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13 reasons why SAP should open-source SAPUI5


Everyone that has been at a recent SAP Teched, or has come in contact with Fiori in another way, knows that SAP is dead serious about UI5, as the UI development toolkit going forward. At SAP Teched 2013, SAP announced that Fiori Wave 2 gets +150 new apps all based on UI5. Fiori will become the new user experience for a consistent experience across all SAP solutions

More partners and individual developers inside the SAP ecosystem are also trying to adopt UI5, to keep up with the train that SAP has brought to speed. However, because of licensing issues, many partners and developers inside the SAP ecosystem are excluded from boarding this train and also cannot contribute to its velocity. Outside of the SAP ecosystem, it looks even grimmer, as UI5 doesn’t even appear on most developer’s radar screens yet.

SAP is betting its UX-life on Fiori and UI5. But to make sure that this UI technology is going to be successful and sustainable inside and outside of the SAP ecosystem, something needs to be done. I strongly believe that the answer of its future success lies in open sourcing the UI5 technology, and here are the reasons:

1. Open-Sourcing SAPUI5 is the best way to drive core license revenue

SAP Core License revenue is on the decline and SAPUI5 provides a renewal of the core that will drive sales of core Finance, HR etc. users, either on-premise or in the cloud.

Putting barriers in the way to adoption of SAPUI5, like license issues or costs, just puts barriers to customers adopting Fiori and Fiori-esque apps, which will impact core license.

2. To lift legal restriction for use of UI5 by developers outside of the SAP ecosystem

SAP is trying to advocate to developers outside of the SAP ecosystem to come and try out SAP developer tools and is making a serious effort to show developer that these tools are interesting. It has even setup a developer advisory board with Mohicans from the industry, to advice SAP in this area.

However, when developers try out SAP’s developer tools, they find out that the way they would like to use these tools doesn’t fit in SAP’s legal framework. It is e.g. currently not possible to license UI5 separately, without licensing at least one other Netweaver product.

3. To earn credits in the open source community

Historically, SAP has been perceived as a rather closed company. Even though the ABAP code has been readable by nature, legal terms prevented you from using it in the same way as open source software is used.

To appeal to developers in the open source community it needs to shake-off this image. The way this is done in the open source community is by earning respectability and legitimacy first. In the open source community it is important to put your money where your mouth is, not just by lip-service and marketing initiatives, but most importantly by authentic and significant contributions. One step to show real commitment and visibility by SAP would be in open sourcing SAPUI5, and showing up to non-SAP developer conferences to promote it.

4. SAPUI5 has the ideal use-cases for developers outside of the SAP ecosystem

Other contributions such as the contributions to Eclipse, Virgo and recently OLingo have always flow a bit under the radar because of its limited amount of direct use-cases for most developers. Based on Javascript, and with strong references to UI and UX, UI5 is the central place that would appeal to many developers outside of the SAP ecosystem.

5. To appear on developer’s radar screens

There is a large community of developers that only wants to work with open source options. Without UI5 being open source, it will not even appear on their radar screen.

The world has changed, and SAP needs to make UI5 much more visible to these communities, rather than concentrating inwardly at existing communities via Sapphire and TechEd events. Making UI5 open source and advocating it at broader developers conferences such as the recent held Devoxx is the way to do that.

6. Because it is legally possible

Many large corporations have gone before SAP and have released some of their (JavaScript) projects as open source. They have cut the internal red tape, and just went for it. Some of them have been extremely successful:

  • In 2009, AngularJS was released as open source by Google and is mentioned by Infoworld as “a framework to watch” (more)
  • In August, 2011 Twitter released Bootstrap as open source. In February 2012, it was the most popular GitHub development project (more).

If those other large corporations can do it, SAP should definitely be able to do it too.

7. Because it is in SAP’s interest for UI5 to be successful

UI5 is the go-to framework for SAP. For it to be successful, it needs a wide adoption by developers. When SAP is restricting UI5 to be only available on top of other SAP software, it may very often not be UI of choice. UI5 will lose traction with those developers, as they will continue choosing that other interface technology that they have then become comfortable with.

8. Because it doesn’t cost revenue opportunities

Open sourcing UI5 wouldn’t cost SAP revenue. It might mean that SAP would have to tune its market approaches base on open source principles though. In fact, by growing the UI5 ecosystem using the open source band wagon, and adopting the right market approach, revenue may even go through the roof. Have a look at the markets around e.g. Bootstrap and WordPress etc. to see what SAP could be potentially be missing out on.

