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Four years into its NetWeaver strategy, SAP is finally putting its middleware in the hands of individual developers through a subscription-based licensing package.

The world's largest business applications vendor said Tuesday it's making the full NetWeaver stack available to individual developers for the first time under a one-year development and evaluation license, along with four of its Java and ABAP tools.

The package is priced $2,300, which SAP said represents a saving of between three to five times on NetWeaver's usual perpetual license. SAP was unable to provide an exact figure, claiming NetWeaver is priced on a customer-by-customer basis.

Previously, NetWeaver - which includes application server, portal business intelligence, mobile and data management - has only been licensed to customers or partners working through an SAP account rep.

Mark Yolton, vice president for SAP's community network, said SAP is cutting down the number of hoops developers must jump through in order to grow its community. He cited customer and partner demand for the new license.

Launched at SAP's TechEd Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, the NetWeaver Development Subscription is only available to developers on its SAP Developer Network (SDN) in the US and Germany. SAP claimed SDN now numbers 900,000 individuals - up from 750,000 in April.

And, while, the NetWeaver Development Subscription price might be a bargain compared to SAP's usual pricing, it'll rule out a good many more developers involved in hands-on Java coding who might have been tempted to dabble.

Companies with a better-established track record among developers than SAP trying to sink roots into the community have themselves grappled with subscriptions, coming in lower than SAP or offering more for the money.

After at lot of slide rule and protractor work on support for Eclipse, IBM came up with $400 per user per year for an unlimited number of calls. In a similar vein, Sun Microsystems charges $249 for an unlimited number of incidents on an unlimited number of products under its Expert Assistance program for each developer. Specific Sun tools, such as NetBeans 5.5 and Studio 12, start at $864. Support for the NetWeaver Development Subscription is online, through emails and forums.

SAP is targeting architects, business analysts and consultants it believes will re-coup the price through several days' consulting. Yolton said: "We're going for individuals who are developers or enterprise architects who like to roll up their sleeves and get their fingers on the middleware to build and extend it."

SAP is not typically the average developers' first port of call, thanks to its enterprise heritage and proprietary nature of its underlying ABAP architecture.

When it conceived NetWeaver some years back, SAP seized on Java and web services as a means to reach out to developers and make its systems less proprietary.

Recently, SAP has gotten more hip by associating itself with the Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) frenzy. SAP appeared at Adobe's Max 2007 this week with a proof-of-concept of an SAP composite application for Spend Analytics deployed on Adobe's AIR.®

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