SAP and Open Source

The good news is that SAP is paying some attention to the open source community.

They released an HTML5 and JavaScript framework, called SAPUI5, the year before last. Now that framework is not under an open-source license even though it incorporates quite a number of open-source JavaScript libraries (See https://sapui5.hana.ondemand.com/sdk/#credits.html.) According to one official SAP site:

“SAPUI5” is the version that may only be used by SAP customers with a certain kind of license. (It’s still free for them, but they have paid [for] some other SAP product.)
( Source: http://scn.sap.com/community/developer-center/front-end/blog/2013/12/11/what-is-openui5-sapui5.)

It is hard, however, to even find the terms of that license published somewhere on the net. (Undoubtedly SAP is not really used to people paying attention to licenses and the kind of scrutinising that is common in the Open Source community.)

SAP have also released OpenUI, another HTML5 and JavaScript framework that is almost, but not exactly, the same as SAPUI5 but distributed under an Apache 2.0 license.

As part of evangelizing this new development platform, SAP is also offering a free online course Introduction to SAP Fiori UX, Fiori being an application made available for SAP paying customers built with SAPUI5 (with a bit of Node.js thrown in.) The exercises can be done on a pre-built AWS SAP server for which there is a nominal charge by AWS. Nominal in the sense that, compared to the kind of license fees SAP usually charges its enterprise customers, it is affordable at an individual developer level.

Now immediately a couple of questions arise: if there are two different flavours of the same development platform, what does SAP envisage for this software and what kind of developer community does it hope to establish? Looking at SAP’s own reasons for doing this, the first stated reason is “Open-Sourcing SAPUI5 is the best way to drive core license revenue.” (See http://scn.sap.com/community/developer-center/front-end/blog/2013/11/20/reasons-why-sap-should-open-source-sapui5.) Now that hardly gets you street cred in the Open Source community which, by the way, is another stated aim of the SAP effort. Interesting too are some of the comments on Y Combinator:-

“Java… web apps… incredibly slow… bloated… market dominance… FUD… front-end javascript framework… keep the mystique going…”
“completely out of business”
The end.
(Source: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6887193)

In fact, the very fact that a discussion is taking place at a “venue” like Y Combinator is also new. Unlike most of the SAP-generated or at least SAP-approved messaging, this is more raw and unfiltered response from developers outside of the SAP microcosm. As can be imagined, there is not much love for enterprise software companies from agile, up-and-coming startups.

Nevertheless, in the same forum there is an astute observation:

“I think SAP deserves some praise for open sourcing some real work. Beyond that I agree with your critique, this framework is not going to make inroads in the larger web community.
However, keep in mind that this is an SAP tool geared towards the SAP ecosystem and it will ultimately be a pretty big deal within that space.
As an SAP developer I am happy to see any progress towards more modern practices and better technologies and SAPUI5 is, without a doubt, progress.”

So yes, SAPUI5 is bulky, even the ‘mobile’ part of it (presumably meant for thinner clients.) Yes, it has not set web development, which is such a rapidly-moving field, on fire nor has it hugely impressed the Open Source community, if such a community can be said to be cohesive in any way. Yet in an article, telling titled “SAP embraces opens source — sort of,” one commentator characterises SAP’s trajectory thus:

While the pace is stately, these are all genuine, strategic steps SAP is taking on its open source journey. [… T]here’s still little impact on their proprietary products. Nonetheless, SAP’s exhibiting at OSCON is most welcome, despite the company having a long way to go.
( See http://www.infoworld.com/article/2608531/open-source-software/sap-embraces-opens-source—-sort-of.html.)

So here is looking at you SAP, hope you can continue on the debut you have made, driven as you are by earnest geekiness, German business savvy and a kind of corporate bureaucracy. Do not underestimate the transformative power of open source.

"Someday you will understand…" *

 

Here's looking at you kid

 

 


* Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart’s) parting words to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) at the closing of Casablanca (1942):-

“Ilsa I am not good at being noble but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you will understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid”
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEWaqUVac3M

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