9. To tie individual developers as well as partners closer to the SAP ecosystem

If partners or individual developers want to build an application that would run both on top of an SAP stack as well as the software stack of another vendor, those developers will not be able to freely use UI5, as they can’t assume that their customer has the necessary licenses. Those developers will drop UI5 and shift their focus on more broadly adopted offerings in the open market, such as Bootstrap, Sencha and Appcelerator.

We have seen this happening to Web Dynpro Java already, which was also touted as a technology that would be available for the broader Java audience. However, if you bump into a Java developer, the chances that they will know what Web Dynpro Java are very small.

10. To be able to show UI5 to young developers

There may be a large opportunity to show UI5 at codeclubs, young rewired state or similar initiatives, as well as at universities to get students familiar with UI5. This has proven to be a success formula for Microsoft, as many of the students that are once familiar with the Microsoft tools, demanded the same tools at their eventual workplace as well.

For these young students there is no point of learning and tinkering with UI5 though, as chances that there is a legal framework available for it in their future workplace aren’t as large as for more broadly adopted offerings by the open market.

11. To prevent being called a leech

“Leeches” — that’s how Dave Rosenberg, co-founder and former CEO of MuleSource, and now part of the founding team of RiverMuse, refers to companies that use open source technology but don’t give back to the open source community (more).

SAP happily and quietly incorporates impressive amounts of open source contributions such as jQuery (embedded in UI5) and jQuery Mobile (embedded in SUP and Portal on Device) into its products. Although it is legally sound, it may not lead to the right perception by the open source community. It would be great to see the contribution going the other way in just as significant and visible a manner.

12. To progress faster and serve customers better

If UI5 would be open sourced and would find the traction that other open source projects have seen, SAP can expect contributions to UI5 from the open source community as well. It can count on improvements and added features that it perhaps would have on the roadmap already. But it is also quite likely that additional features coming straight from customers would be added as well. It would also see features added that would allow UI5 to run in more environments and architectures than only those ones based on an SAP tool-stack.

13. Open Sourcing UI5, would be a next step in opening up the corporate culture of SAP

By creating an open culture, you spark innovation, decrease fear of failure and inspire open collaboration. An open culture is opposed to a culture of secrecy and confidentiality. Although SAP is trying to polish up their image and look like they are more open, most part of company is still very much closed.

When would be a good moment?

Now would be agreeable to me… 🙂

But on a serious note, it needs to be done fast, as UI5 is not the only interface technology around at this moment, and UI5 may lose the traction it needs, both inside as well as outside the SAP ecosystem because of reasons mentioned earlier.

On top of that, there are rumors about country sales organisations that have started charging money for UI5. If UI5 is ever going to be open sourced, those customers may feel robbed in the end.

Being an extensible and hopefully an open framework, SAPUI5 has all the potential to gain momentum as the enterprise-ready, solid UI framework of choice, on top of both SAP as well as non-SAP applications. A wise decision needs to be made soon though.

Call to action

If you also think that SAP should open-source UI5, please do leave a little response behind to show your support. I am hoping that SAP would be sensitive to a widespread support of the idea.

Post Scriptum

Some really great video content has been made in relation to open-sourcing UI5.

In this impromptu and unscripted discussion, Jon talks with John Appleby and Ethan Jewett about the argument for open sourcing SAP UI5. The discussion hits on key issues with user experience and developer ecosystems that are suddenly center stage not only for SAP, for for most enterprise software vendors.​ There is a video version of this discussion on Jon’s YouTube channel.

Roel van den Berge finished his presentation at the SAP Inside Track Netherlands (#SitNL) with the video below. It was inspired by the keynote of Bernd Leukert (“Code enabled freedom”) and the wish he saw in the community to make UI5 open-source.

Simon Kemp has designed a  t-shirt to promote the idea and show some support – plus it makes a great geeky holiday gift with the holidays just around the corner. It needs at least 50 people to buy the shirt for it to go into print – you only get charged if it hits that number.

Open Source SAPUI5 – Got the T-Shirt?


In the good spirit of open source, this blog has been formed and shaped by a lot of contributions, opinions and comments by many people from the community. I may have forgotten some, but here’s a list of people that have contributed directly or indirectly: Ethan Jewett, DJ Adams, Robin van het Hof, Nigel James,John Patterson, Chris Paine, John Moy, Gavin Quinn, Phil Loewen, L. van Hengel, John Appleby, Helmut Tammen, Uwe Fetzer, Robert Eijpe, Jon Reed, Roel van den Berge, Simon Kemp, Tom Van Doorslaer (please do let me know if I missed out on anyone).

