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So what’s up with PowerBuilder?

Hi everybody! It’s hard to believe that January’s already over and we’re a week into February, so it seems a bit late to say Happy New Year. I hope that everyone has had a productive start to 2013. We have been working hard to continue with our integration into SAP, and defining our strategy moving forward.

We know that people are anxious for a roadmap, and we will have one available soon. Currently, the roadmap we presented back in September is still a fairly accurate snapshot of our plans. You may recall that the roadmap we presented was in standard SAP format, and that a specific timeline is not presented with features. This will take a little bit of getting used to, but as we begin to roll out our plans, create some new programs, and promote our success stories that are underway, people will adjust to the new format and not feel uncomfortable that hard dates aren’t assigned to feature delivery.

Currently, we are still planning to deliver v15 this year and will announce our beta program shortly. We need to incorporate the SAP go to market processes for this release, so that’s why we are a bit behind schedule in delivering this.

Engineering has been busy working on implementing the IDE that I showed in slide format at the PBDC at TechEd in October 2012. This is really exciting, and it’s getting a lot of attention internally at SAP. As soon as we can, we will provide you with more info on this new IDE and how it will be packaged, etc.

For quite some time, we’ve been executing on our roadmap to support the .NET platform and deliver the only product that enables customers to leverage their existing code and migrate it to the .NET platform. A lot has changed in the market and in Microsoft’s messaging for .NET over the past decade+. Web services, more secure code, and other initial messaging about the benefits of .NET evolved over time to a more solid message about a rich platform of services. While this platform is used by more than half of all developers,Microsoft’s focus has shifted away from focusing on .NET and toward Windows 8, Win RT, HTML5, and  solutions for mobile devices. This doesn’t mean that the platform is going anywhere, but their strategic focus moving forward has shifted. And, this means we need to re-evaluate our implementation of .NET support moving forward.

Just a few years ago, there was a strong commitment from Microsoft to Silverlight as their strategic solution for web and mobile development, then a shift away from that technology and a move toward supporting HTML5. We don’t think this will happen with their commitment to the .NET platform, but we do need to adjust our focus as well. This is actually a good thing for PowerBuilder, and it’s good timing, too.

SAP has made several big announcements over the past year about its commitment to developers and the platform built to support development.

A great place to learn more about the Real Time Data Platform (RTDP) is here–an-introduction)

So how does PowerBuilder fit in here? Our customers have been building applications for 22 years with a product that has evolved to keep pace with and incorporate changing and emerging technologies. We’ll continue on this path and enable customers to leverage the benefits of SAP technology. We are currently working with a couple of our customers who are building their applications on top of HANA. One customer has a PowerBuilder front end for a Business One ERP system, and this will now be running on HANA. Another customer is adding the power of in-memory data access and analytics to the ERP system built in PowerBuilder and currently running on an Oracle database. In short, it will be easy to use PowerBuilder to develop on HANA and RTDP. And, we are working with different engineering teams to determine how we will be delivering support for the Cloud, web, and mobile solutions.

We’re excited about the future of app development with PowerBuilder, and we’re fortunate to be making decisions about the future of a product in a company that has made supporting developers its strategic direction.  Looking forward to your feedback and input.

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      Author's profile photo David Peace
      David Peace

      Hi Sue

      I'm really pleased you have put up this post and chosen to share your thoughts with us. Personally I have always thought that chasing after Microsoft was a mistake, PB is better than the rest and should lead the way not follow. You need to keep the RAD element that made PB so much better than others. The .Net IDE is not a RAD tool; this is not a criticism of PB but a fact when dealing with WPF development which is cumbersome and lengthy to get right.

      However, chasing after HANA customers is a very narrow opportunity and to be quite frank not at all relevant to the majority of companies who develop software. HANA is not relevant in the SME market, we are not dealing with such volumes of real time data that we need the performance that HANA delivers. If you look at the PB survey results they show that the majority of PB customers are developing against MS SQL, Oracle and SQL Anywhere. Most are handling relatively small volumes of data that does not warrant enterprise level databases.

      All of our customers operate on Oracle Standard Edition or Oracle One and if changed would move to MS SQL because it is cheaper! I was talking with a Financial Services customer in January who was asking me about PB and where it was going. I was able to tell them what you have told us, but not being able to give a date for the next release did not inspire them with confidence. Having said that I did talk about HANA and the concepts behind it, they were mildly interested buy dismissive about the cost. I also talked about IQ as a column based database as this is probably more in their budget range, but as they have Oracle databases that perform perfectly well and are totally reliable without any data loss, corruptions etc that we talk about when discussing other databases; they are unlikely to change.

