Over the years SAP has been slowly but surely turning itself inside out towards the wider, open community. Open as in open source, open protocols and open data. One facet of this long-term tanker maneuver was very evident today; I attended session EXP443 “HTML5 @ SAP”. With tens of thousands of developers across the continents, it’s no surprise to find that some group, somewhere in SAP will be working on the same technology as you are, whatever that is.

HTML5 is one of those technologies. While not so much a surprise, what’s more revealing, and encouraging, is that it’s being given decent coverage at SAP TechEd this year. The adoption of HTML5 as the core of a new UI library (originally codenamed “Phoenix”) for app front-ends is something that has a voice here. Look at the TechEd sessions available:

  • CD202 HTML5 for Lightweight SAP Applications
  • MOB264 Building & Customising a Mobile Application Without Writing Code
  • MM220 How to Customise a Mobile Application with HTML5 and Javascript
  • EXP443 HTML5 @ SAP

That’s not to say that this is breaking news – Thomas Jung (an SAP Mentor from SAP Labs) made reference to Phoenix in an interview with Jon Reed a few months ago. Furthermore, in a very useful chat with SAP’s Chris Whealy on Monday after InnoJam, I got to understand more about the philosophy and approach of SAP NetWeaver Gateway’s exposure of data objects and their relationships in a way that would make HATEOAS pay attention. And Chris used an early version of the UI library to present the exposed data. This seems to be a common theme internally in SAP, at least.

So what’s the deal? In EXP443 I learned that the library is built upon jQuery. So SAP are avoiding the NIH syndrome, that’s good. But there were other attendees that were questioning SAP’s decision to build Yet Another Javascript Ui Library. At the very least, the model implementation of the library’s MVC framework gives the wily Javascript hacker a head-start on using and consuming Gateway services. And in my opinion that’s the deal. Yes, we have a very nice UI library (and no, it’s not available until 2Q12, before you ask!) but we also have code that speaks the language of thousands of front-end developers on the one hand, and eases the connection to the proprietary back-end on the other.

SAP’s future lies with developers, and they’re embracing those developers in many different ways (the Technology & Innovation Platform team is one group that is making seriously good moves in this direction — but that’s a story for another time). HTML5 adoption by SAP was most likely part of a scratching of an internal itch, but it implicitly embraces non-SAP developers in potentially far-reaching ways. Great stuff.