SAP to push support for developers at TechEd '03

Looking to lure more developers and partners to its application integration technology, SAP AG is expected next week to announce enhanced programming tools and the creation of a virtual community that will help developers collaborate.

The German business software maker will make those announcements at its TechEd '03 technical education user conference in Las Vegas. Although a bit sketchy on details, the company said this week that it will be pushing hard to show users and partners how they can exploit its NetWeaver integration platform. SAP touts NetWeaver as an easier way to join SAP applications with third-party products and homegrown software to create a seamless business process.

According to William Wohl, a spokesman for SAP Americas Inc., the company is looking to accommodate the thousands of developers working on SAP applications using Java and .Net programming specifications. To that end, the company will announce upcoming improvements to its programming tools, as well as its plan to invest in an educational and collaborative support community for developers. That support includes sponsoring educational Web sites, chat rooms and discussion forums so developers can get advice on the best ways to maintain or expand their SAP investments.

Wohl declined to provide details about the tool kit enhancements, but he said they would be coming out during the next year, along with the support infrastructure. The company also plans to highlight customer and partner wins for NetWeaver.

Analysts contacted by Computerworld saw these plans as good moves.

SAP must attract companies that use development tools other than its own proprietary ABAP programming language, or it will have to cede the middleware and integration market to companies such as IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif. Companies standardizing on .Net or WebSphere integration technology would be less likely to view SAP as a key "trusted adviser" for their long-term strategies while they await the next big IT innovation, he said.

Creating the virtual community is absolutely necessary, even if SAP doesn't reap an immediate return on its investment, said David Dobrin, an analyst at B2B Analysts Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. He pointed out that Java has succeeded because it has such communities, where members often trade notes and share software.

"It will take real grit for them (SAP) to decide to put in the resources that are required to make this successful," Dobrin said. "Of course, the devil, as always, is in the details."

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