Where Does ABAP Fit into a Changing SAP Landscape? Q&A with SAP Mentor James Wood

August 12, 2014

SAP James WoodHANA is just one technology shaping development and design in the SAP landscape. What do technologies like SAP UI5, Fiori, cloud and mobile technology mean for the future of ABAP and the next generation of applications?

SAP Professional Journal advisor James Wood of Bowdark Consulting took questions  on the long-term outlook for ABAP and related technologies, including: 

  • Will ABAP continue to play a role in NetWeaver middleware (PI) as its shifting to all Java?
  • As an ABAP programmer, what are the new programming languages skills to be acquired to be involved in the new SAP technology landscape?
  • What do you believe is the roadmap and SAP's vision for ABAP?
  • What will be the main programming language in SAP HANA?
  • Any do's and dont's for managing development environments - SAP GUI vs Eclipse, etc... in the long term?
  • What is the role of Java, open source languages and frameworks and ABAP in Sybase integration, mobility, HANA and cloud?

Live Blog ABAP & Development in a Changing SAP Landscape: Q&A with James Wood, August 12

Andrea Haynes, SAP Professional Journal: I’m pleased to be joined today by James Wood of Bowdark Consulting. James is an SAP Mentor and an advisor to SAP Professional Journal. James has written a number of articles for the Journal, and he’s also a contributor to a new anthology of ABAP articles.   

James, thanks for joining us and taking some time to take readers' questions.

James Wood, Bowdart Consulting: Thanks Andrea. Hello everyone, thanks for coming.

Andrea Haynes: Thanks to everyone who has already posted a question. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can in the hour. James, I’ll let you get started on those now!


Comment From Logan

Will ABAP continue to play a role in NetWeaver middleware (PI) as it's shifting to all Java?

James Wood: Hi Logan, I've yet to see an official statement declaring the end of the dual-stack architecture for PI, but I think that day is clearly coming. SAP is on the record multiple times indicating that they'd eventually like to move to a single stack architecture (which is the recommended installation approach today).

With that being said, it's hard to predict when they'll decide to pull the plug on ABAP here. My general recommendation would be to reduce risks where possible by utilizing platform-agnostic mapping tools such as XSLT, etc.

Comment From Jennifer

Currently I am able to "get around" ABAP programs based on some beginner level of knowledge. How does all the new technology change that - will we still be able to "get around"?

James Wood: My guess is that the newer technologies will make it a bit harder to "get around" applications, since there will be more places where you'll see delegation from ABAP to stored procedures and so on.

Also, with the advent of SAPUI5, I think you'll see more UI-based applications take on a much more distributed approach with SAPUI5 on the frontend, SAP Gateway in the middle, and ABAP on the backend.

As long as you understand basic architectural principles, the lines should be fairly well demarcated, but it probably won't be as easy as double-clicking your way through the ABAP Repository.

Comment From Prabhu

As an ABAP programmer, what are the new programming language skills to be acquired to be involved in the new SAP technology landscape?

James Wood: Interesting question.

Honestly, I'd probably start with SQL. Here, I'm not so much talking about some of the more routine OpenSQL statements, but the really complex statements (e.g. JOINs) where you can harness the raw power of HANA to (pre)process large volumes of data. In tandem with this, I'd recommend developers come up to speed with SQLScript. Having a good grasp on these two languages in addition to ABAP should go a long way towards preparing you the days to come.

Beyond these two (core) languages, it kind of depends on the area you work with. For example, if you're interested in developing cloud applications, it's important to learn Java, HTML5/SAPUI5, JavaScript, and so forth.

The same would be true for mobile application development. For native HANA development, there's the River Definition Language.

The list is seemingly endless these days, but the good news is that you don't have to know all of the languages to survive. :-)

Comment From Guest

Can you please provide the roadmap of SAP's vision on ABAP?

James Wood: I can't really speak for SAP, but I haven't heard anything that would suggest ABAP's role will be diminished/phased out going forward. ABAP's here to stay, and not in the same way that COBOL has stuck around for years.

I would still fully expect ABAP to remain the flagship language for application development in the SAP landscape. The only difference is that there will be other tools/languages that play a more prominent role in the development of solutions that ABAP isn't well-suited for: cloud/integration, mobile, and so on.

