NetWeaver is dead. Long Live NetWeaver!

23 October 2010

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

There's been lots of noise about this in the aftermath of TechEd 2010. It is very explicit in the keynote given by Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP - and infused through the rest of the conference. When asked why, he answers that they've not talked about it for nearly 3 years and there appears to be some assumption as a result that NetWeaver is dead - and they wanted to refute that clearly to the market.

But from the messages I have heard there are some very clear changes happening to the NetWeaver platform. Here's my take on the situation, nicely distilled into one blog post:

WebDynpro for Java and Visual Composer really are dead

For my money, WebDynpro for Java (WDJ) was not SAP's finest moment. The theory was a good one - create an extensible UI format for SAP's Java server which permitted cross-technology applications to be written - consuming from both SAP and non-SAP sources - so called xApps.

The problem though with WDJ is multifold. For a start it's really expensive to program in. You write the UI... and then the integration. Second, and most important, WebDynpro for ABAP (WDA) came not long after and is better in most ways. It got the development effort and is far cheaper to develop in. There's not much of a downside.

Visual Composer though is an interesting one. I actually really like VC and will miss it. They might not be removing these technologies and will support them until the end of life of their products but they are stopping developing on them. Given the effort that has gone into VC in 7.2 and 7.3 and the Integrated Planning integration, etc., this is a shame as I feel VC has real potential.

HTML5 rendering engine is on its way

No one would confirm or deny this (other to say that it was being looked at) but it seems logical. Such an engine would replace WDJ as the multi-device UI rendering platform. And allow the sort of quality user experience as is required.

It's unclear when this engine would be most used but I'm thinking that it's focussed on NetWeaver CE and BPM.

AS Java is dead for SAP-only apps

This is just my analysis but it seems to be a direction. In ERP 6.0 they moved the HR Employee Self-Services pages (mostly) to WebDynpro for ABAP. And in ERP 6.0 EhP5 (Business Suite 7 innovations 2010) they move the rest of the HR content (mostly Manager Self-Services) to WebDynpro for ABAP. Praise be.

Of course CRM already did this. They did have the awful PCUI interface in CRM 4.0 and 5.0 which was wrapped up in a Java framework - and thankfully they wrote their own interface for CRM 6.0 and 7.0 based on the ABAP BSP layer. In CRM 7.0 you only need a Java Application Server (Java AS) for certain usage types. In CRM 7.0 EhP1 (Business Suite 7 innovations 2010) they reduce these further with the Multichannel work. CRM Service and Web Shop move into ABAP.

NetWeaver BI can be ABAP-only for many uses cases as of 7.3, especially in the light of Advanced Analytics for Excel, Xcelsius etc. having direct integration. And the ABAP based planning-modeler... see a trend?

There are some other Java Business Packages that remain, for e.g. MDM, SRM, but these are relatively niche products. Which brings me to my next idea:

Duet Enterprise might be a contender to the throne

Let's face it, SAP can't compete with Microsoft on investment in portal technologies. And portals are by their nature Mid-Market because they tend to reach out to occasional-use cases for the time being.

So why not co-innovate with Microsoft on an integration product and call it Duet Enterprise? And maybe build the ESS/MSS framework in it, to integrate with the new ABAP based services mentioned above. That is conjecture, but you can see where this might be headed.

NetWeaver PI heads to be Java only

Depending on your usage type, NetWeaver Process Integration (PI), the Enterprise Services Bus provided by SAP for free for SAP-SAP communications, is already Java-only as of NetWeaver PI 7.3. This is against the trend but it makes a lot of sense because it cuts out the awful message passing between ABAP and JAVA that used to take place. For every message.

It seems that on that basis, SAP are likely to make PI JAVA-only in a future release. Time will tell.

NetWeaver CE is the other major reason to use Java

This leaves the conclusion that AS Java is really going to be focussed on PI and the Composition Environment (CE). This encompasses Business Process Modelling (BPM) and Business Rules Modelling (BRM) as well as some other tools. Currently CE can compile to Adobe Flex and WebDynpro for Java as well as Visual Composer.

Clearly SAP are looking to write a HTML5 rendering engine, for otherwise CE would be without a supported UI layer - apart for the new Webdynpro for ABAP support, which would be an ironic twist of fate. That's not impossible either of course...

I don't really see a downside though. HTML5 is standards compliant and browsers are headed firmly in that direction, as well as having support from Microsoft, Apple and Google, who are the major players. Mozilla Firefox will do as the market trends require.

NetWeaver Mobile is dead. Long live SUP.

When Vishal was asked what SAP's mobile strategy was, he said "Sybase Unwired Platform". Now aside from getting the product name wrong (it's actually now called SAP Unwired Platform), I think his prediction is spot on. Or did I mean strategy?

Let's see this another way. They can't kill SUP because the European Commission would have them for breakfast for forcing SUP customers to move to the NetWeaver Mobile platform. Anyhow they don't want to do that, it would just upset people.

Now if we assume that SAP know they can't keep the current double-middleware situation (if you want to implement SUP you currently also need NetWeaver Mobile), then they must kill NetWeaver Mobile - moving the features required from NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 into SUP. I can't see any other way that situation can play out.

Someone will sort out naming conventions

Actually this is more of a plea than anything else, to Jonathan Becher (EVP for Marketing at SAP). I heard one senior exec at SAP who will remain unnamed get confused between Support Package Stacks, Enhancement Packages and major Versions. Is it any surprise with names such as Business Suite 7 innovations 2010 (or BS7 i2010 for short)?

EhPs are OK but let's keep them consistent. Let's move everything to EhP5. NetWeaver 7 EhP5. Not 1. Please. I know it skips versions but it will confuse people less.

Conclusions

If I'm right on all these predictions, NetWeaver is well and truly alive but it will change its face in the coming months and years.

NetWeaver Java will be 100% focussed on integration and composition scenarios and will have fewer UI build technologies and be cheaper, faster, and leaner to support. In short - playing to its strengths and trying to stop being all things to all men.

And NetWeaver ABAP is the foundation for Business Suite and with it Innovations 2010 - and if you want to invest in SAP technologies, invest in ABAP. If you did that 15,10 or 5 years ago, your investment will have been protected. It isn't changing any time soon.

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About the author

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've always been passionate about new technology. I cut my teeth helping global financial services and consumer goods companies build data warehouses to manage their business - especially when they wanted to run faster.

These days, I travel weekly across continents, helping clients differentiate themselves using analytics technologies. This then involved building a team to design the solution, make it work and lead it through to successful completion.

I believe that in-memory computing is radically changing the face of business so you can ask me about SAP HANA, or about any other data platform like DB2 BLU, Hadoop or MongoDB for that matter.

I'm passionate that giving back to the community reaps long-term rewards and this has shaped the last few years of my career - being a contributor to knowledge sharing websites as an SAP Mentor; and a sometime advisor to Wall Street investors on emerging technologies and those companies bringing to market new innovations.

When I'm not busy designing in-memory apps, you may find me pounding the pavement to the beat of music in the hilly suburbs of Philadelphia, or traveling the world to meet new people and new cultures.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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