“All SAP Solutions Should Soon Run on Linux”

Stefan Schindewolf
Stefan Schindewolf

What is the Linux interest group of DSAG working on?

Schindewolf: At our meetings, the last of which was held in May 2005, we’re dealing with current topics in the world of Linux – topics like MaxDB, Unbreakable Java, and the Java stack in the next generation of SAP NetWeaver Application Server. Lastly, we focus on entering the world of 64 bits with Linux.

What approach is SAP taking with the Java stack?

Schindewolf: SAP has promised to provide almost all the functionalities that are familiar to customers from the world of ABAP in the Java stack. Even familiar tools from the world of ABAP, such as traces for errors, will soon be available to analyze the Java stack.

What’s collaboration like between the Linux interest group of DSAG and other groups like the SAP LinuxLab?

Schindewolf: It’s very productive. The members of the DSAG interest group have extraordinarily good knowledge and very much enjoy experimentation. We exchange information and tips on mailing lists and by personal contact. The exchange profits users – and SAP.

What experience have you had with Linux at Infraserv?

Schindewolf: I’ve worked at Infraserv in system operations for three years in projects that have set up and maintained system landscapes. I was always impressed with the simple management, helpful tools, and performance of Linux. Operating an SAP system with Linux is actually fun for administrators because Linux is more flexible and robust than Windows. With the new 64-bit technology for Linux, SAP users can improve performance even more and reduce costs at the same time.

Almost all SAP products are now available for Linux. But Linux is first of all an additional platform supported by SAP. The platform offers the advantages of a Unix system on comparatively more economical hardware.

What role do Linux platforms play in SAP’s strategy?

Schindewolf: We implement Linux wherever doing so makes sense from the viewpoint of system operations. At Infraserv, we’ve been running mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM) and SAP NetWeaver – SAP Web Application Server on Linux. We just migrated SAP Enterprise Buyer (SAP EB) from Windows to Linux. The customer portal should follow soon. For printing from the SAP system, we use a scalable and highly available solution on several Linux servers. Only our SAP R/3 and SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW) instances still run on HP Unix. Those systems demand a very great deal of scalability and performance – demands that the previous Linux standard of 32 bits does not meet.

How to customers react to the combination of SAP solutions and Linux?

Schindewolf: SAP customers who rely on Linux as a strategic platform are generally satisfied. Unfortunately, most products also require installation of a Microsoft platform: integration of some SAP products with Microsoft products like Exchange is a good example. According to the information that I have, several thousand installations of Linux are running today on central servers and application servers. Our group has a great deal of interest in the experience of SAP users with migrations. In DSAG, SAP users gladly share their experience and knowledge with potential Linux users.

SAP has worked closely with a Linux supplier, Suse, and has certified its Linux Enterprise Server for SAP solutions. Has anything changed since Novell bought Suse?

Schindewolf: So far, the effect for customers has been positive. Novell has improved Linux Enterprise Server from Suse with its own solutions, such as Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9.

SAP is also cooperating more closely with Microsoft. Do you see any threat to the further SAP development of Linux solutions?

Schindewolf: No. The leading manufacturers in the software market are simultaneously competitors and partners. No manufacturer can offer good products without behaving cooperatively. And besides, different laws apply to Linux because the market is much larger and more diverse. The open source community is the largest community of developers in the world and, accordingly, an important economic factor for manufacturers of commercial software. Without the community, many of today’s developments would be inconceivable. No manufacturer willingly wants to exclude this gigantic resource.

But then how can you explain the setback for Linux as part of the project with the city of Munich? How can other customers protect themselves from belated patent suits?

Schindewolf: In my opinion, pure software patents are unacceptable. You can’t compare the development of applications with the development of a high-value product like medication – so it does not justify patent protection. Customers should not let themselves be affected by these kinds of discussions. Taking your customers to court is certainly not the correct way to increase revenues and profits. Software manufacturers know that. Companies that see patents as the only way to move customers to buy their own software rather than an open source products should rethink their business model. And an expert’s report in Munich has shown that free software does not include any more of a patent risk than commercial software does.

Do developments like Web services and Java applications promote the popularity of Linux?

Schindewolf: Absolutely. Security has a high value in Web services and Java applications, both of which are used on an open network. Because the source code for Linux is freely available, its security potential is higher than that of proprietary systems like Windows. That’s why Linux is the first choice as platform for Web applications. The increasing number of installations of Web servers with a Linux operating system also shows that it’s the first choice.

Can Linux and SAP reach some kind of market leadership together?

Schindewolf: In my opinion, Linux is the technological market leader among operating systems – be it in small, embedded devices or in large computers. So the steps taken by SAP to make all its applications available on Linux is simply a logical move. Both systems can support each other.

Who are the biggest fans of Linux?

Schindewolf: Primarily IT professionals, who then share their experience with IT mangers. I have an impression that European companies are more open to Linux than, for example, American companies.

As a customer, what do you want from SAP and from Linux?

Schindewolf: All SAP solutions should run on Linux; they should not require specific components form Microsoft. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten that far. Applications like Open Office, SAP GUI for Java, and the Mozilla browser will soon become elements of the SAP working environment. Even today, users can enjoy a Java-based – and therefore platform-independent – user interface instead of the traditional Windows interface. Integration of Open Office should appear in the next release of SAP NetWeaver, but it can already be tested with a demo CD available from SAP. DSAG regularly asks SAP about these developments.