SAP Quietly Builds on Long History with Open Source Software

SAP has long worked behind the scenes on a wide array of open-source projects.

Todd R. Weiss

February 1, 2019

3 Min Read
Open source

SAP is well-known for the creation, sales and support of its diverse business-software applications used by companies around the world. But what may not be as well-known is that SAP has been doing much of that creating and supporting by being a regular consumer and backer of open-source software.

While competitor IBM boasts about its early support of Linux, having made a big public splash about investing $1 billion in the family of open-source operating systems back in 2000, SAP has been taking a quieter approach to its internal use of open source.

And that’s just fine with Thomas Grassl, vice president and global head of developer relations and community with SAP, who spoke with Channel Futures about SAP and its open-source legacy.


SAP’s Thomas Grassl

“I think it’s been a hidden secret about SAP, but we have been very active in open source for a long time,” he said. “The history goes back to early 2000 where we started to mostly adopt open-source projects, but at the same time it was also important to use them and to contribute and move these projects forward.”

SAP uses the open-source Eclipse integrated-development environment for much of its software development and is involved deeply in the Eclipse community, said Grassl. Also used heavily inside SAP is the Java-based SDK SAPMachine, which is included in the SAP cloud platform. SAPMachine is an SAP-supported version of OpenJDK for SAP partners and customers who want to use it to run their applications.

The company continues to be involved in a long list of open-source projects and is an active member of open-source groups including the Linux Foundation, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the TODO Group, Hyperledger, ODPi and the OpenAPI Initiative.

“We always actively contributed to Eclipse and other projects like Cloud Foundry,” he said. “We support and sponsor and work to get the name out about all the projects where we’re working.”

In 2018, SAP open sourced its Project Gardener code, which it started internally to manage Kubernetes clusters at enterprise-scale across different hosting providers.

SAP has also been deeply involved in Kyma, an open-source project for Kubernetes that allows users to extend and customize cloud-based and on-premises enterprise applications using serverless computing or microservice architecture.

“It’s a tool to connect applications, which is why SAP is interested,” said Grassl.

So why is SAP going more public now about its open-source roots?

“For us at SAP, as we are consuming open-source projects. With a lot of our software built with open source, we at SAP are very much focused on moving these projects forward,” he said. “We are focused on enterprise readiness around scalability, security and interoperability.”

Over the years, SAP has built a close and healthy relationship with the open-source community, he said.

“We have done sessions [about our open source use] at conferences in the past, and now we want to give more public attention to that history.”

After years of using open source, the company eventually created an internal Open Source Program Office last year to help guide the continued use of the tools.

SAP hopes to get its wide network of channel partners more involved in its open-source strategy.

“We want to get partners interested,” Grassl said.

By sharing the expertise of SAP professionals with a wide range of community projects, SAP helps improve its own products and its technology, closing a circle, said Grassl.

“We’ve learned over the years that though it’s great to make these contributions, we have gotten so many things back in return from the community.”

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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