Comment From Senthil Kumar

In the early years when Portal was evolving, SAP promoted developing portal applications in Java, then they pushed all their development to ABAP. Are we going to see the same strategy in the case of HANA app development too?

James Wood: This is a good question. It's hard to predict where SAP may go with this, but my best guess would be that you'll see a more hybrid approach to application development going forward. Some selected applications might be developed strictly on SAP HANA/HANA XS, others in ABAP, but I'd say overall you'll start to see more hybrids which mix-and-match ABAP, HANA, SAP Gateway, and so on.

Comment From Guest

I am a SAP BI consultant and the system I am working on is an SAP BI system on SAP HANA. I have seen that the select (database access) performance has improved tremendously, but the memory processing statements (read w/o binary search, loop with in a loop, loop with a where clause, etc.) do not exhibit any significant advantage with an SAP HANA-based system. Is this a known limitation of ABAP with HANA?

James Wood: I wouldn't say it's a limitation of HANA. The statements you're describing are outside of HANA's reach. HANA can (and does) certainly speed up database accesses.

However, once the data is pulled into ABAP, performance is subject to the capabilities of the ABAP Runtime Environment your code is running on. With that being said, you can bring HANA's processing power to bear on these kinds of performance problems by utilizing a "code pushdown" technique. Here, instead of pulling the data into ABAP and trying to process it using the statements described, you might write advanced SQL queries or create stored procedures using SQLScript to aggregate the data within the database.

HANA excels at churning through data, so the more of these types of ABAP statements we can push down, the better the performance will be.

Comment From Alberto

What will be the main programming language in SAP HANA?

James Wood: Honestly, I'd probably say SQL. At the end of the day, HANA is primarily a database, so SQL plays a huge role in database processing. With that said, usage of SQLScript will continue to grow, I think, as more and more developers begin to see the benefits of "code pushdown" performance-wise. For native applications running on SAP HANA XS, server-side JavaScript is used for implementing general-purpose application logic and the like.

Comment From Brian V

Any general tips or dos and dont's for managing development environments - SAP GUI vs Eclipse, etc. - in the long term?

James Wood: You know, Eclipse has been slow to catch on (at least in the projects I've been working on), but I'm hopeful that we're not too far away from getting to a point where it's simply too powerful to ignore.

With that said, I don't think the ABAP Workbench is going away anytime soon, so I don't think there will be any impacts in moving back-and-forth as desired. Since both utilize TMS for logistics, it all kind of distills down from there.

Comment From Guest

For the last five years I have been working as an ABAPer, and have worked on various technologies like ABAP, Workflow, etc. What should I look for so that I will be up-to-date with the SAP latest landscape? What skills sets should I groom for upcoming changes in the new SAP landscape?

James Wood: You know, I get this question a lot and my two cents on it is this:
What area do you want to work in? In my estimation, the technical landscape is headed in a direction where it will no longer really be feasible for any one developer to master all of the latest and greatest tools. Instead, I think you'll have to kind of pick-and-choose what areas you're interested in and pick complementary technologies to focus on.

Comment From Mauro

What's your opinion about complex business scenarios with complex data maintenance and huge transactional capacity required? Can it be actually replaced by Fiori (SAP UI5) if we currently are still ABAP-based?

James Wood: I think SAPUI5 is up to the challenge, but the reality is that such applications are going to be much more complex.

Gone are the days when you could just start hacking together a classic Dynpro application (or even Web Dynpro for that matter). Now, we're looking at having to plan ahead and build applications that strictly follow MVC (or Model 2) design principles. This is to say that we'll have to be careful in how we cut the RESTful/OData series, how we coordinate eventing, and so on. I think it can be done, but right now, not just any ABAPer can do this.

Comment From chandra gollapudy

What is the role of Java, open source languages and frameworks, and ABAP in Sybase integration, mobility, HANA, and cloud?

James Wood: I think Java can and will play a fairly prominent role in these solutions. For example, with SAP HCP development, Java is sort of the de facto language used to develop cloud applications. It also plays a big role with SMP. So, for Java developers interested in breaking into these areas, I'd say the future's very bright. At the same time, developers also generally have a lot of choice in these products for utilizing native HANA functionality, ABAP, and so on.