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  • Hi Jan, I agree with every single word of your manifesto.

    Let's hope someone from SAP Legal reads this too and gets the feeling this is the right way forward. Once these legal restrictions are gone, I don't think there's much further hesitation within SAP to go the open source route.

    • My father always used to say: "Waar een wil is, is een weg" (Where there's a will, there's a way). Although a new licensing may be a legal obstacle, it is one that can be taken. If companies like Google and Twitter can do it, so can SAP.

  • Great post Jan, totally agree. And you raise a good point about the adoption amongst younger coders, something that we tried to do (in a small way) last year at YRS but nothing came of it, mostly because it wasn't on the radar of anyone outside the SAP developer ecosphere.

  • Don't forget that Open Sourcing SAPUI5, is also a next step in opening up the corporate culture of SAP.

    By creating an open culture, you spark innovation, decrease fear of failure and inspire open collaboration.

    An open culture is opposed to a culture of secrecy and confidentiality. Although SAP is trying to polish up their image and look like they are more open, most part of company is still very much closed.

    Reaching out to the open source community via SAPUI5 would be a nice additional (low risk) step towards the future.

  • Jan,

    Good point!

    Open sourcing SAPUI5 would also be positive for the further improvement of the framework! By making it open source, a lot more developers can give added value to it!

  • I would like to wholeheartedly support this. I've seen it mentioned in a few other scn posts, and as a user of many different web-frameworks I can say that not doing it will definitely put it at a disadvantage.

    But currently: All that I can do with UI5, I can also do with other frameworks.

    • "All that I can do with UI5, I can also do with other frameworks".

      Indeed! We created already a PO cockpit in UI5 (Fiori style). But we're also creating the same application with other HTML5 frameworks (for example with AngularJS).

      Why? Because a lot of functionalities can be done easier & with less code!

      If SAP wants to compete with those other frameworks, the only option is and should be Open Sourcing it!

  • Completely agree with you Jan Penninkhof !

    I considered to use SAP UI5 for some freeware no-SAP projects that I have in my mind, but due to the constrains of SAP Licence I just gave up (just moved to future possibilities).

    SAP is trying to make HANA not just a fast database, but also a powerful application that find attraction also in no SAP contexts, in the same way SAP has to consider SAPUI5 a new standard de facto in enterprise mobile enabled web application development and open-sourcing it will attract a completely new universe of developers and customers.

    I know so many web developers, they largely use jQuery in their enterprise applications, but they aren't aware of SAPUI5 platform. I shown them what SAPUI5 is capable of and they were very suprised of the easyness of the framework and at the same time of the solid professional UI/UX.

    C'mon SAP... Ride the wave and boost SAPUI5...

  • Hey Jan,

    I do agree with everything that you say - but I think you should start with:

    0) Open-Sourcing SAPUI5 is the best way to drive core license revenue

    SAP Core License revenue is on the decline and SAPUI5 provides a renewal of the core that will drive sales of core Finance, HR etc. users, either on-premise or in the cloud.

    Putting barriers in the way to adoption of SAPUI5, like license issues or costs, just puts barriers to customers adopting Fiori and Fiori-esque apps, which will impact core license.



    • Thanks for adding this John. With a computer science background, I do welcome the idea of starting lists with 0. However, for the sake of readability, I have taken the liberty to renumber the list and make your contribution number 1. I hope that would work as well 😉

  • Well done Jan. I guess the best thing to do is quote Shakespeare, Henry VI (part 2 I believe, something with lawyers). These types of discussions on open sourcing/free licensing  is normally when the legal department starts getting nervous. Have a funny feeling that plays here aswell. Also sure that with enough pursuasion this will work out for all. Remember the free licenses we have today? FTW!

    • I'm pretty sure that it's not only a daunting idea for the lawyers, but for many more people people that have a lot at stake. And although it may feel like a risk, I hope they will keep in mind that open source has proven itself numerous times already.

  • Hi Jan

    I wholeheartedly agree.  Sadly I feel the persons who would make the decisions around this (ie the conservative legal suits) are not the ones who understand the modern day developer.

    One other precaution ... if SAP were to release something like this to the open source community it opens up the library to deeper scrutiny, and (like any open source library) potential criticism of any shortfalls - of course the counter argument is that SAP would then be driven to fix shortfalls more quickly, or the broader community might.

    One thing I would like to see SAP fix before releasing it is the potential page weight of apps and the number of http round trips. I've been testing some Fiori apps lately and I've seen heaviness in the pages (one example .... > 1MB payload with 85 http requests). For mobile devices on poor connections or remote sites with long latency this can be problematic, and something the open source community will probably raise. We even tried serving the payload using Google Pagespeed but it didn't work.

