API publically Available

Java-PaaS /Neo

0

No

ABAP-PaaS

0

No

River

1

33

Yes

SCN Developer Centers

There is a new Developer Center page on SCN in which developers have the ability to get details about new technology.   Not only do developers get access to information, they also get hands-on access to the technology – either via cloud-based sandboxes or other means.

/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/image003_93398.jpg

As the picture shows, there is nothing for developers interested in OnDemand offerings. 

Some might question whether an OnDemand DeveloperCenter is even relevant since JPaas/ Neo is still in Beta and no public details to the ABAP PaaS are available. This OnDemand DeveloperCenter could act as a central point where SAP could provide resources for a variety of other SaaS applications (for example, StreamWork).

Conclusion

All in all, there are very few resources available for OnDemand developers. This scarcity is not the sign of a healthy developer ecosystem.  Some might suggest that this paucity is due to the relative immaturity of SAP’s OnDemand offerings (I don’t whether to see this as an insult or not) but this suggestion is more an excuse as anything else. 

In Part 2 of this blog series, I’ll examine how the acquisition of SuccessFactors fits into this puzzle, discuss why an OnDemand developer ecosystem is so important and give a few suggestions how SAP can create a successful OnDemand developer ecosystem.

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17 Comments

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  1. Anne Hardy

    Indeed, we have ignored developers for too long. All of us at SAP: wake up and start to realize that a lively and complete developer ecosystem is critical to our success!

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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author

      I think the key words in your reply are “lively” and “complete”.

      • Lively: A vendor must actively work to bring momentum into their developer ecosystem. This necessity often requires work at the level of individual developers – thus, the critical importance of using social media to establish this network.
      • Complete: Too often, there was just a focus on official “partners” rather than looking a broader view of the developer ecosystem. To be successful, you need more than just “official partners”

      SAP must accelerate its activities in both areas. Otherwise, SAP’s competitors will attract such developers and leave SAP with its traditional developer ecosystem but without any potential to expand its marketshare to support its new technological innovations.

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      1. Richard Hirsch Post author

        Although many speak about a more generalized idea of the relationship between SAP and the developers, it is only when you look more closely at this relationship do you see that some areas (mobile, Gateway, Hana,etc) receive all the attention while other areas (primarily OnDemand) are largely ignored – I haven’t seen oodles of time talking up OnDemand devs.  This unbalanced approach has major repercussions since a weak OnDemand developer ecosystem means that the ability of all those new mobile developers is limited to creating SUP-based apps rather than Cloud-based ones – this restriction reduces the overall appeal of all the new partnerships.

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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author

      Good point.

      I purposefully didn’t look at the OSS Notes associated with offerings. I’m sure there are many available for the applications in question but I was more interested in looking at the apps as an outsider – a developer who was interested but wasn’t a partner with access to the Service Marketplace.

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  2. David Brockington

    Very thoughtful blog, thanks Dick. I look forward to part two, and your suggestions for improvement. Especially for SAP StreamWork, where we’ve at least made a start, although we have a long way to go, but also for the entire SAP cloud ecosystem.

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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author

      StreamWork is actually the most active SAP OnDemand offering in terms of building a developer ecosystem and should really be complimented for its efforts in this area.

      All I can say is keep up the good work.

      D.

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    1. Dennis Howlett

      @judson – the problem here is that this becomes a chicken and egg issue. If I’m a partner based upon the closed model we have today then where is my incentive to share? If I’m not a partner then where is my entry point?

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      1. Judson Wickham

        @Dennis, having the SDK myself, I can tell you that the chicken has simply not yet hatched. I’m sure the SDK will be ready for the full community, but it’s not now.

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      2. Andreas Eissmann

        @Dennis I had already some disscusions about this topic but until yet I always got the answer “NO, we will not open the ByDesign developer community”. But I hope that they will do it with the generally availability of the ByDesign studio until the end of the year.

        I’m a parter and my incentive is: We need more developers cause SAP and we can’t realize all customer reqirements without them.

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        1. Richard Hirsch Post author

          Pretty short-sighted in my opinion – you just have to know where to make the cut. Some things should remain private (sales advice, etc) but many other things should be public. You would allow other developers who may not be ByDesign partners but who have experience with competitors’ products to provide different perspectives on issues.

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  3. Dennis Howlett

    @dick – FWIW, the other day, a few of us had a briefing with the chap who is pushing B1 OD in the partner channel. I wasn’t over enamoured of the responses I got to key questions around the business model and partner engagement. More to your points, there was no mention of developer engagement. If anything there was implicit pushback based upon partner views around differentiation. This is the wrong mindset if you want to:

    • Go for volume
    • Engage with the widest possible audience
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    1. Richard Hirsch Post author

      I agree.

      There is a certain conflict between a restricted partner focus and a broader developer focus. I don’t think SAP has yet to figure out the correct ratio yet. It isn’t an easy task since this may vary based on the area in question  (mobile vs Hana vs OnDemand, etc)

      B1 OD is another can of worms that I haven’t opened yet. Here I see a threat to the ByDesign market.

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  4. Matthias Steiner

    Hi Dick,

    we hear you and we do share your opinion about the importance of reaching out to the developer community and bringing them aboard. I know we are on common ground here.

    I can only speak about Neo… where I’d say we are on a good track.

    Let’s recap: we provided several preview sessions already last year, sharing what we are up to. We also announced the BETA program in Madrid and it’s in full swing. OK, we have opted for a closed beta in order to be able to provide individual support for all the participants and thereby gathering quality feedback. But you know all that of course…

    … and hey, SAPPHIRENOW is just around the bend 😉

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