Comment From Tim Alsop

Many years ago I heard that SAP were criticized by analysts since the ABAP development language is proprietary to SAP, and so developers are expensive and the learning curve for new developers is high. This is one reason why the NetWeaver JAVA stack was introduced as an application server - allowing companies to find cheaper JAVA developers and build applications using this standard development language. However, I don't see any indication that JAVA has been used much for application development in SAP landscape. What is your experience on this? Is Java being phased out by SAP?

James Wood: I wouldn't say Java's being phased out necessarily, but you are starting to see different tools positioned for different things. These days, Java technology is mostly used in areas where ABAP is weak: (open) integration, the development of mobile/cloud applications, and so on. I think the role of Java may expand in these areas in the coming years, but right now, I still think ABAP will remain the preferred language for building business logic in the core.

Comment From Tim Alsop

Do you think SAP GUI will eventually go away in favor of a web browser?

James Wood: I think so, though SAP's been trying to phase it out for years at this point, so who knows. Moving towards Eclipse is a big step in this direction in my opinion, but there are other legacy tools/applications that are difficult to port (at least without a significant redesign and that costs money).

Comment From Tim Alsop

I asked about SAP GUI being phased out and you said that Eclipse might be used instead. I was referring to the use of SAP GUI by the application user, not by the developer. I doubt that end users would use Eclipse!

James Wood: Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. What I was getting at there is that the end-of-life for SAP GUI will probably be determined by the end of key applications being hosted exclusively on it. Historically, customers have had a hard time getting rid of the GUI because there were always a handful of applications that users simply couldn't access via the Portal (and to a lesser extent, NWBC).

As more and more of these applications are ported/replaced, the case for killing the SAP GUI becomes stronger.

Comment From ms

What are the implications from the SAP functional consultants' point of view?

James Wood: I don't think anyone has ever confused me for a functional consultant, but from my point-of-view, I'd say that you (will) have a larger pallete to choose from when designing applications. I think the new technology can remove a lot of obstacles that prevented us from delivering applications that users really want vs. ones that they can simply use to get by.

Comment From Guest

How does the changing landscaping of SAP impact third-party software vendors that integrate with SAP? For example, using c# to make RFC calls to SAP and using BAPI - will this be impacted?

James Wood: I think eventually you'll start to see such interfaces developed almost exclusively using open protocols such as OData or SOAP. These days, the Enterprise Services portfolio is pretty large, and I would expect similar growth with OData services as Fiori catches on, etc.

Comment From Guest

How will Business Suite on Hana impact ABAP and programing architecture?

James Wood: Interesting question. I'd say it kind of depends. Since the SAP HANA DB is a fully SQL-compliant database, it can essentially be dropped in with no ill effects.

Of course, if you want to get more value from it, then the architecture of the applications have to change such that data crunching, aggregations, and so on are pushed down to the database. Sometimes, you can do this with pure SQL, other times, you might need to utilize SQLScript and other HANA-proprietary features.

Over time, I think you'll see more of the latter approach creeping into application designs, so as much as anything, it's about a shift in mindset.

Comment From Tim

Just to clarify, you think the key to using the extra speed of HANA is to push more detail to the SQL scripts? Is my assumption correct?

James Wood: I'd say a qualified yes. In my opinion it's always good to start first with a pure SQL approach if possible. Short of that, SQLScript and other proprietary features of HANA are definitely fair game whenever you want to harness more of its power.

Comment From Frank

Sorry for the remedial question, but how is SQLScript different from SQL?

James Wood: Not at all. SQL is a standard language that all database vendors provide an interface for. Some vendors implement it a little differently, but there's always a base layer of SQL that's available across the board. This is what's allowed the AS ABAP to be database-agnostic for so many years.

SQLScript, on the other hand, is a proprietary language that SAP created to develop stored procedures in HANA. So SQLScript is something that you can only use on HANA.

Other databases have similar support for stored procedures, but the languages are generally proprietary. You can think of stored procedures as function modules that you can install right on top of the database.

Within these procedures, you can process data, implement conditional logic, and so on. The upshot of this is that you can do most/all of your data crunching right in the database and have it spit back the dataset you need to process from within your ABAP program, etc.


Comment From Reddy

I don’t have much knowledge on Object-Oriented ABAP. Will this be a problem to get into ABAP HANA or any other UI-based ABAP applications?

