SAP lures developers to application integration technology

SAP is expected to announce enhanced programming tools and the creation of a virtual community that will help developers...

SAP is expected to announce enhanced programming tools and the creation of a virtual community that will help developers collaborate at its TechEd '03 user conference in Las Vegas next week.

The business software maker said it will be pushing hard to show users and partners how they can exploit its NetWeaver integration platform. SAP touts NetWeaver as an easier way to join SAP applications with third-party products and homegrown software to create a seamless business process. 

According to William Wohl, a spokesman for SAP Americas, the company is looking to accommodate the thousands of developers working on SAP applications using Java and .net programming specifications.

The company will also announce upcoming improvements to its programming tools, as well as its plan to invest in an educational and collaborative support community for developers. That support includes sponsoring educational websites, chat rooms and discussion forums, so that developers can get advice on the best ways to maintain or expand their SAP investments. 

Wohl declined to provide details about the toolkit enhancements, but he said they would be coming out during the next year, along with the support infrastructure. The company also plans to highlight customer and partner wins for NetWeaver. 

SAP must attract companies that use development tools other than its own proprietary ABAP programming language, or it will have to cede the middleware and integration market to companies such as IBM and Microsoft, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting.

Companies standardising on .net or WebSphere integration technology would be less likely to view SAP as a key "trusted adviser" for their long-term strategies while they await the next big IT innovation, he said. 

Creating the virtual community is absolutely necessary, even if SAP does not reap an immediate return on its investment, said David Dobrin, an analyst at B2B Analysts.

He pointed out that Java has succeeded because it has such communities, where members often trade notes and share software. 

"It will take real grit for them [SAP] to decide to put in the resources that are required to make this successful," Dobrin said. "Of course, the devil, as always, is in the detail."

Marc L Songini writes for Computerworld

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