Did SAP Get the AJAX Memo?

By: Roger Strukhoff
Jun. 2, 2006 07:00 AM

It has now been very well-documented, by SYS-CON and by others, that Ajax was the big story at the recent JavaOne 2006 Conference in San Francisco. But during that same week, a continent away in Orlando, Ajax was seemingly nowhere to be found at SAP's Sapphire '06 event.

A look at dozens of Sapphire-related announcements, from SAP and several of its technology partners, finds nary a mention of Ajax. Although SAP exec Shai Agassi (pictured) told an Australian IT publication recently that "we've opened up our enterprise services repository so that users can program in any language -- Python, Ajax, Ruby on Rails, etc. We're not going to get into religious battles," it seems certain that members of the SAP customer base are not likely to be early adopters of Ajax when it comes to messing with their websites.

One industry CEO whose company does a lot of work with SAP told me that he thinks the Ajax approach is "simply not suitable" for a range of complex applications. He said he thinks instead that the potential of SOA is nowhere close to being realized and that serious IT infrastructures dealing with both the promise and complexity of SOA design, development, and deployment shouldn't be distracted by Ajax at this point.

In a similar vein, an IT analyst who has built his career within the traditional IT world said he thinks Ajax "provides nice decoration" but that "it should hardly be considered to be the main thing, or even a main thing, that's important to the industry right now."

For its part, Sapphire '06 was focused on helping SAP customers "take advantage of the right IT solutions to help accelerate business innovation and fuel profitable growth." Its Enterprise SOA track featured sessions with titles such as "Ensure Continuous and Effective Business Operations to Get Ready for ESA," "Explore the New Preconfigured Enterprise Services Environment from SAP," and "Accelerating Business Transformation Through ESA/SOA." Sapphire '06 also had tracks devoted to NetWeaver, ERP, and Composite Applications, among others. There was no Ajax track.

SYS-CON is, of course, producing SOA Web Services Edge in New York June 5-6, where speakers and attendees will gather to debate various aspects of the still-emerging SOA approach to enterprise IT. The event has three tracks devoted to SOA and Web Services, with specific session topics including "Why Successful SOA Requires a New Way of Thinking," "The OASIS SOA Reference Model," "The ESB Delivering SOAs," "SOA Using Flex, Flash, and ColdFusion," and "When Ajax Isn't Enough."

But in order to deliver information to those seeking all points of view, this event is colocated with the Enterprise Open Source Conference and Exposition, and there is also a two-day, single track Real-World Ajax Seminar. (Information on all events can be found at http://events.sys-con.com.) And it's important to note that one of the sessions during the Real-World Ajax Seminar is entitled, "Focusing on the Architecture in Ajax," to be presented by JackBe's John Crupi, who told us in an earlier interview that he will take attendees through a four-step process that "goes way beyond" that first, decorative level often criticized by Ajax debunkers.

Meanwhile, one could look at the JavaOne San Francisco/Sapphire Orlando duality and see an emerging "red-state, blue-state" debate within the IT industry. But this being information technology, the situation will never be quite that simple.

If you're looking for a true polarized political debate, think pro-Microsoft/anti-Microsoft. Whose side are you on, mate?

The SOA and Ajax discussions seem more like some people arguing about what wine goes best with what food versus others who don't really like wine and think that the food itself is far more important. As the story plays out, one can guess everyone will eventually sit at the same table, though.


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