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Linux Business Software Linux

SAP — Open Source Friend Or Foe ? 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the beer-more-than-speech dept.
pavithran writes "Does SAP, one of the largest business companies offering software solutions, support FOSS as a movement? Why is SAP looking at closed and open source in a similar way? This shows lot of ambiguity in SAP's attitude towards open source software. I found an interesting article in Linux Journal on whether SAP is an open source friend or foe, by Glyn Moody. Here's a quote from the article: 'For an outfit that calls itself "the world's largest business software company," the German software giant SAP is relatively little-known in the open source world. With 51,500 employees, a turnover of 11.5 billion euros ($16 billion) last year, and operating profits of 2.7 billion euros ($3.8 billion), SAP is clearly one of the heavyweights in the computer world. Given that huge clout, SAP's attitude to open source is important; and yet it is hard to tell whether it is really free software's friend or its foe. ... A company that wished open source well would back these ideas. One that really supported free software would also fight against software patents. So, while SAP's involvement in Eclipse and investment in open source companies is welcome — and pretty self-interested, it has to be said, given that it presumably hopes to make a profit on them — it's not really enough cancel out its unhelpful attitude and statements elsewhere. If it wants to be a serious, respected player in the world of open source, as befits its size, it must do better.'"
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SAP — Open Source Friend Or Foe ?

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  • by linumax (910946) on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:48PM (#28311921)
    That is all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:49PM (#28311927)

    You must be a friend or foe, you can't be neutral on the subject. I prefer to use Linux without the dogma attached it it.

    It's non-starter.

  • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:51PM (#28311971) Homepage Journal
    Why can't a company use FOSS when it is appropriate and proprietary when it suits their customers best? Software should not be a religious issue.
  • by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:52PM (#28311983)

    If Open Source is a Movement, you should see a proctologist. SAP doesn't need to be a friend nor a foe to it. They can and should be indifferent, as should 99.9999999999% of the world.

    The ideology is simply unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Only zealots feel a need to paint everyone in black and white.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:53PM (#28312007)

    To some people FOSS is just software to get work done. So they use it where they see fit. They contribute where they see benefit. But they don't sacrafice themselve to the holy crusade of FOSS.

    Actually I would say this is how FOSS should work. If FOSS would have to rely on the altruism of companies it would be doomed. I don't think it is.

  • It's pretty simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:53PM (#28312011) Homepage Journal

    SAP support Open Source in any tool that allows them to develop and interact with their product.
    The gnomes of SAP will never open SAP up.

    If you have ever looked at SAP structure or code you don't want that box open~

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @01:58PM (#28312107)

    No, you (or anyone else) deciding how I license and distribute my software is unethical.

    Don't force your "ethics" on me.

  • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:02PM (#28312163)

    The ideology is simply unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

    That is false both in this context and in all contexts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:07PM (#28312241)

    Bingo. Whose side is SAP on? SAP's.

    The question for the Open Source Community is how should Open Source relate to structurally self-interested entities? While the article's enumeration of SAP's relationship with Open Source is a useful starting point for discussion, framing the discussion as "Friend or Foe" is a misleading oversimplification.

  • by slashdotlurker (1113853) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:13PM (#28312335)
    I use open source software extensively in my work. I have also contributed open source code (not all GPL, but a good fraction of it is). I like open source for many things.

    However, I do not understand this expectation that software companies should help open source. Microsoft is a special case - it tried to work with hardware vendors to delay the rise of Linux, Openoffice, etc. However, when it comes to pure software competition, a company that makes its living off software (and is not interested in the pure free-software-pay-for-support model than open source encourages) cannot be expected to act against its own financial interests to earn brownie points from the open source crowd.

    Sometimes those interests will mandate open source participation. Other times, they won't. Interested in getting them to support open source ? Change market conditions to make it their interest to participate in open source. Open source might be religion to some, but it is simply an instrument for most of us. Pretty good instrument in most cases, but nothing more.
  • It's a Mistake... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:17PM (#28312417)

    ... to treat a large company such as SAP as monolithic.

    Some inside of SAP will be FOSS friends, some will be foes, some will be neither. It depends upon the individuals involved, their attitudes, roles and the incentives SAP gives them.

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:21PM (#28312471)

    And it never is, ever.

    What it /is/, however, is an ideological issue, always. Your software ideology, for example, is that a company should use FOSS where appropriate and propriety when it suits their customers best.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:25PM (#28312581)

    Simple. Non-free software is unethical.

    What kind of "free" do you mean?

    Totally free, or GNU "free-with-conditions".

    Because once you start attaching conditions like the GPL does, it's not totally free anymore, now is it?

  • by jchawk (127686) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:35PM (#28312735) Homepage Journal

    Idealistic or not you hit the nail on the head with your post.

    Plenty of companies look at software as a tool similar to a hammer or a lathe. Which model or version of the hammer will get the job done for me in the most cost-effective manner.

    I work for a large industrial manufacture and we are deploying plenty of Linux right along side HP-UX, Microsoft 2003, AS400 and Mainframe. What tool makes the most sense for the problem we are trying to solve?

