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SAP HANA Cloud Platform as an Accelerated Creative Center

by Paul Modderman, Senior Product Architect and Technology Evangelist, Mindset Consulting

May 29, 2018

Companies often protect SAP Business Suite software with layers of change processes, carefully orchestrated upgrade outages, and project timelines measured in quarters and years. While this keeps core business processes consistent and safe, it tends to stifle rapid technical ideation and application innovation. This article discusses ways to use the core services of SAP HANA Cloud Platform to quickly innovate on top of the core SAP solution.

In today’s rapidly evolving business world, technology leaders at large companies need to respond quickly to executive needs that directly impact the bottom line. Nowhere is this clearer than in ERP teams, where nimble business needs must be reflected in massive, complex software suites. ERP teams’ ability to efficiently handle these needs often means the difference between modest and massive success.

These teams govern their production SAP Business Suite systems with strict change procedures — and rightfully so. The processes they run form the backbone of business availability. Changing core cash management or order fulfillment processes that ERP enables should be thoughtfully undertaken, and should proceed only when the business is ready for concerted effort.

At the same time, a growing number of tools enhance those core business processes. A business can leave its main ERP order process intact while simultaneously giving its sales force the tools to engage customers in new ways to collect those orders. Financial analysts can review ever-increasing amounts of ERP financial data and create new, predictive models to plan cash strategies with powerful machine learning tools only recently becoming widely available.

ERP teams know the struggle of being charged with conflicting orders: Quickly enable these new tools, while protecting the key business systems they govern. Without a way to mitigate that conflict, SAP staff are forced to either move more slowly than their businesses want or introduce more risk into their vital systems. SAP HANA Cloud Platform reconciles that conflict through its available services. The Web Integrated Development Environment (Web IDE) delivers speed and flexibility to custom development. SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services quickly manage mobilization efforts. The SAP HANA cloud connector ensures that on-premise ERP data is securely available to applications developed in the cloud.

Let’s explore these service and technical component offerings in depth to understand how SAP HANA Cloud Platform can accelerate ERP teams’ ability to deliver business needs quickly.

Connect Securely with the SAP HANA Cloud Connector

The first step in accelerating delivery of ERP enhancements is making core data and functionality available. Internal to an enterprise network, Remote Function Call (RFC) and HTTP protocols allow for other systems to leverage an SAP system’s data and functionality. This communication typically occurs behind the corporate firewall. When it comes time to enhance and cloud-enable SAP applications, SAP provides a secure, flexible utility for that very purpose: the SAP HANA cloud connector. It provides the connection layer for supporting an accelerated innovation process that leverages – but protects – mission-critical ERP systems.

The benefits of installing and configuring the SAP HANA cloud connector include:

  • By using a reverse-invoke style proxy, the cloud connector doesn’t require opening ports in firewalls
  • Security accommodates existing ERP roles and profiles
  • Open Data Protocol (OData) services developed in on-premise systems can be channeled into SAP HANA Cloud Platform. You can reuse standard and custom Fiori back ends.
  • RFC function modules, both SAP standard Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs) and custom developed, can be consumed by Java applications built in SAP HANA Cloud Platform. You can re-use existing functions supporting core processes.
  • The SAP HANA cloud connector can allow the other direction: On-premise systems can invoke cloud-based SAP HANA databases.

For innovating in the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, configuring the destination connections is critical. Cloud developers who use the connections can still only use whatever function modules and OData services are explicitly allowed by the connector configuration, so on-premise security administrators retain precise control over exposure and use of SAP Business Suite applications for SAP HANA Cloud Platform. When the SAP HANA cloud connector is installed and connections are configured in SAP HANA Cloud Platform, the on-premise-to-cloud barrier is securely bridged and the accelerated delivery pipeline is set up.

Reduce Development Life-Cycle Time with the Web IDE

Developing applications is the next phase of accelerated delivery. Included with SAP HANA Cloud Platform is the SAP Web IDE service, a browser-based development environment that tightly integrates with other SAP HANA Cloud Platform services and connections. The Web IDE facilitates fast SAP HANA Cloud Platform development. This is most true when you create SAPUI5 applications. The environment lays the path: from identifying source data, to creating user interfaces (UIs) from templates, to deploying to the correct place, Web IDE orchestrates development.

When developers create a new project in Web IDE, they can choose from pre-existing data sources. This is where the work done in setting up the SAP HANA cloud connector and configuring data connections pays off. Those named connections are instantly available to the developer, who plugs them into the UI. An OData service that provides customer details to an older on-premise UI5 application becomes equally useable to a cloud application.

