Flex and SAP: some speculative thoughts

by kai on 26/04/2005

After the announcement of SAP to integrate Flex in their NetWeaver platform I digged a bit and tried to compile some information about this approach and it’s possible impacts.

Be aware that I’m far away from being an SAP expert, it’s more of a collection of interesting resources and my personal thoughts…1. Flex to run on NetWeaver: this sounds quite simple and easy. NetWeaver is a J2EE-certified application server platform, Flex is a J2EE application – so…should work fine. But: if any of you ever tried to deal with complex J2EE apps in a complex setting, you know that the “write once run everywhere” story is a myth…

But: I’m happy to hear that MM supports NetWeaver for Flex deployment now as this should co-incident with providing a fundamental and extended technical support for installation and operational issue with that combination. Without the official support from the vendor a lot of customers won’t even touch this combination of products

2. Flex to be embedded in NetWeaver Visual Composer: this one is a little bit more tricky. SAP is well-known for for a fast product-strategy adaption… others might call it “we throw away all our product names, charts and product bundles and create it from the scratch and call it e… or my…” šŸ™‚ However, Visual Composer is more or less a workbench/storyboard tool to create applications for SAP by defining and combining business processes.

In this graph you’ll get an idea how this tool fits into the architecutre of SAP and Netweaver. Btw: an iView is some sort of a Java application in terms of being part of a web portal.

The following is highly speculative as I don’t know exactly how Visual Composer works in depth. But: imagineable might be that VC is compiling the via business processes defined applications into some sort of code. This might be Java code right now and might become MXML/AS code later.

I wonder if and where the areas of influence will be with that as I don’t expect the created application being perfect and 100% completed at all. There are two approaches for that: The first one might be that Visual Composer compiles the what-ever code to MXML and AS – to be more precise: compiles to some sort of classes and templates framework which has to be re-worked afterwards by a Flex developer. The second one might be that Visual Composer offers an additional internal language which might be used to complete the application besides the visual development part. In the step of compiling all stuff this internal code might be translated into MXML and AS as well.

But as said, purely speculative and I’ll have to play/read about this a bit more to provide more ideas…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dirk April 26, 2005 at 12:00 am
Jeff Whatcott April 26, 2005 at 12:00 am

Good detective work Kai. Visual Composer is intended for business power users and developers to create applications without a lot of coding. It has an internal language format that is used under the covers during the visual application building phase, and this is converted to MXML/AS and compiled in the deployment phase. The compiled application connects to its data sources through the Flex data services that will be embedded in Netweaver.

This code generation approach is very powerful, because it allows people to use and benefit from Flex without having to learn MXML/AS. That will definitely help in taking Flex RIAs into every corner of the enterprise.

Of course the code generation approach won’t be ideal for everyone and every project. Some projects will require more control over the code, more customization, etc. In those situations, you can just develop a Flex app from the ground up (as most people do today) and deploy on Netweaver, which is now a supported application server for Flex.

Jeff Whatcott


David Mendels April 26, 2005 at 12:00 am

Hi Kai,

I am at the SAP Sapphire Conference in Copenhagen as I write, joining SAP for the announcements. It is very exciting stuff, and an enormous validation of Flex for us.

As for your speculation, their tool–Visual Composer–generates MXML/AS, that gets sent to Netweaver where the Flex server is embedded, and an interactive dashboard is delivered to the browser. Their code does not require a developer to “finish it”, but Visual Composer is not a coder tool for creating any arbitrary application; rather, it works with pre-built templates and components that SAP will ship. Because of that natural constraint, they are able to get complete Flex apps without requiring a developer to do any coding. They are shipping a massive number of pre-built industry specific analytic dashboards that the Visual Composer user can customize. The demos today at the press conference were very nice.

Now, that said, for the Flex developer who does write code I think this creates great new opportunities to go into accounts that realize the benefits of an RIA dashboard but want to take it to the next level and create applications outside of the scope of the templates and Visual Composer. At this point, instead of starting from scratch to sell the concept and get the Flex server installed, the SI/developer community can leverage the work SAP has already done to achieve that and focus instead on solving specific business problems with Flex.



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