SAP NetWeaver is the longtime technology foundation for a wide swath of SAP customer landscapes. Initially introduced in 2004, it serves as the platform for a range of key business applications and provides a host of development and integration tools and services, and SAP continues to add enhancements and features with new releases to ensure this business-critical component meets evolving customer needs. The latest release, SAP NetWeaver 7.5,1 includes a number of features that bring to customers the technologies needed to compete in the digital economy, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, cloud, big data analytics, and enhanced security.2
Despite the enhancements delivered in the latest releases, there are many older SAP NetWeaver systems — SAP NetWeaver 7.0x systems in particular — still running in production in SAP customer landscapes. In addition to lacking access to the latest innovations and security features, these older releases are now reaching the end of mainstream maintenance: For example, maintenance ended for the initial release, SAP NetWeaver 2004, in 2010 and for SAP NetWeaver 7.0 at the end of 2017.
With maintenance ending and technological advancements continuing, now is the time to move to a newer version of SAP NetWeaver that will meet modern needs and pave the way to adopting innovations such as SAP S/4HANA. But what does this mean, and where do you begin? This article helps you make a strategic plan for your organization by providing a concise, comprehensive overview of SAP’s current maintenance strategy for SAP NetWeaver. It summarizes what you need to know about each existing release — including what is supported, when that support will end, and how it relates to SAP Business Suite — and offers recommendations for planning ahead.
Understanding the SAP NetWeaver Maintenance Roadmap
Figure 1 shows the number of productive SAP NetWeaver systems, by release, running in SAP customer landscapes. As you can see, while SAP NetWeaver 7.4 and 7.5 deployments have significantly increased since they were released for customer use, SAP NetWeaver 7.0 deployments have steadily decreased due to the end of its mainstream maintenance. SAP NetWeaver 7.3x, which is still fully supported, has remained somewhat in the middle and continues to be in practical use.
Note that SAP NetWeaver 7.1 is not a full SAP NetWeaver release (it includes only SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1, SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1, and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1) and SAP NetWeaver 2004 systems have been in customer-specific maintenance for quite some time. Most customers still running SAP NetWeaver 2004 systems are running them as “read-only” systems, meaning they are used only for compliance or documentation purposes.
Figure 2 summarizes the overall maintenance plan for the SAP NetWeaver releases that are currently in productive use in customer landscapes: SAP NetWeaver 7.0x, SAP NetWeaver 7.3x, SAP NetWeaver 7.4, and SAP NetWeaver 7.5. Let’s take a closer look at the maintenance details for each, as well as how the maintenance strategy for SAP NetWeaver is related to the overarching mainstream maintenance roadmap for SAP Business Suite (see the sidebar "The Maintenance Roadmap for SAP Business Suite" for more on SAP Business Suite).3
SAP NetWeaver 7.0x
For SAP NetWeaver 7.0x (that is, releases 7.0, 7.01, 7.02, and 7.03), mainstream maintenance ended in 2017, and these release versions have now moved to customer-specific maintenance, as documented in SAP Note 52505. Customer-specific maintenance means that SAP provides solutions for known problems while the customer pays for the assessment of new issues and problem solving.
It also means:
- No delivery of legal changes
- No delivery of support packages
- No guarantee for technological updates
- No guarantee for issues caused by third-party dependencies
- No service level agreements for initial response times
The main reason for this approach is the security risks caused by SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) Java 7.0x. SAP NetWeaver AS Java 7.0x is based on Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.4, which is very old. At this point, JDK 1.4 (released in 2002) and the subsequent JDK 5 (released in 2004) have completely outdated security infrastructures — for example, JDK 1.4 does not support modern security capabilities such as cryptography, public key infrastructure, authentication, secure communication, and access control. For this reason, security patches are no longer delivered for JDK 1.4 or JDK 5, and the only way to fix security issues is to manually downport security updates from JDK 6, which is itself error prone. These risks also hold for all Java-based SAP NetWeaver 7.0 hubs, such as SAP Enterprise Portal and SAP Process Integration. Therefore, SAP strongly recommends that customers running SAP NetWeaver 7.0 upgrade to a higher version — preferably SAP NetWeaver 7.5.
SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.0x is less problematic than the Java version, however, since SAP has full control over the ABAP stack. SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP also serves as the foundation for SAP Business Suite 7, including SAP ERP 6.0, SAP Customer Relationship Management 7.0, SAP Supplier Relationship Management 7.0, and SAP Supply Chain Management 7.0, plus the corresponding enhancement packages. Since SAP Business Suite 7 is supported until 2025, as documented in SAP Note 1648480, the required SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.0x is also supported until 2025.
The business warehouse (BW) component of SAP NetWeaver 7.0x — SAP NetWeaver BW — is a special case. SAP NetWeaver BW consists of an ABAP-based back end (BW ABAP) and a front-end layer (BI-JAVA) that is needed for the SAP Business Explorer (SAP BEx) front end. Similar to the other Java-based components, the Java-based front-end layer (BI-JAVA) reached end of maintenance, but some customers are still using the BW ABAP back end for consumption with other tools (such as SAP BusinessObjects solutions or higher Java versions) — in fact, many of the still-existing SAP NetWeaver 7.0x deployments are SAP NetWeaver BW deployments.
For these customers, SAP’s BW maintenance team is offering a grace period until the end of 2020 so that SAP NetWeaver BW customers can smoothly transition to a higher version of SAP NetWeaver. Note that if the BW ABAP back end is embedded into an SAP ERP system — meaning that SAP ERP and SAP NetWeaver BW are running in the same system, such as in SAP Business All-in-One deployments — then, similar to SAP ERP, the BW ABAP back end will be supported until the end of 2025.
SAP NetWeaver 7.3
Mainstream maintenance for SAP NetWeaver 7.3 is scheduled to end December 31, 2020. This release of SAP NetWeaver was designed to serve as an integration hub for SAP Business Suite, not as a foundation for it, so no SAP Business Suite release is based on SAP NetWeaver 7.3. The intention was for SAP NetWeaver 7.0x to provide a stable core for SAP Business Suite and the corresponding enhancement packages, while SAP NetWeaver 7.3 would serve as the innovation release, delivering many new BW and process integration features.
SAP NetWeaver 7.3x is based on Java 6 and supports many new standards for web services and security. With enhancement package 1 for SAP NetWeaver 7.3 (that is, release 7.31), the codelines of ABAP from 7.02 and 7.3 were merged so that ABAP 7.03 and ABAP 7.31 are technically equivalent, simplifying the codeline and version complexity. The BW component for SAP NetWeaver 7.3 was also the first BW version enabled for SAP HANA. However, there are more up-to-date versions of BW available with SAP NetWeaver 7.4 and 7.5, and SAP recommends upgrading to one of these higher versions to take advantage of the longer maintenance window and new enhancements such as the SAP HANA-based innovations included with 7.5.
SAP NetWeaver 7.4
SAP NetWeaver 7.4 is the most widely adopted SAP NetWeaver release. Originally introduced in 2013, SAP NetWeaver 7.4 was the first release fully optimized for SAP HANA, and many SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA deployments use 7.4 as the technology foundation for their transition to SAP HANA. Two major support package stacks (SPS 05 and SPS 08) for SAP NetWeaver 7.4 delivered new SAP kernel versions along with a host of SAP HANA-optimized features, such as core data services.4
SAP NetWeaver 7.4 is robust, stable, and supported by SAP until 2020. The Java 7.4 codeline is identical to the Java 7.31 codeline, enabling developers to use one codeline for both versions. The ABAP 7.4 codeline is the successor to the ABAP 7.31 codeline, which successfully merged the 7.02 and 7.3 codelines, enabling SAP NetWeaver 7.4 to serve as the foundation for enhancement package 7 for SAP ERP 6.0. This allows customers to consolidate their SAP Business Suite and SAP NetWeaver systems from a technology and development perspective and minimize the number of deployed codelines, which reduces the total development and maintenance costs for both SAP code and custom code.
With its wide adoption and solid performance, why upgrade from 7.4 to 7.5? The most important drivers are the longer maintenance period available with 7.5 and the SAP HANA-based innovations delivered with 7.5. Let’s take a closer look.