James Wood: Always a hotbed topic. :-) My general sense is that yes, lack of OOP knowledge will begin to become a hindrance over time.

There are so many new tools that heavily utilize OOP concepts that I think it's going to be hard to ignore OOP altogether. Of course, I've thought this for years and have seen many developers survive quite nicely in procedural hell. :-)

Comment From Alberto

Does SAP plan to keep ABAP as a core language in SAP HANA?

James Wood: Strictly speaking, SAP HANA technology does not include native support for ABAP. Instead, ABAP is one of many languages that interface with it using SQL and other database interfaces.

With that said, if I can interpret the intent of your question, I think that yes, ABAP will remain a core language for business application development. It will simply begin to utilize HANA technology more for data processing.

Comment From Keith

At a recent ASUG event, I heard that SE80 was going away. And that we needed to move to Eclipse. Is this accurate and can you provide more details?

James Wood: As far as I'm aware, the ABAP Workbench isn't going anywhere. Eclipse is here (and is great BTW), but developers still have a choice in picking their preferred IDE. Over time, this will change as newer features in ABAP, etc. will be developed exclusively in Eclipse. But that's some ways off.

Comment From Guest

Hi James, What will the roadmap be for ABAP in the next 5 years?

James Wood: I'd say that the language itself will basically continue on the same track that it's been on. Along the way, I'd expect that you'll see more and more statements/interfaces creep in that make it easier to integrate with HANA and some of the other new technologies.

Comment From Reddy

A few of my friends said most of the HANA projects are failed. Is this true? How do you see the future of HANA for programmers?

James Wood: This is a bit of a disturbing trend, but one that I chalk up to the inevitable friction that arises whenever there's a disruptive change within the industry. Early on, I think customers are struggling to figure out how to utilize HANA technology. Add to that the relatively high costs in standing up HANA, and I suppose I'm not personally surprised that it's taking a while to catch on.

I think SAP's recent "Run Simple" advertising campaign is a clear indication of the fact that they're trying to address this from the inside-out. Now that the dust has settled and the fireworks are over, the next step is to come up with use cases that make it possible for customers to chart their ROI. I think they'll get there; it just takes time. I also think that perhaps we'll see HANA catch on a bit more as customers move their solutions to the cloud since the up-front startup costs are mitigated.

Comment From Tim Alsop

I notice that SAP Gateway functionality is installed as standard now when NetWeaver ABAP 7.40 is installed. So do you think customers will eventually have their business applications, gateway and data on the same system, or do you think that SAP Gateway will continue to be used on a separate host with application servers behind it?

James Wood: I think for many companies, this question is highly political. Anytime you're talking about exposing sensitive business data, network admin types get nervous. So, I fully expect many customers to prefer to place Gateway outside the corporate intranet in some kind of DMZ. Your mileage will vary here, but that's my two cents on it.

Comment From Guest

I'm interested in your opinion or experience of how useful code scanning tools are for ABAP and SAP in terms of driving quality development, especially in a heavily outsourced and off-shored model.

James Wood: I think these tools are essential for maintaining good quality code. However, my experience has been that you get out of these tools what you put into them. Organizations that merely turn them on and hope for the best generally get discouraged quickly.

You really have to figure out what are the key principles that determine code quality and what processes must be put into place to enforce them.

Comment From Guest

Will SAPUI5 support only mobile clients or support desktop clients too? And will ABAP Dynpro be replaced?

James Wood: Since it's based on HTML5, SAPUI5 should be supported on mobile and desktop clients alike with few to no restrictions. In this regard, it's much more open than say WDA.

Replace is a strong word when it comes to UI technologies at SAP. I would fully expect BSP, WDA, and classic Dynpro technology to stick around for a while, but SAPUI5 has emerged as kind of the "recommended" technology for new screens.

Comment From Shibasis

Is ABAP HANA running on the ABAP stack or the Java stack?

James Wood: I'd say neither actually. The SAP HANA database and related technologies are built on a new/proprietary platform that's unique to HANA.

So, there's no such thing as ABAP HANA, per se. Rather, you have ABAP and Java stacks communicating with HANA using SQL and other database interfaces. Does that make sense?

Comment From Chris

Do you see the more restrictive templatized development structures like Web Dynpro taking off in a world that's becoming used to a slicker, freer feel for web-based content?

