I recently got to know an interesting product for mobile SAP development from Neptune Software
, a Norwegian software shop. Two things caught my attention, they are a startup in the SAP ecosystem, and they are building SAP HTML5 designer
, an ABAP development framework for mobile devices. I am quite interested in both topics so I asked Ole-Andre, the CEO of Neptune Software, if he would be interested in a short interview for the blog and he kindly accepted.
[OAH] Ole Andre Haugen – CEO Neptune Software
[NST] Njål Stabell – CTO Neptune Software
Can you tell us more about you and how you started with SAP?
[OAH] I started with SAP back in 1995 after serving as an officer in the Norwegian armed forces as Instructor and Field Engineer. I have since worked with SAP either as consultant or manager in consultancy firms.
[NST] Actually I started out as a Java developer in the late 90’s and was lured into the SAP world through integration projects and java development on the SAP Internet Sales solution. It took me some years to fully embrace and accept the ABAP language but I now cherish its performance, simplicity and suitability for enterprise business logic.
Can you tell us about your company products and goals?
[OAH] Neptune Software is the result of years and years of real-life SAP projects and experience and not a lab product. We have tried to make our product the optimal development tool that we ourselves would have wanted to use as project developers. The result is a tool that combines the best of the features of the SAP Developer Workbench with the functionality we have always desired. As an example we have reused the idea of data binding from Webdynpro and added far better language support in our solution.
[NST] I would like to add that the trigger of this specific product was the emergence of HTML5 as the “code once run anywhere” de facto standard for mobile development. We could not have delivered the kind of quality we do without the open source development communities producing great frameworks like jQuery Mobile and Phonegap(Cordova).
[OAH] So, our product is an SAP certified HTML5 designer within the SAP Netweaver platform. We provide a server, a “drag & drop” designer and tools for creating Apps for multiple devises based on existing SAP functionality. We have no ambitions to move out of this space - meaning we are not a MEAP but a MADP (Mobile development Application Platform)
Is this your first venture in product development?
[NST] No, I started my career as a product developer for a Scandinavian e-procurement company called Proceedo. The move into project based development was quite a shock when I realized that object orientation and inheritance was kind of useless when you code a user-exit or similar “small” fixes within the SAP environment. Luckily I can capitalize on my former experience now that we have created a huge application in SAP and where ABAP Object really shines.
[OAH] I started a company that delivered a procurement HUB between SAP installations (Customers) in 2002 called LogNet. Even if I have started a lot of SAP consultancy firms, it has always been my passion to create software products rather than just delivering manpower to SAP customers.
I suppose it is not easy for you to market a solution outside the official SAP strategy. How do convince customers that is better to use a non-SAP solution to solve the mobile equation?
[OAH] Not being owned by SAP doesn’t mean we are not an SAP solution. We are actually the only ABAP SAP development product for mobility on the market. And I would like to stress that our solution is certified by SAP. In addition we do not provide a MEAP that is competing with the SAP Mobility platform but only a means for ABAP developers to capitalize on their existing skill sets moving into a more and more mobile reality.
[NST] The new partnerships announced by SAP last month also shows that SAP wants more development options for their platform. Especially the Adobe Phonegap partnering was important for us. Now our customers can use applications built with our tool on the SAP Mobile Platform and benefit from the MDM, Security and functionality like push notifications.
Is SAP platform is a good foundation for building a company that develops applications? What major strengths and weaknesses did you find?
[OAH] SAP has a great platform when it comes to performance. We are especially impressed with the ICF (Internet Communication Framework) for performance and scalability. We also utilize the standard transport system and security of the SAP system.
[NST] We are of course limited to the SAP customers in the world, and as we use the ABAP stack the look and feel of the designer is based on the standard SAP GUI. We find that the familiarity between our product and standard SAP ABAP tools really helps ABAP developers getting started.
Do you code ABAP?
[BOTH] Yes, a lot.
Have you tried SAPUI5? What do you think of it? Do you think it will be the building block for all new SAP user interfaces?
[NST] We actually imported the SAPUI5 framework into our solution and made a few SAPUI5 plugins to test how it would play along our solution. It worked perfectly and we are now in touch with the managers of SAPUI5 in Waldorf and are awaiting the licensing decisions before we move any further.
[OAH] For desktop solutions it will definitely have a more appealing and modern look than Webdynpro. I believe that when the browsers in the enterprise have decent HTML5 support – HTML5 will be the preferred choice for most UI development.
I can see you choose JQuery Mobile to use in your product. I also see that SAP uses JQuery Mobile in several places, at least in the SUP and in Portal on Devices (do you know more?). Do think SAP will also adopt JQuery Mobile more officially or it will move to SAPUI5 once this toolkit supports mobile?
[NST] SAPUI5 actually packages jQuery Mobile for mobility development. SAP made a partnering announcement with Sencha Touch so we’ll see what that means for jQuery Mobile in the SAP context in the coming year. For our solution, the jQuery Mobile framework is a better fit. It is more HTML oriented and less Java script dependent when it comes to development.
[OAH] I believe SAPUI5 will have most impact on the desktop. SAP really needs a facelift for their portal and business client.
Are there some new SAP technologies do you think can be particularly interesting to independent developers?
[NST] Apart from the SAPUI5 the new Netweaver Neo is interesting. If we have had a push for mobility and HANA this year, my predictions is that Cloud computing will be the hot thing next year.
Can you tell us more about your marketing channels? Do you get many inquiries from the website?
[OAH] We get great help from SAP through the Eco Hub and they help with setting up webinars with SAP partners. Our trial version strategy has been a success and we have our solution installed on more than 200 SAP systems worldwide.
[NST] Also channels like Linkedin are great for marketing. These days it is a lot easier to find the right audience than it was only a few years ago.
Have you participated in SAP events? Which kind of events you found better to show your products?
[OAH] We participated on Teched and Sapphire in Madrid last year and will attend Teched in Las Vegas in October. Other than that we have been to the local SAP user group events in Scandinavia which has resulted in actual contracts.
How do you see the SAP independent developers space?
[NST] For ABAP developers we can highly recommend the Assembly kit that comes with the certification. It gives you the tool you need for packaging and delivering ABAP add-ons in a smooth and professional manner.
[OAH] SAP provides their Software and Technology partners with both the tools and the marketing assistance you will need starting up. So if you
have a great idea and some means of funding I say go for it.
Thanks guys for this interview. I think you are one of the coolest startups in the SAP space and I hope you have a lot of success with your product.
Labels: abap, interview, mobile