SAP NetWeaver 7.5 and SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.51 and 7.52
As of this writing, SAP NetWeaver 7.5 is the go-to release for all SAP NetWeaver customers. Released in 2015, SAP NetWeaver 7.5 continuously delivers new innovations for the ABAP stack to support the rapid development of SAP HANA-optimized SAP Fiori applications. In addition, the 7.5 Java stack was ported to Java 8 to offer customers an up-to-date Java runtime environment.5
The maintenance of SAP NetWeaver 7.5 was just recently extended from 2022 to 2024 (see SAP Note 1648480) to give customers a longer time frame to upgrade from older SAP NetWeaver versions (especially from 7.0x) and to prepare for the transition from SAP Business Suite to SAP S/4HANA.6 SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.5 is also the foundation for enhancement package 8 for SAP ERP 6.0 and for the initial SAP S/4HANA on-premise version 1511 (see Figure 3).
Similar to 7.5, the 7.51 and 7.52 versions are supported until the end of 2024. Delivered in 2016 and 2017, respectively, 7.51 and 7.52 are the foundation for SAP S/4HANA 1610 and 1709, and provide various ABAP enhancements that support the transition from SAP Business Suite to SAP S/4HANA.7 For this reason, it is not a full SAP NetWeaver delivery — it consists solely of SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP and related development tools. In addition to being delivered as an upgrade to SAP NetWeaver, these versions can be shipped as standalone application servers for custom development, and are also used as the foundation for the SAP Fiori front-end server and ABAP-based SAP add-ons.
Since 7.51 and 7.52 support only the ABAP usage type and are not used as the foundation for an SAP ERP enhancement package, SAP NetWeaver 7.5 remains the go-to version for the SAP Business Suite and SAP NetWeaver customer base.
SAP NetWeaver is deployed in more than 100,000 productive installations worldwide, serving as the technology foundation for business operations in a large number of SAP landscapes.
The current go-to version, SAP NetWeaver 7.5, delivers a wide range of features to meet the needs of modern business, including support for innovative applications and technologies, such as cloud and analytics, and the transition to SAP S/4HANA. To smooth the transition to SAP NetWeaver 7.5 for SAP NetWeaver 7.0 deployments, which have run out of maintenance, SAP has extended mainstream maintenance for SAP NetWeaver 7.5, 7.51, and 7.52 to 2024, providing customers with a path to innovation.
Learn more at www.sap.com/developer/topics/abap-platform.html.
1 The initial release of SAP NetWeaver 7.5 was delivered in October 2015. The current release is support package stack (SPS) 10, delivered in December 2017. [back]
2 For an overview of some of the ABAP enhancements delivered with SAP NetWeaver 7.5, see my article “ABAP for the Modern Age” in the January-March 2016 issue of SAPinsider (SAPinsiderOnline.com). [back]
3 The SAP Business Suite maintenance roadmap is documented in detail in SAP Note 1648480. [back]
4 For a detailed introduction to SAP NetWeaver 7.4, see my SAPinsider articles “Take Your SAP Solutions to New Heights with the Latest Release of SAP NetWeaver 7.4” (April-June 2014) and “Where ABAP Meets SAP HANA” (October-December 2014) available at SAPinsiderOnline.com. [back]
5 For a closer look at some of the ABAP enhancements delivered with SAP NetWeaver 7.5, see my articles “A Foundation for the Future” in the July-September 2015 issue of SAPinsider and “ABAP for the Modern Age” in the January-March 2016 issue of SAPinsider (SAPinsiderOnline.com). [back]
6 For more on transitioning to SAP S/4HANA from SAP Business Suite, see my article “Making the Move to SAP S/4HANA” in the January-March 2017 issue of SAPinsider (SAPinsiderOnline.com). [back]
7 To learn more about ABAP 7.51, see my article “Introducing ABAP 7.51” in the October-December 2016 issue of SAPinsider, and for more on ABAP 7.52, see my article “ABAP and the Cloud” in the October-December 2017 issue of SAPinsider, available at SAPinsiderOnline.com. [back]