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Original Post From glooobal.com

Yesterday, GLOOOBAL and sovanta had the pleasure to host an SAP CodeJam Event in our offices in Buenos Aires. Despite very little marketing, 25 developers found their way to us on a Saturday afternoon and the level of engagement was very refreshing to see. CodeJams are relatively freeform, low profile events, aiming at introducing developers to the new SAP development platforms – mainly HANA, SUP and the different cloud offerings. In the aftermath of this event, I was reflecting a bit on the status of SAP’s developer eco-system.

SAP Basis: The Missed Opportunity

20 years ago, SAP had a very credible development platform: SAP Basis. At that time, Basis was the clearly leading tool set to develop modern and scalable business applications (believe it or not, also the UI technology was leading). Despite its qualities, Basis never gained material traction beyond extensions of SAP’s R/3 system. The reason for that was that the success of R/3 that kept everybody in the basis team busy in extending Basis to meet the growing needs of SAP’s own applications and there was no focus on outside use cases or communities.

SAP Netweaver: Good Intentions

SAP Netweaver marked the first attempt to change this, however never got really far. As an integrated platform it was just too heavy at the time and the individual components were often not strong enough to succeed on their own in the marketplace. One of the positive outcomes of these attempts was SDN, the SAP Developer Network that later became the SAP Community Network, when merged with a similar but much less successful community for business process experts.

Now it Counts

This year, we witness the next round of charming towards developers. With SAP HANA, the new Mobile Platform based on Sybase SUP and the various cloud tools requiring to quickly build active developer communities in order to unveil the value of the platforms (and thus justifying the license price for them). 2012 has therefore been a year of many genuine efforts that have seemed impossible before:

  • Free developer licenses for SAP HANA (plus the cost for hosting)
  • Cloud deployments of SAP HANA removing the burden of hardware acquisitions, incl. SAP HANA One, a cloud version released for productive use starting at $0.99 per hour – plus the cost for hosting e.g. through AWS
  • The SAP HANA Startup program, seeking to encourage and support startups building applications on SAP HANA, incl. the commitment to invest in some of these companies
  • Netweaver Cloud, also free for developers
  • Free developer licenses for the SAP Mobile Platform (plus the cost for hosting)
  • Events like CodeJam, InnoJam to encourage developers to hop onto one of these platforms.

These activities (plus the ones I may not be aware of), all within one year, are a bigger move towards developers than the ones in the previous 40 years of SAP’s history combined and SAP deserves a lot of respect for that.

Going after the Net New

Most of the latest activities are structured towards developers outside of the current SAP developer community, people and organizations without a history with SAP and it is obvious and understandable why this is the case: SAP wants to avoid by any price to only go for the low hanging fruits, the people who just extent SAP applications. Focusing too much on this ‘protected space’, may allow not solving the tough problems, and thereby not getting to a competitive, rapidly growing developer community.

So, the strategy makes a lot of sense, but it may just take too long to build a developer community from scratch. It’s therefore time to make the next step.

Make use of the Secret Weapon

SAP’s biggest asset is its ERP installed base, as most of the largest companies in the world run it in production. Ignoring this asset when building a developer community means going to the battle with one arm tied to the back. The easiest way to boost the developer eco-system is to extent what has been done for the new platform products to SAP’s secret platform called Business Suite.

The old obstacles for organizations or developers that are planning to develop applications on top of Business Suite, even when leveraging HANA or the Mobile Platform, are still largely in place and need to be removed urgently.

  • The SAP Partner Programs are optimized for established SIs, ISVs or channel partners. They are meant to protect SAP customers from bad partners, which is right, but not to support startups. It is not easy (enough) to become an SAP partner when you are still small. But without a partner status, developing and marketing applications on Business Suite is way too hard. A new partner category with targeted support programs, similar to the ones for the new platforms is required and should be established as soon as possible.
  • The cost for classic SAP development and demo licenses, plus the required hardware are simply way too high (not to talk about industry versions). SAP is trying to make money on the wrong end here. A cloud offering with very competitive, attractive prices could encourage small organizations to build applications leveraging HANA or mobile, while integrating them closely with SAP’s flagship product, would open a huge market for them and beef up many business cases to develop on top of SAP.

Altogether, a lot remains to be done in order to fill the other half of the glass. But if 2012 was an indication of the determination, I am very hopeful for 2013.

Does this mean SAP CodeJams for ABAP? Probably not ☺.


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Vijay Nachimuthu

By Vijay Nachimuthu

Vijay Nachimuthu is a Managing Principal of AltaFlux. His blogs mainly focuses on latest cloud technology trends and its impact on enterprises.