Peter Barth is the SAP AG director of corporate marketing for mySAP
Workplace and mySAP Technology. Prior to joining SAP, he spent two
years as a consultant, helping clients to develop and implement successful
IT strategies and advising them on operations issues. A computer scientist
by training, Dr. Barth is also an expert in operations research.
Q. Last June, at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, you announced the "SAP Web
Application Server." What is it?
The SAP Web Application Server is an enhancement to the comprehensive
Web infrastructure that SAP has had in place for quite some time. With
this offering, we provide a state-of-the-art infrastructure for creating
highly scalable, dynamic, and collaborative Web applications.
A comprehensive e-business solution such as mySAP.com needs to additionally
provide the flexibility for developers to quickly and easily create new
Web applications with standard Internet technologies. Server-side scripting
Server Pages (ASP) and Java Server Pages (JSP). All this is now available
with the SAP Web Application Server.
Q. For developers who will be reading this, what benefits do they
gain from native support for Internet standards (HTTP and HTTPS, Internet
document standards such as HTML and XML, and server-side scripting with
Web application developers can jump in and immediately start to implement
a new Web application on the SAP Web Application Server. No specific SAP
knowledge is needed. The Web programming model - server-side scripting
for the generation of HTML pages - is known by all Web developers. Also,
HTTP and HTTPS, the SAP Web Application Server can be easily integrated
with standard infrastructure such as common Web servers. Additionally,
the SAP Web Application Server can serve as an HTTP client that allows
direct access and integration with other applications or Web resources.
No special additional infrastructure is needed.
Q. Why did SAP see a need to create the SAP Web Application Server?
There certainly is no shortage of Web application servers available today.
A Web application server is part of any comprehensive e-business solution.
For a fast time-to-market, as well as design and layout flexibility, custom
development of some parts of an e-business solution is necessary. To enable
all Web developers to do this, you have to use open standards such as
server-side scripting, which is what the SAP Web Application Server provides.
Web applications, however, are mission-critical applications that have
to be reliable and highly scalable. SAP is the clear leader in this regard
- this is our competitive advantage. With the SAP Web Application Server,
you get a proven solution plus the native Internet standards - this is
a unique offering.
This doesn't mean that SAP wants to compete in the pure tools market.
SAP is a solution provider and not a technology tools player. In a heterogeneous
system landscape, there are many different Web technologies and Web components.
The SAP Web Application Server integrates with every other technology
and Web application server on the market via open standards interfaces.
If somebody wants to write a standalone Web application from scratch and
use an existing Web application server, they will probably stick with
what they have. If you, as an SAP customer, are integrating a lot of different
components, have a team of developers, and are providing a reliable Web
application, then the SAP Web Application Server will be a viable alternative.
Q. Are we to understand that this server offers 100% native support
for Internet standards?
and more. You can use it to build pure Web applications. You can also
use it to develop traditional applications. And best of all, you can use
it to develop applications that draw upon the resources of the Web, your
existing SAP solutions, and other non-SAP components. And let me add that
no SAP-specific programming knowledge is required to leverage all the
server's Web development bells and whistles.
Q. So, developers have a choice of development environments?
That's correct. All the long-standing staples of the SAP development
community - the Workbench, BAPIs, RFCs, IDocs, function libraries, and
integration facilities - are present on the SAP Web Application Server.
ABAP and BAPI programmers can easily access all these SAP resources, and
at the same time, Web application developers have access to everything
they need to create and maintain Web pages. Web developers can use the
most popular standalone Web development tools, including Microsoft FrontPage,
Macromedia Dreamweaver, Allaire HomeSite, and others.
Now add to all that the "scalability" and "reliability" factors. ABAP
and BAPI programmers have come to take these SAP characteristics for granted
- now Web application developers can, too. They can create a small application
today, and scale it to support thousands of users tomorrow. No specialized
or additional infrastructure is needed. That's a powerful benefit. A set
of comprehensive Web controls that are fully integrated with the latest
server-side scripting and page-development models is another key benefit.
Design elements such as tree controls, grids, tabs, buttons, graphics,
and the like can be changed according to personal taste using style sheets
and a common look-and-feel, which make it easier to navigate. Thanks to
standard Web controls and fully automated data exchange and session management,
developers of interactive Web applications will experience a real boost
Q. How does this server mesh with a customer's existing IT landscape?
Integration is achieved in a number of ways. The SAP Web Application
Server is platform-independent.¹
It offers native support for prevailing Internet standards, so that it
can be easily integrated with common Web servers or even serve Web browser
requests directly. The SAP Web Application Server can serve as an HTTP
client. What's more, all integration capabilities that are available with
the standard SAP infrastructure are also available with the SAP Web Application
Server. This includes integration with Enterprise Application Integration
(EAI) tools and the solutions offered by over 900 SAP Software Partners.
A comprehensive e-business solution consists of a wealth of services
provided by different components in an existing IT landscape. Basically,
everything is a service. You must have components that provide these services
and make sure that users can access them - and that all these services
work well together. We already mentioned easing access to services by
providing an HTML-based user interface with the help of server-side scripting
technologies. To make sure that the services work together, open integration
This open integration capability is a real advantage: open integration
provides both real-time and cached access to existing SAP and non-SAP
applications, which in turn allows customers to expand to the Web quickly,
without affecting their existing, stable environment. In fact, any and
all integration facilities supported by SAP are available with the SAP
Web Application Server, whether it is access to existing SAP applications,
communication with existing technologies, connectivity to middleware components,
or support of traditional communication standards.
In short, the SAP Web Application Server can communicate and integrate
with other SAP components in exactly the same way that any SAP component
integrates - fully.
Q. What about security?
Needless to say, when it comes to Web applications, security is the top
priority. The SAP Web Application Server provides support for the leading
Internet security standards, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and HTTPS. The
SAP Web Application Server supports digital certificates, ticketing, and
cookies, too. And with X.509 client certificates, users can be identified
without having to remember passwords. The entire access permissions concept
that is inherent in all mySAP.com components is also used for applications
created with the SAP Web Application Server - making it easy to maintain
tight control over which parts of the application, and which data and
information, will be accessible.
Q. Are some applications better suited for this platform than others?
Well, I wouldn't suggest using it for CAD applications! The name says
it all: this is a solution for creating Web applications, particularly
those that need to be highly scalable and highly available. It is also
ideal for applications that need to exchange information with other components,
whether they are SAP builds or non-SAP builds on any other technologies
such as Microsoft's .NET, Java, IBM WebSphere, etc.
Q. How do other Web development solutions stack up against SAP's offering?
SAP is way ahead of the rest in this effort. SAP's core competence has
always been in delivering high-performance, high-availability, high-reliability,
and highly secure transaction-based applications. With SAP solutions you
can run, for example, 2 million fully business-processed order line-items
per hour. That hasn't changed; these characteristics are all an integral
part of the SAP Web Application Server. But now we've transferred these
core SAP strengths to the Web application development community, so that
any Web application developer can create and maintain fully scalable applications.
The bottom line is this: if you need to develop and deploy a durable
Web application, the SAP Web Application Server is for you.
For more information on the SAP Web Application Server, visit
www.sap.com/technology or share your ideas at http://news.sap.public.web-application-server.
|¹ The SAP Web Application Server runs on all SAP-supported
platforms, including Windows NT/2000 and Linux and other flavors of