    Just my 2 cents



  • Excellent summary on the points to make SAP opensource SAPUI5! From the meeting with Ingrid Vandenhoogen I took that the developer initiative (making SAP more attractive to external developers) is slowly taking off but they have a lot of legal battles to fight first. Certainly hope that they will get the internal allignment in order soon as opensourcing SAPUI5 will be beneficial to all parties involved!

    SAP, please show your love for and dedication towards developers! We already know that you rock, now's the time to spread it outside of the ecosystem!

    Thanks for writing this, Jan (and thanks to everyone else chiming in)!

    Cheers, Roel

  • Jan,

    I would add probably another point to the reasoning, please correct me ifI am wrong. This would not only drive core license revenues but also help to

    - free resources to focus on Core License products

    - Get better and more user adoption

    just quick 2 cents of thought

  • Next week I am showing SAPUI5 to my nonSAP colleagues that also do jQuery Mobile projects. They never heard of SAPUI5, HANA Cloud etc. before.

    Now I will try to convince them to use SAPUI5 for projects with SAP backend. But these are not so many projects, most of them are not related to SAP at all.

    There are huge opportunities to get all the Java and Web developers on board that cannot use UI5 at the moment due to a missing license.

    Having SMP3 available they could code for nonSAP backends using Integration Gateway and UI5, but not every customer would want to use SMP just for some Java projects.

    Therefore I hope SAP will find reasons enough on this superb blog for doing the needful 😘

  • Thank you Jan for this great post. It would really be great if someone at SAP would see the advantages so that SAP gets attention in the Open Source community.

    • Yes, a license change is needed, and I do agree that for some of the reasons mentioned, an open source license wouldn't necessarily be required. Some of them do need an open source license though, and for others it would be mighty helpful.

      So, if SAP is going to change the license, it is best to change it to a license that addresses the reasons mentioned above in the best way, right?

      • Yes, SAP needs to change the license. This should have been done on day one.

        Open source it?

        Going open source only makes sense when SAP is willing to accept the open source model. I assume that everyone that is pro "open source it now" read The Cathedral and the Bazaar?

        Open source is not about a license, it is about a development process. Doesn't help to open source SAP UI5 and SAP isn't willing to adopt / change the current process. For sure SAPUI5 has the potential to be one of the major Javascript frameworks (MVVM, UI, Mobile, Desktop), but is SAP ready for this?  The scope of UI5 may change to be a frontend for non-SAP products, maybe even for Microsoft, Oracle or something still yet to come. New users means new use cases, new bug reports, feature requests, forks, branches, etc etc etc. There cannot be an ASUG Influence Council or Customer Initiative that solely define the future of UI5. The (good/excelent) feature / bug report from a student in Ghana needs to be treated equal as one from a major SAP customer (ok, in theory 🙂

        There are so many aspects to consider, I am skeptical that SAP can do this. Right now, SAP is building its new UI on the UI5 foundation, having to deal with customers that use SAPUI5-xyz fork for a custom fork may not what you want. And I do not want to see SAP undo the open source move 2 years later just because some internal KPI wasn't met.

        • Hi Tobias,

          Although I fully understand your concerns, I don't think this has to be that much of a burden for SAP... After all, right now they also have to 'deal with customers that use Linux-xyz fork'...

          And yes, the supported Linux version is mandated from the PAM, so why not mandate the supported SAPUI5 version(s) too?

          • This won't work. This is contradicting the open source model. A client needs to use or develops a custom add-on / alteration and then SAP says that they cannot use it?

            For the open source model to work, SAP must be open to actively accept code from others. A plugin / add-on "culture" must be embraced and a lot of easy to use test cases must be released. The custom code passes the tests, SAP should consider adding it to the official SAPUI5 branch or accept the not-accepted code used by customers (as long as it passes the tests).

            Btw: SAP tried this with the supported browsers in the PAM, and stating that only vanilla browsers are supported doesn't help customers when they rely on a add-on that unfortunately isn't working well together with SAP HTML/JavaScript.This only created frustrations on both sides. Result: the HTML delivered by SAP gets better and better.

          • But why won't the model you've described in your second paragraph not work? I don't see any reason for SAP to not like this; there is a major branch with all the SAP-accepted custom code which is supported. If you as a customer wants to go wild and use non-supported forks, that's perfectly fine as well, but you have to be aware you're following an unsupported road.