The developer has a multitude of choices when creating the specifics of the UI. The most common SAPUI5 patterns are available as templates, and developers get a great start on the application build by selecting the data source at project creation. The application generated from the template is already set up to use the data source. Developers know that for all but the most complex projects, starting from a template and changing details can save massive amounts of time.

The Web IDE includes a handy feature for accelerating UI development. Often in development cycles, a team member may be working to complete the back-end services while another team member may begin putting the front end together. If the back-end services are not yet available, what does a front-end developer work against? The Web IDE gives them advanced mock data capabilities. Taking an agreed-upon service structure defined in an XML file, the front-end developer can either create his or her own .json file to provide data or have the Web IDE generate mock data.

Finally, because the Web IDE has that connection back to the on-premise systems through the SAP HANA cloud connector, an app can be deployed to either SAP HANA Cloud Platform itself or an on-premise system. SAP HANA Cloud Platform securely hosts apps if companies subscribed to it so choose, using the security configured into the connector. SAP HANA Cloud Platform also securely submits code back to on-premise systems, if subscribers wish to host applications in their own web infrastructure.

Mobilize Quickly with SAP HANA Cloud Platform Mobile Services

These days, the first question asked of any new apps built in the enterprise is: Does it work on mobile? With SAPUI5 apps built on Web IDE, the answer is generally yes. However, a web app that happens to run on a mobile device lacks some of the finer features of mobility that can only come from building an app with a mobile focus. SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services (in conjunction with Web IDE) get apps up and running with device-focused capabilities and application monitoring that go beyond web apps.

One of the most useful device capabilities for mobile apps is offline data. SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services opens up those apps’ usability outside of data coverage, and can greatly speed up the user experience. SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services can act as the broker of caching that offline data, efficiently managing a storage area designed specifically to serve up time-stamped data packages to devices that occasionally connect for refreshes. This mobile data cache can be set up entirely independent of the back-end OData services, although enabling those services to use additional delta tokens can increase efficiency even more. Click here for an SAP Gateway guide to delta tokens.

In the Web IDE, developers can quickly turn on offline data support for new and existing apps. For new apps, the Web IDE takes care of generating code that guides developers on using the offline data. For existing apps, developers can create extensions that preserve the existing functionality while adding offline (and other mobile features) to the app. This quickly primes the app for offline functionality.

Monitoring app use and errors through SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services speeds the development response cycle. Administrators don’t have to wait until frustrated users complain that apps aren’t working or are sluggish––proactively monitoring those things through the applications cockpit tells them right away where to focus optimization efforts. Enabling traces on apps captures additional troubleshooting data immediately actionable.

Everything Faster

SAP HANA Cloud Platform accelerates ERP teams’ time to connect, develop, deploy, and monitor enhancements to on-premise SAP applications. The SAP HANA cloud connector securely connects, the Web IDE quickly develops and deploys, and SAP HANA Cloud Platform mobile services add mobile functionality and smart monitoring. Making the enhancement process more productive means companies get more innovation per dollar spent, and they can move on to the next pressing business challenge.

To speed up the requirements gathering process before any code is written, use SAP BUILD. Designers can create mockups and interactive designs that gather end-user feedback without writing code. This gives users a voice in their apps, and saves developers iteration cycles of tweaking user interface changes.

There are a few skills companies will need to make use of the services outlined in this piece:

  • ABAP developers should understand how to build OData services with SAP Gateway
  • Web developers should understand the libraries and application architecture of SAPUI5
  • Mobile apps with heavy-duty device capability needs require iOS or Android knowledge
  • Administrators should understand authentication mechanisms that the SAP HANA cloud connector can use: basic or principal propagation

The right combination of skills and SAP HANA Cloud Platform services let ERP teams develop everything faster. Where change once meant burdensome Reports, Interfaces, Conversions, Extensions, Forms and Workflow (RICEFW) and monthly or quarterly transport processes, it can now mean speedy iteration, rapid deployment, and scalable growth. SAP HANA Cloud Platform is the place where technology teams can be just as nimble as their business counterparts.

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Paul Modderman

Paul J. Modderman (paulmodderman@mindsetconsulting.com) is senior product architect and technology evangelist at Mindset Consulting. He has more than 10 years of software development expertise, specializing in ABAP, ABAP Objects, .NET, Python, and Java.



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