      So when talking to customers who ask what is PB going to offer us in the future I have to talk about Appeon, I always get a sideways look that says “so the future of PB is coming from a 3rd party?”. It is all very well for SAP to say “oh we do not give concrete deliverables and dates” but where does that leave us in the field trying to keep your customers using PB and stop them from moving to other development products?


      Technical Director

      Powersoft Computer Services

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi David

      Thanks for your response. You raised a lot of good issues, and I'll try to respond/clarify.

      Certainly, we believe PB is true RAD and better and more productive than VS. But,believing that wasn't enough for us to convince the market and analysts without the ability to actually market the product in ways that would maintain a level of awareness and presence that we needed. We followed .NET for many reasons, and it was an important strategic decision at the time, not the least of which was benefiting from MSOFT's marketing opportunities. The IDE based on the VS shell isn't as productive as PB Classic but that's based on the .NET architecture. And, at the time we made the decision to use the VS Shell, there was an exec team leading the .NET initiative, and a sr .NET advocate running the shell program. The market has changed, and Microsoft is no longer pushing .NET - it's a platform that isn't going anywhere but their focus is really on staying relevant in the mobile space now. 

      Our strategy isn't to chase HANA customers; rather, we want to bring the benefits of HANA to PB customers. HANA isn't just a big ticket product for big shops (, and we know of many PB ISV customers who can leverage its in-memory functionality as a competitive differentiator.  And, it's about more than HANA, it's about the SAP platform, and it's about SAP as a company being focused on developers. To me, that's the fundamental key to the future. SAP is committed to building a platform to support developers and delivering tools to help developers be productive and provide the infrastructure and support services developers need. That is critical to our success. PowerBuilder developers will benefit from the products, technical resources, and other opportunities that SAP will provide to its entire developer community, of which PB developers are an integral part.

      Many companies with PB also have SAP ERP implementations; this means PB developers will have more resources to access and be able to more rapidly customize their installations than other teams / consultants have done in the past. It may take time, but it provides opportunity for PB developers, making them more valuable to their companies.

      Appeon is a fantastic product and a great partner and we are exploring how we can work together better. And, we're also working with other engineering teams internally to see how we can integrate with other products and new solutions.

      As we begin to roll out more details, I think people will begin to feel more confident about the future.

      Author's profile photo David Peace
      David Peace

      Hi Sue

      Many thanks for a prompt and comprehensive response.

      I fully understand the ideas behind the SAP development platform, but in reality we at Powersoft are not moving in those circles. This is a similar story to the Oracle Fusion platform concepts. The trouble with all these "development platforms" is that they come with an initial high cost. This makes the project inherently expensive and is only applicable if the overall project is very expensive. You do not get the ROI on a small or medium project. Given that the majority of businesses are small or medium in size and typically have limited IT budgets, the SAP vision does not fit them.

      The power of PB for us is that it has allowed us to develop applications quickly and cost effectively for the lower end SME business and keep the costs in line with their expectations of spend.

      You have not really addressed my other concern which was that we are still unable to say to existing PB customers stick with PB, look what's coming in the future. I admit that we have been able to say look what SAP are saying and that is a positive move forward. As you say time will tell, but in the mean time we will see people still moving away from PB.

      David Peace

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Sue

      Its nice to get some information. Your roadmap presented around the time of Techwave was very light in detail so saying you are still on track really does not tell us anything.

      It seems to me that the decision has been made that the PB product will be oriented to large SAP accounts, ones that traditionally would be extensive users of ABAP or other SAP extending tools.

      Unfortunately a lot of us have been ISV's and have created custom, non SAP, code for a large number of clients big and small. The new direction does not seem to account for this.

      Looking at Windows 8, Web based deployment is going to become far more important in the near future. Appeon will benefit I guess.

      Brett Weaver

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      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Brett

      We're not limiting PB to large SAP accounts - we understand that many of our customers are SME or ISVs who have Windows based solutions that need to be extended to the Web and mobile devices. Appeon is definitely a great option to get there quickly, and we're also exploring other options. 

      I know the roadmap seemed light in detail and I'm looking forward to delivering more details available soon, beginning with the PB 15 beta.


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Sue;

         I have to agree with Dave and Brett on their points as well from my perspective here on my Canadian Federal Government clientele. They have the same perspective in many cases as the issues listed by the guys.