            Developers outside SAP still have the opportunity to create whatever controls, add-ins, themes, frameworks etc, and once adopted by SAP, all is fine. If not, nobody will hold you back from not using it, but I have yet to find the first company where they're willing to take these risks.

            BTW, how many SAP customers do you know who have deliberately modified their Linux kernel to their needs? Exactly, zero to none 🙂

          • But why won't the model you've described in your second paragraph not work?

            Because we talk about SAP. The "not-invented-here" company. Up to now, every pro-open-source-it can be solved with a "simple" license change, that does not need to be a open source license. Where are the voices of SAP saying: we want everyone to contribute to UI5, help us make it better by contributing code? People that say: we have not problem in having others taking over control?

            modified their Linux kernel

            I really do not understand why you keep referring to the Linux kernel. You cannot compare modifying your OS with modifying Javascript not to mention how the OS is selected for to run your SAP system.

          • I really think, given the keynote at SAPTechEd Amsterdam by Bernd Leukert "code gives freedom", SAP is definitely open to a change

            And from my point of view, I don't understand why you think (modifying) an operating system like Linux is that much different or more important than (modifying) a front-end technology. In an enterprise you need both, and both can be modified according to taste

  • Could not agree more!!!! I have been doing HTML5 development outside my "SAP Life" *gasp* for about 2 years now and have been hoping/praying SAP would push out and open up SAPUI5 to the world. As you put very well, many of my web/app developer friends have not clue about SAPUI5 and just consider SAP that big, "old" monolithic back office business software matter how much I try to tell them it isn't...but then, when they ask for proof, what can I really offer up back to them other than..."well, if your a SAP customer for a couple $$$, you can get to see and use all this cool stuff!" haha

    As a SAP Mentor, we have heard rumblings from within SAP that they really are trying to pursue and engage the larger developer community (traditional non-SAP crowd) especially around the HANA platform. (*see my blog about this What company does SAP want to be tomorrow?). But as you pointed out, there is a LOT of work to be done to get there, and time is an issue!

  • Hoi Jan,

    This is a great blog to influence SAP and help them to decide to make SAPUI5 open source. I fully understand that Tobias Hofmann is sceptical that SAP can do this. But I think that SAP now will have momentum.  Adobe Flash for Applications is dead and Microsoft stops with Silverlight.  HTML5 is the future and SAP developed a very good framework.

    SAP is already entering the Open Source space by building a lot of solutions on top of Open Source like Eclipse for the SAP development Tools, Java for the Hana Cloud Platform, Spider Monkey for the HANA XS Engine. Related SAP Ventures invests a lot in companies which adopt the Open Source model like Black Duck Software, Groundwork, Jasper Soft and Alfresco.

    So I my perspective SAP can do it easily using a three step approach:

    1. First makes SAPUI5 free from a license perspective. In this case people can use SAPUI5 without the need of an involved licensed SAP product. From SAPUI5 perspective, sapui5 is still closed source software, but it will help the adoption into the market for SAP and non-sap developers.

    2. Second make the framework (SAPUI5 Core) of SAPUI5 open source, the same way google did with Chrome and started the related open source project Chromium.

      In this case SAP can still publish SAPUI5 as closed source, with additional content of SAP, like tools and SAPUI5 controls. I suggest the name “Fiori SDK”. SAP will get the fully profit of the open community but still has total control about their own distributions. It will speed up the availability of new UI controls and which can be used by the SAP distribution. SAP will also profit from the low barrier to bind non SAP developers to become SAP developer in the future. SAP can also sell SAPUI5 development tools to non-SAP developers.

    3. At the end SAP can donate their complete of subset of SAPUI5 controls and tools to the Open Source community.

    Even if SAP only chooses for step 1, this will help a lot to adopt the technology into Enterprise Companies.

    Robert Eijpe

    Initiator of SAPUI5.ORG

    • Thanks for adding that Robert. So, now we have the reasons and even the road to get there. Can't think of anything else that could stand in the way 🙂

      Btw, I believe that a lot of developers at SAP already have an open-source mindset. With that, the change process may go even easier than many people would believe initially.

    • Agree. Unfortunately, my company also turned to Sencha for front-ends already and even started hiring Sencha front-end developers. With that, such a decision will be very difficult to reverse. Of course I was hoping they would choose UI5, but that would legally just not work with our non-SAP clients.

  • Two thumbs ups for the initiative!!

    Besides what's being mentioned, another positive thing is to drive innovative UI ideas/concepts and always be on the leading edge. Too many times we see our own UI framework already way behind current trend by the time we have something ready to use. This effort will help us to stay out of chasing mode.