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Blog update: podcast added!

Hey folks - the twenty minute podcast I taped with Karin and Yariv that goes along with this video blog is now up as well. I still need to post the writeup of the podcast to, but if you want to hear the podcast right away, you can either:

- use this embedded Quicktime player or
- download the podcast using the "download media" link to your right

Soon I'll add more text updates as well...scroll down for the video.
- Jon



Some of my fellow bloggers accuse each other of "burying the lead." This is the journalism no-no of not realizing the essence of the story from the audience perspective. We all bury the lead sometimes, arguably, SAP did this at TechEd with the future of SAP Java development, in particular the future of Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer.

To provide some context for this story, I'm sharing a video I shot with fellow SAP Mentor Karin Tillotson and SAP's Yariv Zur (I also shot a podcast with Karin and Yariv and will add that as a link to the post as soon as it is produced). Many of you have heard of Yariv from his work on "project uPods" - a cutting edge SAP UI initiative. Another fellow SAP Mentor, Thorsten Franz, is ready to comment on this Java UI story also, so I'll be linking to his post as soon as it is live as well (Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questions). I know SAP Mentor John Appleby has comments on this to share also.

As for me, I learned about the decisions SAP has made around Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer from a private Mentor session streamed from TechEd Berlin. To the best of my knowledge, the public announcements on SAP's future Java strategy happened at TechEd Las Vegas. These announcements were made in ASUG Session CD250, "ASUG Influence: SAP NetWeaver User Interface Update Session."

I can understand why SAP chose to first announce the news about Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer in this session. As you'll see in the video, Yariv feels strongly that the dialogue ASUG UI Influence Council was instrumental in SAP's decisions on UI development and how they were shared. The downside, however, to sharing such important news in a TechEd session is that the rumors spread broadly: "SAP is backing off of Java," or "Web Dynpro Java is dead at SAP." Yariv (and SAP) would argue strongly that neither are true. 

But I heard both of these comments from other attendees who had heard secondhand about this. Several Mentors, including myself, John, and Thorsten, not only wanted to get to the bottom of this news, but we wanted a chance to report it before it got picked up and treated irresponsibly in the IT press somewhere by someone in search of rumors and eyeballs. When Karin approached me about doing a video/podcast shoot to provide some context to this news, I was glad to do so. Karin and Yariv together helped to provide some needed nuances on this issue. 

So here's the video, which is nine minutes long. We were on a tight schedule, otherwise another take might have been useful to get to the heart of the news early in the shoot. But it will do, and the audio came out better than I expected.

In sum, the takeaways: 

- In consultation with SAP customers about their UI needs, SAP has decided to stop aggressively enhancing Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer, though both will be supported through 2018. SAP's Java UI focus will be on a new, lightweight set of tools that SAP believes are more in line with customer needs. 

- SAP customers on the Council had a strong reaction to the news about the change in SAP's UI strategy, given that both Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer were high on the customer list of preferred UI development tools. 

- SAP hopes to minimize customers' negative reactions to this news by allocating resources towards Java UI tools more in line with customer needs.

The ten minute video (see time stamp highlights below): 

:50 Karin: Yariv and I have been working together for a couple of years on the ASUG UI Influence Council. SAP uses the Influence Council to sound out users on their future plans with UI development and get our feedback. It was important to share this information at TechEd this year.

1:33 Yariv: Why the Influence Councils matter to SAP: they provide a focused channel for feedback versus going to individual SAP customers one by one. The goal is to make decisions for the greater good for all SAP customers - there are 12 large SAP customers in North America on the UI Council. The UI Council has built a level of trust where we can present ideas to the Council and see which ideas fly and which need to be refined.

3:05 Yariv: In the case of Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer, we used the Council as a sounding board. We came with a message and got some important feedback. We refined the message and as a result, the discussion we had a TechEd was more productive.

4:06 Yariv on SAP's Java UI Strategy: SAP has made the decision that for the Business Suite's applications, SAP will only use ABAP. SAP is not developing many Java-based UIs, so there has been some misunderstandings that SAP is no longer supporting or enhancing Java development and that is not true. But when you're developing a screen in PLM or SCM, and you're only working against an ABAP system, it doesn't make sense to put a Java stack in the middle, it makes sense to use Web Dynpro ABAP for that UI. Web Dynpro ABAP is the gold standard for any UI development in the Business Suite today.

4:59 Yariv: But: many customers use more than one SAP system and have a multi-vendor strategy and they need to integrate various systems, and Java as an integration hub is very powerful. Derived from that is the use of Java-based UI because when you want to create a UI that draws from various systems and various back ends, Java is a good option.  It's a bit difficult because people SAP, "SAP is only developing in Web Dynpro ABAP" and that's not the case.

5:35 Karin: It's not dead, but the message we're trying to get across is this: the next edition of NetWeaver, 7.3, will be the last major enhancements for Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer, is that correct?

5:55 Yariv: Yes. Again, talking about the Council, we did a lot of work asking the Council about the pain points aroundJava development and SAP UIs. We found out that where we're lacking is the toolset to create stateless, lightweight UIs. With Web Dynpro Java and Web Dynpro ABAP you can't create these kinds of flexible, lightweight Ajax-like apps, these are server-side programming models. Based on the feedback from the Council and other customers, we started working on a new UI toolset, which means we are diverting a lot of resources to that.

6:55 Yariv: It was important to us to reassure customers they can still use Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer with a high level of confidence. NetWeaver 7.3 is a major release, not an Enhancement Pack, which means the maintenance clock is reset. That means if I start writing a Web Dynpro Java app today, based on 7.3, it's fully supported by SAP until 2018. We intend to continue to add features to Web Dynpro Java and support it, but these will be minor features based on customer feedback.

7:44 Karin: One reason the Influence Council was taken off guard is we did a survey of preferred UI technologies from our members and SCN, and the number two and number three tools listed on the survey were Web Dynpro Java and Visual Composer. That took us off guard because of the amount of customers planning to use these tools.

8:26 Yariv: There are going to be enhancements, but it won't be a major overhaul. The tools are mature, they are done, not in the "dead" sense, we achieved the level we wanted to with them. In the 7.3 version of VC, the features are based on the direct feedback of customers, including better translation tools for VC. That's the kind of feedback and incremental improvements we will continue to incorporate into VC and Web Dynpro Java.

Closing blog remarks: one thing we need to hear more from at SAP is how this news impacts NetWeaver BPM, specifically the Composition Environment, still a key product in SAP's "compose on NetWeaver" strategy. In this podcast I will post soon, Yariv does comment on the BPM side, but he's not intending to speak for the CE aspects so we need someone else from SAP to chime in there. However, I do want to note that NetWeaver BPM, to the best of my knowledge, does incorporate Web Dypro ABAP as a UI option in version 7.3, so that would potentially change some of the open questions there. 

Thorsten, over to you. 🙂

(see Thorsten's blog post where Kiss of Death for Web Dynpro Java – The Follow-Up Questions about Web Dynpro Java UI issues).