September 27, 2012, 4:07 PM — SAP could be close to announcing the general availability of its foray into the PaaS (platform-as-a-service) market, NetWeaver Cloud, which will go up against rival offerings from the likes of Oracle and Salesforce.com.
NetWeaver Cloud has been in beta for some time now and its release notes page on SAP's website was updated Thursday, adding to a list of new features that in total suggest the platform is reaching a mature enough phase for a general release, perhaps at SAP's upcoming Tech Ed conference. A company spokeswoman on Thursday declined to reveal whether this is the case.
The PaaS features an Eclipse-based SDK (software development kit) and currently supports Java. Other frameworks that can compile to Java can also be tapped by developers, and support for other runtimes is planned, according to a FAQ document.
NetWeaver Cloud, which runs in SAP data centers in Europe, also features SAP's much-hyped HANA in-memory database platform.
The company's goal is to build a marketplace and partner ecosystem over time around NetWeaver Cloud, much like Salesforce.com has done with its Force.com platform.
While there may not be massive evidence now of SAP customer demand for a PaaS such as this, one has a valuable role to play in their IT organizations, said Jon Reed, an independent analyst and consultant who closely tracks SAP.
There have been waves of SAP implementations over the years that ended up encumbered by large amounts of customizations, or "technical debt," creating burdensome landscapes that are difficult to upgrade, Reed said.
With a viable PaaS to develop cloud-based extensions, whether by customers or partners, upgrades to core SAP systems could be made much easier, albeit not seamless, Reed said.
IT organizations could focus custom work on the most crucial of the systems and use the cloud PaaS for less mission-critical enhancements, he said: "The point is, you'd have these choices ... instead of doing [customizations] at the drop of a hat, which is what a lot of SAP customers did."
As SAP continues to build out its PaaS and cloud offerings, things could get even more interesting, Reed said. "What they've done is started to think about this as a service-based environment." That means tying together SAP's mobile platform, on-demand BI (business intelligence) and other services with NetWeaver Cloud, allowing developers to tap a broader range of capabilities for their applications from one place.