Senior Vice President of
Q. SAP only recently entered the
Java development platform fray with the J2EE-based
SAP Web Application Server. Presumably, one
J2EE-compliant API looks just like another,
so why should SAP Insider readers take notice — particularly
if they are already immersed in Java development
projects on other platforms?
One would certainly hope that Java platforms
purported to be J2EE compliant look like one
another at the API level! The answer to your
question lies first in the quality of the implementation
and, second, in all that is not supported
in the J2EE standard — namely the mechanisms
needed to support an application product through
its fundamental life-cycle paces. How, for
example, do you deal with issues of enhancements,
modifications, testing, deployment, and functional
release upgrades in a comprehensive, consistent,
and cost-effective manner? How do you scale
your development environment such that it can
support a large population of developers working
on the same code base, and yet retain control
over your development processes? How do you
tackle the integration of the individual development
components and their dependencies?
find these things — things that ABAP
developers take for granted — accounted
for in the J2EE standard. The problem confounding
Java developers is that no development platform
had accounted for them either! This is why
you generally see most Java application servers
being used as glorified Web servers, encasing
existing applications in a new UI. The robustness
needed on the platform level to place a complex
transactional workload on Java application
servers is just not there. This presents SAP
with the opportunity to parlay our expertise
with the ABAP application server into the creation
of the first enterprise-ready Java platform.
The result is our Web Application Server, which
is part of the SAP NetWeaver technology stack.
Java developers gain access to Web Application
Server concepts and services from the SAP Java
IDE, which we call SAP NetWeaver Developer
Now you can
create both frontend and backend applications
with a common Java development platform (see Figure
1). SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio
includes a component model for Java development,
complete with a component hierarchy and management
of component dependencies. It includes a design-time
repository, automatic builds of changed and
dependent components, and automated deployment
to the local or a central J2EE server. To increase
your programming productivity, we offer a declarative
UI programming model (Web Dynpro) as well as
a persistency layer, which abstracts from the
database engine and provides complete DBMS
portability. This is complemented by support
for Web service creation and integration, support
for automated testing, monitoring capabilities,
and a whole lot more.
|Key Components of the SAP
NetWeaver Developer Studio and the Eclipse
J2EE compliance is relatively easy — that’s
why there’s no shortage of
J2EE platforms out there. Delivering a J2EE
platform that can reliably support the full
depth and breadth of an application’s
life cycle at the enterprise level is not.
With all the experience inside SAP, we are
years ahead of the others in this regard.
So I’m going to answer your question
with a question: Given a level playing field at the API level, why wouldn’t
you opt for the platform that is actually used by SAP application development
and can bear the most demanding SAP applications?
Q. The norm, for now, is to use Java applications as a facade
for background applications that do the transactional work. What’s
wrong with maintaining the status quo?
At heart, I think most of us are staunch supporters of the if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it
ideology. If using Java as a facade serves your needs, I’m not going
to suggest you suddenly shift gears. I am suggesting, however, that you
make your next Java project an SAP Web Application Server-based endeavor.
You will realize immediate productivity gains. You will ensure that the
quality and reliability of your application is “up to code”
for your production environment. You will accelerate the speed with which
you can develop applications. You’ll have the entire life cycle
of that Java project covered. And on all counts, you can expect significantly
better TCO. Over time, as your applications mature, the TCO factor will
become more and more pronounced.
Upon closer inspection, I think most will
see a development landscape that is in need of repair. Today’s Java
landscapes are typically riddled with productivity and TCO inefficiencies.
The long-term prognosis for Java platforms
that cannot support the full range of application development life cycle
issues isn’t good. IT organizations need to accelerate development
times, increase their output, and maintain high quality standards. You
can’t achieve these goals and contend with varying application server
types and administration tools.
I know this from firsthand association
with a very large development organization — at SAP we have upwards
of 6,000 application developers. A big part of our annual development
budget is devoted to these individuals, and it is imperative that high
volumes of high-quality code be produced and be serviceable for years
to come in production environments. What are we doing to secure our competitive
stance? We’re endorsing Java as a development platform in addition
to our proven ABAP platform.
Our newer solutions — solutions
such as SAP Enterprise Portal and Internet Sales, which are built to service
really large end-user communities — are based on the SAP Web Application
Server and built with the SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio.
So we’re not just a provider of
the Web Application Server and its Java IDE. We are also a big, demanding
consumer of this technology. We are, perhaps, the most grueling reference
account for it! As the largest business application software firm in the
world, we wouldn’t take a gamble on our Java platform and its development
tools. That’s why we use the SAP Web Application Server and its
Q. Why is SAP embracing Java in this way? And how would you position
Java relative to ABAP?
We want to offer our customers more than an ABAP monoculture. The time
is now right to open up our ecosystem to the large Java community and
benefit from all the Java momentum that’s out there. Conversely,
the time is right for the Java community and technology stack to benefit
from what we have to offer.
Both stacks are here to stay and will
nicely integrate and interoperate with each other. There are no plans
to abandon ABAP or migrate existing ABAP applications to Java.
Still, there are some signals ABAP developers
need to pick up on. First, it’s time to acquaint yourself with Java.
Start to acquire some skills in this area. Don’t get wedged in an
ABAP silo. You don’t want to be tending exclusively to SAP applications
while the young university graduates do the high-profile, cutting-edge,
frontend work. There is no reason to have the Web site folks and SAP application
folks in separate camps. SAP Web Application Server offers you a common,
flexible platform for both. You certainly don’t want to run the
risk of becoming tomorrow’s equivalent of a “mainframer.”
Only limited future career opportunities go along with that moniker. So
strike a balance. A balance is good for you personally, and good for your
organization. There is a lot to be gained by knowledge transfer and collaboration
between both software stacks.
In addition to that, Web services and
consequently our Enterprise Service Architecture abstract from whatever
software stack is being used. So the times are gone when integration of
applications was much easier if they were written within the same software
stack. In fact, this enables the coexistence of software stacks and of
software components written in different languages.
Q. Does it go without saying that the Java development environment
of the SAP Web Application Server offers the best way to integrate new
Java-based applications with existing SAP solutions?
SAP NetWeaver basically is an integration platform, but it’s not
just for integration with your SAP landscape — it’s also designed
for all your other integration needs. So with the next integration project
inside your company, give SAP NetWeaver a try.