James Wood: Hmm. At the moment, it would appear that WDA has had its day in the sun and that SAP has resigned itself to getting out of the proprietary UI business in favor of open technologies such as HTML 5, JavaScript, CSS, JQuery, and so forth.
So, to give you a convoluted answer, I'd say probably not. I think you'll see IDE tools, templates, and the like creep up to improve productivity, but the technology itself seems to be headed in the direction of open source.

Comment From kiran

Would that differ from the way ABAP is being used in the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation module?

James Wood: I think it certainly could. There are so many modules that could benefit from an overhaul like this. The simplified financial demo Hasso Plattner made at SAPPHIRE NOW is a perfect example of this, in my mind.

Comment From Logan

In the 90s, SAP adopted OO principles through BAPI, a wrapper on FMs. Do you see SAP doing similar things to adopt to Web 2.0 trends in programming today?

James Wood: Hmm, interesting question. I suppose you could make the argument that SAP Gateway fulfills this function to a certain extent, but we haven't really seen a methodology emerge for developing such services like we did with BAPIs and Enterprise Services. Will be interesting to watch.

Comment From Guest

What about OData services and HANA?

James Wood: This is a question that could head in a lot of different directions.
While normally I'd consider ABAP and HANA to be complementary technologies, if there is a threat to ABAP, I think it's in the way that HANA makes it so easy to create OData services.
If you're building data-centric applications, there's not much value to bringing the data into ABAP if the end goal is to ship it off to a UI based on SAPUI5. For certain types of applications, HANA and OData do cut out the (ABAP) middleman.

Comment From Chris

If you could call out three niche development skills to be developing capability for, outside of vanilla ECC ABAP, what would they be?

James Wood: I really think this depends on what you want to do with SAP. If you're interested in mobile, then you probably should become acquainted with SAPUI5 and Java, for example.
For other areas, the skillsets are different. I say find what you're passionate about and the technology will take care of itself.

Comment From Axel

Are there different programming languages between the HANA "home solution" and Cloud HANA?

James Wood: Not really. For the most part, we're talking about the same product deployed in different environments. Probably the biggest difference might be in how HANA data/features are consumed. In an on-premise scenario, ABAP will likely be the primary consumer of HANA. Conversely, in the cloud you might use native HANA across the board or consume the data from Java-based Web applications. Within HANA itself, the concepts remain the same.

Comment From Steve

You've mentioned Java, HTML5/SAPUI5, JavaScript, but so far haven't mentioned Web Dynpro. Is Web Dynpro being phased out or falling out of favor, replaced with HTML5 or Fiori in the long term?

James Wood: Falling out of favor is perhaps how I'd put it. Rest assured, it's not going away and there are still new applications being developed on WDA/FPM. The longer-term outlook, though, points toward SAPUI5 and Fiori. This may accelerate considerably as mobile applications continue to gain traction. There, it's really no contest - WDA is not well suited for mobile.

Comment From Frank

Do you see many applications where ABAP is still performing the application logic and just generating dynamic HANA SQL (or SQLScript)? Or is it more likely that ABAP would just call a HANA stored procedure and have the application logic live entirely in HANA?

James Wood: I don't see it as an either-or. From the outset, SAP has positioned HANA as a platform chock full of various services. As developers, we can pick-and-choose the features that work best for the scenario at hand.

Comment From Wai-Fun

Hi James, For programs that we have built in SE38, how are we migrating it into SAP HANA and how would it look from the front end? Are we still using a t-code or SA38 in executing the program?

James Wood: The great thing about HANA is that you can plug it in without changing a single thing at the ABAP layer.
If you choose to do so, you can continue writing ABAP programs just as you would if you were running on Oracle or DB2.
This switch alone will boost performance in certain areas, but if you want to maximize HANA's potential, you'll want to strategically utilize some of HANA's proprietary features/services.

Comment From Anil

When designing a new solution, a lot of clients still talk in terms of Dynpros, maybe Web Dynpros, normal reports and the like. What would be needed to meet the needs of this changing landscape, considering that there will be a cost difference between the two approaches?

James Wood: It's an on-going battle, for sure. My guess would be that this comes to a head whenever mobile applications go from being a "nice-to-have" to a hard requirement. At this point, organizations will be forced to take a hard look at their current best practices and see where the new technologies fit in. In the meantime, I fully expect many organizations to stick with the status quo.

