SAP offers NetWeaver subscription for developers

SAP is allowing individual developers to buy a one-year subscription for its NetWeaver software in a move to bring new blood to the platform.

SAP is allowing individual developers to buy a one-year subscription for its NetWeaver software in a move to bring new blood to the platform and expand its community of users.

NetWeaver was available previously only to companies that bought SAP software, but now any individual who joins the SAP developer network can buy a one-year license including software and services to develop and test applications on NetWeaver.

The company said it would offer the subscription about a year ago and is finally announcing its availability this week. The subscription is available initially in America for US$2,300, and in Germany for Euro ,1,750, excluding taxes. Other countries will follow next year, SAP said.

The license is for internal development and evaluation only, not production use. It includes the NetWeaver Platform, with the application server, portal and business intelligence software, as well as several tools, access to patches and any product updates released during the subscription period.

"It's for IT shops and individuals who want to try out NetWeaver without making a huge commitment up front. That's what subscription pricing does for you," said Peter Graf, SAP executive vice president for marketing. It will also allow individual consultants to become familiar with SAP's software.

It's one of a few announcements that SAP is making this week at the start of its TechEd conference in Las Vegas. The company is also releasing updated components for NetWeaver that it says complete the evolution of the product into a platform for SOA (service-oriented architecture) development.

NetWeaver includes tools and infrastructure software for customers using SAP's ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications. Over time it has expanded to include tools for business process management and building composite applications that can extend beyond SAP's software.

That expansion has brought SAP more into competition with established middleware such as BEA Systems' WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere, as well as products from integration specialists like WebMethods.

Graf argued that companies such as BEA are at a disadvantage because they offer "only technology," meaning only the infrastructure software, while SAP has the applications as well. "The technology and the applications are moving closer together," he said.

That may be the case, but it's unlikely that SAP's infrastructure software is as independent of the underlying applications as that of IBM or BEA, said Gary Barnett, a partner with the IT research company Bathwick in the U.K.

SAP has been forced to expand the role of NetWeaver to stay abreast of industry trends and meet demand for Web services and business process management among its customers.

"The business process layer is where the action is. If you let everyone else become the platform that modifies the processes you execute, then you become just infrastructure," Barnett said.

Among the software being announced at TechEd is an update to SAP's Enterprise Services Repository, for managing Web services, business processes and business objects that can be reused by developers. It supports version 3.0 of the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) standard.

SAP has renamed its NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure product, which becomes NetWeaver Process Integration, and given it an event-driven design that lets companies monitor business processes and act upon alerts. The software also has better performance to handle a greater throughput of service requests, Graf said. NetWeaver Process Integration will be available to "early customers" in December, with a wider roll-out next year.

It is also highlighting momentum around its NetWeaver Composition Environment, for building composite applications. The software has been downloaded 24,000 times since it was released earlier this year, according to Graf.

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