         The entire Cdn government has started rolling out HTML5 based web sites starting last year. They have already created a toolkit for Visual Studio (ASP.Net) developers called WET that greatly accelerates and standardizes CLF (section508) look & feel. The WET (Web Experience Toolkit) even addresses Tablet and Smart Phone customers and reconfigures your web application automatically on-the-fly to present web pages tailored to each device size without you recoding your base HTML. The WET toolkit might be something that SAP might like to look at as an idea for inclusion in PB: (food for thought).   😉

        Most federal government departments are still J2EE based. The last figure I saw for 2012 was 54% J2EE, 40% .Net and the rest as "other" as far as standardized development platforms. Add to this equation that fact that "Shared Services Canada" (SSC) which now runs all data centers across Canada for the government is focused on Cloud delivery - it would bode well for PB to be always J2EE compliant as well as .Net. If SAP looses that perspective ( I am sure that world wide demographics will support me ) that focusing just on .Net  - given Microsoft's significant slide in the IT market in recent years - would not be a good key tactical direction.

          Many large departments are also now looking at servicing mobile users. In fact, some like Transport Canada have already standardized on Apple technology and have embraced this platform quite well in the past few years. From what I hear, quite a few more government departments will be running proof-of-concept projects on iOS and Android platforms - which says to me that SAP really needed to address this space with PB. I personally predict that both the web and mobile will replace Win32/Winform/WPF development as the key direction in the next 12 months.

         Like David mentioned about MS SQLServer, most of the Cdn federal government is Oracle based. If they are moving off Oracle they are most likely looking at standardizing on MS's SS versus ASE, Informix, Ingress, etc - never mind Exabtye, Terra-data, HANA, etc. If other DBMS as being considered, its the likes of SQLite or MySQL. This lends support to the fact that PB needs to address open source DB's and current SS2012 release with PB 15 (no SS2012 DB driver yet in PB) before worrying about specialty in-memory DBMS & hardware that very few of us in the real world will ever utilize in the near future.

         The other major factor is COO (cost of ownership). PB's track record was pricing and RAD (easy development) to deliver applications on time and within budget. As we all know, budgets are shrinking and developers are being pressed to deliver higher quality applications sooner. The other main factor is that these applications are often asked to inter-operate with other applications that use standard API's (like SharePoint for example) and can be both J2EE or .Net based in nature. So PB's focus on .Net in the past 5 years is actually accelerating PB's demise by exclusion. That is, if PB cannot interface to key systems & technology in use today - its most likely not going to be chosen by IT shops as its main development tool. I think Sybase lost focus on this key CSF (Critical Success Factor).

        With PB today and the up coming PB 15 - it won't matter how good or bad the IDE is for application development unless training & support are in place. This is one of the key weather vanes my government clients and most IT shops use in evaluating whether to continue or assimilate development software. In recent years, PB training has taken a complete exponential downward spiral. This has caused another major "black whole" in the PB Ecosystem - which in turn, continues to accelerate its demise in the market place. SAP needs to address this hemorrhaging ASAP and I am not talking about "willy nelly" home made videos by random PB developers. I'm talking about professional SAP eLearning on-demand video content built by technical specialists that have "polished" content and rich technical in-depth information.

         Like Brett and Brad, independent consultants like ourselves need to know exactly what SAP is doing with PB 15/16/17 and be able to talk intelligently and technically astute details to customers to reassure them how PB is evolving. That also reflects a comprehensive PB Futures Road-Map that is sound. The current RM I must agree with the guys assessment is totally lack luster and gives little confidence to the market place that SAP really understands what is important to PB developers. This really needs to change now before the rest of the IT shops decide to migrate off PB - which has been an accelerating trend in the past 5 years in the market place in general.

         The bottom line is that SAP needs to build a PB Plan based on what the real world is doing and not what they "think" SAP customer might want. To me, PB.Net is a "Dot Not" happening. It cannot complete against VS's prowess in the market. Once you look at PB.Net and realize that its the VS Shell - you might as well move to VS and then hire MS based talent to drive your applications forward once you see what VS can build that PB.Net can not (ie: Console, Service, Win32/64, HTML5, etc targets). SAP needs to position PB with an IDE that differentiates itself from MS and compels the developer to want to use it because its price effective, easier to use, builds superior applications, etc.

        Like David, my focus currently is on Appeon. With its superior webification technology and current mobile focus as well - its the main feature set that my government clientele are looking at before tossing PB completely out the door. SAP needs to stop making "half-***" PB.Net features and focus on these key IT directions for PB - for money (ROI) "PB Classic".

        It is nice to see your post BTW that PB 15 is coming this year. I hope that we see some real PB Classic features in version 15. As all of my government client are still on and only plan to continue with PB Classic + Appeon for the foreseeable future.   ℹ

      Regards ... Chris