Comment From Guest

Using open SQL, can we access SAP HANA?

James Wood: Absolutely! In fact, this remains the primary access point in probably 95% of the use cases.

Comment From Guest

As a Basis administrator, I like the "open source" quality of ABAP when analyzing problems brought to me by ABAPers or SAP configurators. Will the new languages be just as open and "debuggable" as ABAP?

James Wood: I've developed in a lot of languages/environments over the years, and for my money, there's never been a better debugger than the ABAP Debugger. With that being said, you are seeing the new tools being equipped with decent debugging/tracing capabilities. The rub I think is in figuring out how to access/launch them. Suffice it to say that it won't be quite as easy as entering a "/h" in the command bar. :-(

Comment From Guest

Hi James! Why is Java so important in HCP, while in HANA EE we can do the same with the javascript server side, HTML5, SQLScript, etc.? And why can’t we use Java in HANA EE?

James Wood: I'd say that both tools are equally viable, it just depends on what you're trying to do. Overall, I'd say that Java's probably more well-rounded in terms of general purpose application development while HANA is perhaps better-suited for the development of data-centric applications.
You can't really go wrong with either environment, so organizations can play to their strengths.
Incidentally, this is on par with other PaaS offerings provided by Google, Amazon, and so on.

Comment From Guest

What types of SAP environments and/or landscapes are optimal for the use of SAP HANA?

James Wood: I'd say you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find any environment that couldn't benefit from HANA technology.
With that being said though, I think environments that have heavy data-centric processing somewhere (e.g. in financials, logistics, wherever) are probably the initial targets.
Most customers seem to be targeting key performance problems first, then they expand the scope to consider how they could utilize HANA to implement more creative innovations.

Comment From Daniel

What types of companies are implementing HANA? In other words, what are the symptoms one would see that would suggest it is needed?

James Wood: It's a pretty wide demographic overall I think. As I mentioned earlier, many customers look to HANA to scratch a performance itch that's been plaguing them for years. This could be a retail company churning through order histories, a manufacturing company trying to build forecasts, etc. It really varies.

Comment From Guest

What is a good way to learn SQL Script if I know nothing about it?

James Wood: I'd recommend reading through the SAP HANA Developer Guide available here.

Comment From Joan

Hi James! What do you recommend for the development of front-end besides SAPUI5 Tools?

James Wood:Aside from SAPUI5, probably WDA and Floorplan Manager. FPM in particular is being leveraged heavily in a lot of new-dimension applications: EHSM, TM, MoC, Product Compliance, and so forth.

Comment From Harris

From a historical point of view, do you feel that SAP is little bit late on moving ABAP development to other components, so, instead of monolithic ABAP programs that do everything from Dynpro screens to database access and processing? I guess this should have happened 10-15 years ago, when BAPIs were introduced.

James Wood: It's a fair point. However, when you consider the fact that many Dynpro applications were built in the mid-80s when MVC wasn't a widely used paradigm, you can sort of understand how SAP ended up in this predicament.
I'm sure there are many SAP developers that would love nothing more than to scrap a lot of these applications and start over. Unfortunately, this is very difficult for them to do given their huge installation base, etc. For what it's worth, I definitely see them trying to right the ship these days with their UI/UIX strategies, design patterns, etc. It just takes time to implement.

Comment From Tim

I know SAP has plenty of GUI options now. However, with the quality of user interfaces available, is it better to simply build web services and let the true web and app developers develop a very high quality interface? Given that our expectations of apps is so high now?

James Wood: It's an interesting concept. A few years ago I attended a sneak peak of SAP Gateway and was surprised by how many non-SAP development shops were there. One company sent their .NET team, another sent the Ruby-on-Rails team, and so on.
Given that many SAP developers may not count UI design as among their more prominent skilllsets, it could make sense for many companies to draw this line and let the ABAP team focus on business functionality and an external UI team on making it functional. It takes some coordination, but it might be one way for companies to minimize costs when developing applications with multi-channel access (e.g. via a desktop, tablet, smart phone, and so forth).

Comment From Guest

With regards to Fiori, all SAP delivered application are built either in HTML or XML. Do we also need to upgrade to these along with JavaScript?

