the other Sapphire and back to the future

I'm flying to the less glamorous Sapphire this afternoon. Us Europeans don't do that conference thing as well as our American cousins do. They get Sheryl Crow and we don't. Nevertheless it is a good opportunity to dig deeper into some of the messages announced in the US, and talk to customers and partners.

I remember attending the 1996 Sapphire in Vienna, where most of the presentations were in German with a form of English translation. If you think understanding SOA, ESA etc is tough today, imagine the poor translators simultaneously expounding on the benefits of R/3 three-tier-client server  and BAPIS back then. We had just as many slides, but the graphics and grammar were worse. The conference bag was nice though, and I got to hear lots of Mozart and waltzes.

I googled Sapphire 96, and found very little. Much has changed in 10 years it seems.

This is how AMR covered the event then:

Next Releases of R/3: The primary focus was on the newest release, R/3 3.1, which adds Internet and intranet capabilities to R/3 and is scheduled to ship by year end. This will be followed by Release 4.0, scheduled for first customer shipment in 3Q96. Release 4.0 will feature the "componentization" of R/3 – SAP intends to divide its software into discrete software components or business objects without sacrificing the integration for which R/3 is known. At the SAPPHIRE conference in Vienna (see The AMR Alert on Manufacturing June 21), SAP had announced its intent to divide R/3 into three pieces: Financials, Human Resources, and Logistics (includes Manufacturing). Instead, Financials and Logistics will stay together until Release 5.0.

BAPI's are the first major delivery of components that will make up SAP's new Business Framework architecture – announced at SAPPHIRE 96. The Business Framework architecture consists of SAP business objects which have been developed with input from customers and partners to ease the task of integrating add-on products and customizations with R/3. The low level complexity of the SAP application (and the ABAP/4 development environment) are hidden from the user. Microsoft's COM/DCOM broker technology is used to allow any external application to call methods of the objects housed in SAP's business object repository. The business objects then utilize an internal SAP broker to interact directly with the correct SAP R/3 remote function calls (RFC's). This allows SAP, their customers, and partners to code to a common abstraction layer, eliminating the rework that is usually required when any of these parties changes their application code

Hmmm, somethings change and somethings stay the same.

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4 thoughts on “the other Sapphire and back to the future”

  1. See, SAP’s been doing this SOA thing for 10 years already!

    Nice that it is now being done on industry-standard technologies (web services instead of BAPI/COM).

  2. Thomas – funny thing about this post. Vienna ’06 was also my first Sapphire, and I remember it pretty well. At the time I was a translator working in Walldorf and got roped into doing a pavilion presentation because they needed people who could present in English. I spent all day in a pavilion giving an intro presentation about SAP connecting to the internet for the first time ever. It was actually pretty exciting even though most of what we were showing in the pavilion were custom scenarios built for the event. I just showed slides. The pavilion was absolutely mobbed to the point where we had some serious crowd control problems. Very fun evening events included a boat ride on the Danube. I enjoyed Hasso’s presentation about the BAPI strategy – he explained that he wasn’t worried about opening the system up to the internet. He said people who think java components will replace ERP are misguided and used the anecdote that you can go to a Pep Boys shop and buy any component of a car, but you can’t take them all home and build a car. First time I saw Hasso speak in a forum like that. It was pretty impressive. Also, Vienna is pretty unbelievably beautiful and I haven’t been back since. Had some great food there too.

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