    I honestly believe the longer you work for a for profit company the more you start to understand the statement "Choose the right tool for the job."

  • It's *SAP* (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:47PM (#28312959) Homepage

    I agree the question is stupid, but for a different reason. We're talking about SAP. Whether you are in the FOSS or Closed Source camp doesn't matter. If you are on the side of sanity, then SAP is your foe. It's that simple.

  • by migla (1099771) on Friday June 12, 2009 @02:56PM (#28313091)

    "Use the correct tool and your life will forever be easier. The Free Software Movement is very important and cool, but"

    I bet, that for life to "forever be easier", every tool will have to be a Free tool. In other words, I claim that openness and freedom are necessary components of any ideal (as in perfect) tool.

    Granted, we're not there yet, but it's good that some people are ideological and looking into the future.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:03PM (#28313191)

    SAP is nobody's friend. They're the enemy of all mankind.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:03PM (#28313195)

    No, they aren't open source. You have to buy it from them and are not allowed to distribute/sell your modifications and there are quite a few strings attached to receiving it. The source is simply a product deliverable.

    It's similar to the free as in beer argument. Or maybe more accurately the coke dealer giving the first hit free knowing you'll come back for more services. Most consider Open Source an ideology, and SAP certainly does not drink that punch. They are all about generating revenue through providing services. Giving you the source when you buy it opens up the door for providing more services to the customer who now believes because they have the source its a good idea to bastardize it and make future upgrades next to impossible without spending tons of money.

  • by WinterSolstice (223271) on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:09PM (#28313319)

    SAP has a track record of acting in only their own immediate term interest.

    For years, SAP was best buddies with Oracle - then they switched to being best buddies with IBM. Then they bought Adabase and made that atrocity that is SAPDB.
    Which they sold to MySQL.
    Which is now spun off yet again.
    Some products were Windows only for a very long time, and the GUI still is for the most part. The Java GUI is multi-platform, but still missing stuff.

    As a long term SAP admin (basis) and DBA, the only thing you can count on from SAP is random acts of chaotic self-interest.
    They don't play Friend or Foe, they just play Best Buddy of the Moment.

  • by WinterSolstice (223271) on Friday June 12, 2009 @03:11PM (#28313349)

    Because there isn't a +5 "Freaking sad but true" mod.

  • by werfu (1487909) on Friday June 12, 2009 @04:10PM (#28314163)
    Indeed. I work for a multinational consultant firm (27k+ employee) and the official stance on open source isn't for or against either. If FOSS solutions are possible under a situation, that their TCO is less than their closed source equivalents and that the client is open to it, we usualy go the FOSS way. Most often its a mix of it. We use a lot of Java EE. Many Java EE containers use Tomcat as their application server too. We also use extensively Eclipse and customize it for our needs. Anyway... when you get to that size of company you can't have a global thinking against or for FOSS. Heck I know some guys that work at Microsoft that use Linux at home and do open source developpment too!
  • by digsbo (1292334) on Friday June 12, 2009 @05:17PM (#28314917)
    I'm not sure if they're hurting everyone, but I know SAP is hurting their customers by charging enormous amounts of money for poorly implemented systems that give the PHBs in Finance the illusion of control, while simultaneously hindering anyone actually trying to accomplish anything productive. Yes, I've used their stuff.
  • SAP and Windows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by j.leidner (642936) <leidner AT acm DOT org> on Friday June 12, 2009 @06:18PM (#28315465) Homepage Journal
    > Some products were Windows only for a very long time, and the GUI still is for the most part. The Java GUI is multi-platform, but still missing stuff.

    That's not quite the right perspective: it actually started out from a cross-platform position. When R/3 came out, it supported 15 platforms (e.g. most Unices), and only later did it become more and more Windows-dependent. Part of this was the desire to integrate SAP's R/3 GUI more closely with Microsoft Office.

    I was with the SAP basis technology group at the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 12, 2009 @11:47PM (#28317431)

    I actually think ideology is important.

    For example, I put my money in a so-called "ethical" bank, which avoids investing in "bad" enterprises. Likewise, I'll rather buy a product from a bio farmer or from a free-software friendly company *just for political reasons*, and take a higher cost (say, up to ten percent).

    Viewed from this "neutral" economical standpoint (which really ain't neutral, it's ideology too!), to me that's just a "product feature": in my eyes it makes the world I live in better.

    Same for a customer -- if SAP is "friend", I'd tend to recommend it, if it's "foe" I won't: I just make sure I disclose my thinking. More customers than you think take those considerations into account.

    The limitless greed of the economy out there is not a sort of physical law. *We* do it. And *each one of us* carries some responsibility for it.

  • by lordholm (649770) on Saturday June 13, 2009 @03:44AM (#28318309) Homepage

    "As a software development company, SAP has no other choice than to hold on to their patent portfolio, even if for defense reasons."

    Is that why SAP was one of the largest actors in pro software patents campaign in Europe? I'd respect an opinion like the one from Oracle where they stated that they don't like patents, but since they exist they must use them for defensive reasons. SAP on the other hand put huge sums of money into actually trying to legalise software patents in the EU where they are not legal at all.

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