James Wood: Adoption of Fiori and SAPUI5 remains optional. Some customers are applying Fiori design principles to their own custom UI applications; others are sticking with the status quo using classic Dynpro, WDA, or even BSP.
As a developer, I'd recommend that you at least begin acquainting yourself with these technologies, but adoption remains optional.

Comment From Danny Sprangers

With all new technologies coming our (development) way, and all kind of languages, which will be the best area/platform to work from as a developer: the old Workbench, HANA Studio with the possibility for ABAP in Eclipse and the HANA live views, or is there something else?

James Wood: I find the Eclipse environment to be the most productive. Here, you can install the SAP HANA Tools (i.e., the HANA Studio), ABAP in Eclipse (AiE) and various other plug-ins to create a unified IDE. There's no one best way to do this, but I find Eclipse to be highly convenient to use.

Comment From Guest

What do you see as the future of ABAP Developer with Mobile Development and SAP UI strategy?

James Wood: I think you'll start to see more of a split where mobile/UI developers create the end user applications and ABAPers write the backend business logic and expose it via Gateway, etc. ABAP will still play a prominent role for sure.

Comment From Wai-Fun

In migrating to SAP HANA, what are the things to prepare in moving existing development into SAP HANA environment, in terms of development? Do we need to rewrite all of the codes?

James Wood: Technically speaking, all of your code should port seamlessly, so there's no real up-front preparations required from a development perspective. Once HANA's in place, you can decide from there how you want to utilize it. It's here that you might see some code re-work.

Comment From Alberto

Any advice for project managers, to understand all these changes and get ready for future projects using all these different tools?

James Wood: I think most developers like talking about technology, so I might recommend reaching out to your development team and picking their brain to see what they see. Being close to your organization, they are probably already formulating ideas based on known use cases, etc. I think "lunch-and-learn" sessions are great for stuff like that.
At the risk of sounding like a homer, I'd also offer that resources like SAPinsider offer some excellent managerial-level materials to provide you with executive summaries, etc.
Lastly, I think social media and SAP-related outlets such as provide excellent analysis/forecasts for these types of things.

Comment From Alberto

What is the best source for project portfolio and project managers to understand the future type of HANA projects and how PMs need to approach this type of projects?

James Wood: I believe there is a book coming out to address these types of questions in the near future. Check out SAP PRESS more details.

Comment From Bharath

Which unconventional database features does SAP HANA offer? Can they be used in SAP core application modules?

James Wood: Wow, so much to choose from here. Here's a few selected items:

  • Complex analytical models/views
  • Callable stored procedures with advanced data processing logic
  • Complex search capabilities including text analysis
  • Exposure of data/logic as OData services that can be consumed by a wide variety of UIs including SAPUI5

This barely scratches the surface, but it's a start.

Comment From Kristina

I work in the Planning world with SCM/APO. How do you see this landscape changing and what kind of impact will it have for developers?

James Wood: In that arena, I could envision wider (and tighter) supplier networks, improved forecasting capabilities, and perhaps even a series of new mobile applications. Development-wise, I've always seen this area as having many moving parts, and I don't see that changing.

Comment From malini

Is there any roadmap for ABAP with regards to changing trends such as HANA?

James Wood: Nothing official, no. With so many new products, languages, etc., it's going to be hard for SAP to prescribe a clear roadmap. Instead, I think the onus will be on project architect types to figure out how to choose the best tools for the job and then develop guidelines from there.

Comment From Guest

Will there be release of logistics and FI application component that supports HANA performance coding or it is only for custom development?

James Wood: Yes. You're already seeing evidence of this with SAP Smart Financials 1.0 and I think you'll eventually see it show up elsewhere within the business suite. I think SAP sees this as a carrot to get many customers to jump on board the HANA bandwagon.


Andrea Haynes:  James, thank you again. It was great to have you here and get your thoughts on where ABAP is heading.

James Wood: Well, I think that's it. Thanks everyone for coming and bringing so many compelling questions. I hope my answers helped. If you have further questions, feel free to contact me at Thanks again!

For more on this topic...

...I invite SAP Professional Journal subscribers to read James Woods' recent articles on ABAP, HANA and other tips for developers, including his latest piece “What’s the Next Generation in SAP Application Development? and the new anthology "Advancing Your ABAP Skills" available now from the SAPinsider Store.

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