Those of us who prefer a non-Windows desktop platform are often frustrated and disappointed with the lack of support we find for our platform of choice in the mainstream business world. But, again some of us are stubborn enough to stick to our guns and try to live an alternative lifestyle.
Recently, after being a full-time employee for over 12 years, I decided to become an independent NetWeaver Basis consultant. So, one of the first things I had to think about was having a laptop for my new business. Having recently bought a Macintosh laptop for my personal use (just a couple of months before I made up my mind about going independent), my decision was actually about whether or not to buy a Windows laptop or use my Mac and risk my future clients denying me access to their office networks.
Why a Mac?
Being a Unix fan, I love the idea of having a Unix-based desktop (in case you weren't aware, Apple's operating systems core is a BSD Unix called Darwin). I can run the Mac Terminal application and develop/test Unix scripts right there, and run SSH and X-windows and other Unix tools without the need for add-ons. Plus, audio, video, modem, wireless and every other piece of hardware on my laptop works like a charm out of the box -- which is usually not the case with most Linux distros. All that apart from the legendary simplicity and elegance of the Macintosh user interface.
But, as you probably know, not everything in a Mac lovers life is sweet potatoes, especially if you work in the non-Mac-specialized IT world. Two of the main drawbacks (for me, anyway) are the relative shortage of free software and utilities as compared to Windows and Linux (though this is getting better as more people use Macs), and the lack of support from many software vendors in the business arena.
SAP, I must say, is one of the few large business software vendors that have always (since I can remember) provided a Mac client. Not as nice as its Windows-based cousin, but the Java GUI does the job (for the most part) ...in the ABAP-based world, that is. However, SAP does stop short of providing Mac support for all NW front-end components. And since lately Ive been focusing on Portal and XI, I will need more than just SAPGui in order to support my future clients with my Mac.
So, this is where things start getting more difficult:
SAPs official position on Portal Administration functions is that Internet Explorer (which only runs on Windows) is the sole supported platform. Nevertheless, I have tested most of the basic functions to work well on Firefox for Mac.
As far as XI, I believe the Java Web Start-based Integration Builder tools are also only officially supported on Windows. But since Web Start runs on the Mac as well, there is in theory no reason why the IB tools would not work properly on my laptop, and my initial testing of them has been successful. By the way, the same goes for other Java-based GUI tools such as Visual Admin, SDM GUI, and even SAPinst. All of which I have tested to work ok - just for fun, as I usually prefer to run those tools via VNC or X emulation.
In any case, living outside or on the edge of official SAP support is not a wam a cozy feeling, if you ask me.
Some other things a NetWeaver consultant might need that you cant run on a Mac are:
NetWeaver Developer Studio (though I want to try tweaking the Mac version of eclipse, just for fun, but haven't had a chance yet).
Other specialized NW front-end components, such as the ones used for MDM.
So, with all of the above shortcomings and iffiness, who is going to try to support SAP customers using a Mac?????
I, for one.
I'm not sure how successful I will be, but heres my basic checklist for the road:
SAP SW: SAP GUI for Java
SAP Download Manager
Office suite: OpenOffice.org
Project SW: Project Viewer by Steelray
Diagramming SW: Omni Graffle Pro
Remote Desktop: RDC client for Mac (from Microsoft)
Chicken of the VNC
VPN clients: Nortel Contivity and Cisco VPN clients for Mac
Oh! and, yes... Virtual PC for Mac with Windows XP Professional...to run IE, NWDS and all the other stuff you still cant run on a Mac 😔 . After all, I cant afford not to be able to support my clients! I promise to use it only when nothing on the Mac will do ;). Perhaps I will be able to do without it some day?