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SAP TechEd sets sights on hyperscalers with developer tools

SAP launched a series of developer products at SAP TechEd, including free tier access for the SAP Business Technology Platform and the low-code/no-code platform SAP AppGyver.

SAP is expanding its tools and services for developers of all skill levels, with several announcements from this week's SAP TechEd 2021 virtual conference.

SAP TechEd is an annual gathering of the SAP developer community that provides information on new tools and services, along with learning content and sessions that enable SAP developers to expand their skills.

For experienced developers, SAP is now providing individual access to the free tier model of SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), SAP's integrated development environment. Previously, SAP BTP was available to only licensed SAP customers and partners.

SAP is also now offering its veteran Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) developers a cloud-ready development environment for the programming language inside SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Formally named SAP S/4HANA Cloud ABAP Environment, the new platform is derived from the SAP BTP ABAP cloud environment known as Steampunk and is referred to as "Embedded Steampunk."

For business users with limited development skills or citizen developers, SAP made SAP AppGyver generally available. SAP AppGyver is a low-code/no-code development platform that SAP acquired in February. The platform will be available in SAP BTP.

In order to enhance the skills of developers at all levels, SAP launched a new SAP Learning site, which contains learning content including expert-led sessions, hands-on training and microlearning videos.

SAP addresses growing skills gap

Juergen Mueller, CTO, SAPJuergen Mueller

The intent behind the SAP TechEd announcements is to provide developers with tools and services to build applications that can address some of the challenges businesses face, including the pandemic, global climate change and inequality, said Juergen Mueller, CTO at SAP, said during his executive keynote at the SAP TechEd.

Opening the free tier for SAP BTP is something that SAP developers have been asking for, he said.

"SAP BTP is now available to individual developers, so you can now discover and experience SAP BTP services without any financial commitment," Mueller said. "This has been a journey that many [SAP developers] have been following very closely and have contributed actively to this milestone."

One of the problems companies are facing is a shortage of skilled developers, which makes the availability of low-code/no-code platforms like AppGyver and the opportunity to build skills through SAP Learning site more important than ever, according to Mueller.

"A huge technology talent gap is opening up that needs to be filled, so SAP is giving open access to learning resources and providing low-code and no-code solutions as a way out of this dilemma," he said.

Something for every developer

The products and services announced at TechEd should provide value for various developer levels, said Tammy Powlas, a business analyst and SAP Mentor, an SAP technology advocate selected by members of the SAP community, who works at a utilities company. She pointed specifically to individual access to the free tier for SAP BTP and general availability of AppGyver.

"I know as a [Project Management Professional] that the Project Management Institute says there's a shortage of developers and the citizen developer is the answer, so it's good to see SAP focus on AppGyver as the low-code and no-code solution."

The Learning site, SAP's relaunched learning center, is a key for developer success, she said.

"What links these all together is the free SAP Learning site that includes free training for low-code/no-code and SAP BTP solutions," Powlas said.

Holger Mueller, vice-president and principal analyst, Constellation ResearchHolger Mueller

The new tools and services fill some gaps that needed to be filled for SAP developers, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

AppGyver, for example, is an overdue item in SAP's low-code toolset, which should see more uptake now that it's embedded in SAP BTP, Mueller said.

"The free tier access for SAP BTP is a good move but SAP needs to convince on its merit, but they are not there yet," he said. "The S/4HANA Cloud ABAP Environment, Embedded Steampunk, is very good and overdue, this is the one key announcement for the existing customer and ecosystem."

SAP BTP defends against hyperscaler incursions

SAP needs to get in the game against the developer tool sets from public cloud hyperscalers Amazon, Google Cloud Platform and Azure, which are becoming go-to developer environments for professional development and low-code/and no-code development, said Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting. He said he believes the announcements from TechEd are a step in that direction and should help developers stay within the SAP platforms to build applications.

"SAP wants these extensions, net-new developments, citizen apps, RPA -- everything possible -- to run on SAP BTP because that makes their platform sticky and helps them fend off the hyperscalers who are making big inroads into their own developer communities," Greenbaum said.

Indeed, SAP appears to have gotten the free tier for SAP BTP right, agreed Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, an enterprise computing industry analysis firm.

Jon Reed, co-founder, DiginomicaJon Reed

"It was a long time coming, and developers and [SAP developer] community leaders have been pressing SAP for this kind of developer agreement for years," he said. "We need to see how it plays out, but it appears that SAP now has a free tier on par with the hyperscalers and open source development environments."

Many low-code and no-code options

SAP's commitment to low-code and no-code is clear and useful for both experienced and citizen developers, Reed said, but the availability of SAP AppGyver is a little underwhelming given the availability of low-code tools.

"Making AppGyver available to more citizen developers is welcome, but there are multiple tools for different uses, including third-party tools," he said. "SAP needs to provide more roadmap guidance and use case clarity on its various low-code environments going forward, like AppGyver, Ruum and Business Application Studio."

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

But Greenbaum countered that having a wealth of low-code and no-code options that all perform different functions -- AppGyver is particularly suited to building iOS and Android mobile interfaces -- is not a bad thing.

"It's both the blessing and the curse of any large enterprise software company, not just SAP, to have a confusing number of options," he said. "Everyone gets a little baffled, but any good bar has a good selection of beers, so it's about what people want."

The main goal for SAP in offering the development platforms and services is to prove that it's still an innovating enterprise company, Greenbaum said.

"SAP really has to build back its developer community," he said. "It has to build back this sense that they are the leading-edge innovators and break away from what it's tending to look like, which at times is just the legacy place to go to keep the lights on. If they don't capture innovation at the edge, they're doomed to legacy ERP status."

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.

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