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Getting started with SAP Mobile Platform tools: Q&A with the authors of Mobile Development for SAP

Enterprise Mobility Success from A to Z - Part 3: Development

by Dave Haseman and Ross Hightower

November 13, 2013

Dave Haseman and Ross Hightower, coauthors of the new, bestselling book Mobile Development for SAP, joined us recently for an author chat on getting started with the SAP Mobile Platform, sponsored by the Enterprise Mobility 2013 conference.

In this third Q&A in our “Enterprise Mobility Success from A to Z” series, Dave and Ross took readers’ questions on development of enterprise mobility rollouts. In the transcript below, you'll find they covered questions about mobile access to back-end data, changes to look for in SMP 3.0, MBOs vs. other development tools, and differences in working with Hybrid Web Containers vs. developing native apps.  For more details on the book, visit the SAPinsider Store or access the book directly here.  

Kristine Erickson, moderator, SAPinsider Online:  What do you need to know about MBOs, Hybrid Web Containers, and SDKs to begin building apps using SAP Mobile Platform?  Dave Haseman and Ross Hightower are joining us today to take your questions.

Let me quickly introduce our authors, who will be taking your questions today: Dave Haseman is the founding director of the SAP University Competence Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). His colleague Ross Hightower is the associate director of the Center for Technology Innovation at UWM, and an active member of the SAP University Alliance.  Both Dave and Ross have worked extensively in the areas of SAP training.

Welcome, Dave and Ross!

Ross Hightower:  Hello everyone.

Dave Haseman:  We are glad to have everyone with us today.

 We have lots of questions waiting for you, but first, could you share an overview of the book with our audience?

Ross Hightower:  The book is a nuts-to-bolts description of how to get started with the SAP Mobile Platform, including installing the software, hybrid app basics, customizations and native apps.

Comment from Maning: 
Is this SAP Mobile Platform a portal where users need to log in on one location and then access every application that their role was assigned to?  Or does this platform enable developers to create individual apps for every requirement the user needs?

Ross Hightower:  The user's device is registered with the SAP Unwired Server and apps are assigned to the device. You can assign as many apps to the user's device as you want.

Comment from Joel:
  Do you have any experience in leveraging two-factor authentication from the mobile device to the SAP backend? We do not allow user ID/passwords at all.

 Ross Hightower:  You can authenticate with the user ID and password, but you can also use certificates.

Comment from Hemal Shah: 
Will the MBOs approach be deprecated in SAP Mobile Platform 3?

Dave Haseman:  The book is based upon version 2.2 and 2.3.  Two weeks ago version 3.0 was announced at TechEd.  We hope to receive our beta version on Friday, November 15, so this answer is based upon what we have read: Version 3.0 will support everything 2.3 supports plus more.  MBOs will be supported, but many think they will become less important.

Ross Hightower:  From what we understand, SAP is going to emphasize a cached oData model rather than MBOs – but MBOs will be supported.

Comment from Amandeep:
  Could you please describe when to use MBOs vs. SAP NetWeaver Gateway WS vs. Hybrid Container vs. Syclo Agentry development tools?

Ross Hightower:  MBOs are the best choice when you require offline support and data synchronization, and oData is probably better when you just need real-time access to data.  Currently, if you want to have offline support and data synchronization with oData, the developer would have to write the code for that.  MBOs handle the tasks for you.

Comment from Hemal Shah:
  Kindly provide more info on Hybrid Web Containers, aka, Kapsel?

Dave Haseman:  Version 2.3 using a web container on a smart device, which is referred to as the Hybrid Web Container (HWC), grew out of the Sybase SUP model. Kapsel is an alternative container – it is the Cordova container with additional plug ins.  We have read that both technologies will continue to be supported.  We are not sure with one or two containers.

Ross Hightower:  One big difference with Kapsel is that, unlike the Hybrid Web Container, each app will run in its own container.

Comment from Mitesh:
  How do you enable single sign-on for mobile users accessing back-end SAP systems via SUP 2.x?

Ross Hightower:  The credentials for the back-end system are taken from the connection profile for the back-end system and are stored on the server. Once the user's app authenticates to the mobile server, all the connections to back-end systems are handled by the mobile server.

Comment from Guest:
 With SAP Mobile Platform, what are our options for setting up access of mobile apps to back-end data sources?

Dave Haseman:  SAP Mobile Platform version 2.3 supports the following data sources: SQL Databases, SAP via BAPIs and function calls, web services using SOAP and web services using Rest.  The system provides both a wizard and a step-by-step tool for building these connections.  These tools build what is called an MBO, which can then be accessed by the app.

Comment from Alessandro Mucciardi:
  Can you explain the architecture of EPM Unwired?  What are the minimum components required?

Ross Hightower:  From my understanding, EPM is an app that is used to work with enterprise performance management and does not require the SAP Mobile Platform. It's not something we're familiar with.

Comment from Jonathan Ziegler:
  What is the role of MBOs in SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 and beyond?  Will they continue to be supported in the newer releases of SAP Mobile Platform?

Ross Hightower:  From what we can tell, MBOs will still be supported but the emphasis will be on a cached oData model.               

Comment from Amandeep:
  I heard that offline functionality will be available with oData apps soon.  When can we expect this?

Ross Hightower:  That is expected to be in Sap Mobile Platform 3 and the ramp-up is scheduled to start this Friday.  In the Sap Mobile Platform outlook presentation given at TechEd, it was announced that there will be some sort of on-device database solution as well. I am personally looking forward to both of those.

 Can you talk about where Sybase Mobile SDK fits into the SAP Mobile Platform? And do you have one or two tips or best practices for installing Sybase Mobile SDK?

Dave Haseman:  The mobile SDK is the tool that the developer uses to create both the MBOs and the hybrid apps. These tools are implemented as a perspective in Eclipse.

Comment from Guest:
  Can an ECC backend send notifications to a device(s)/mobile app via SAP Mobile Platform?

Ross Hightower:  Yes, push notifications are supported.

Comment from Guest:
  While the SAP Mobile Platform is geared toward business apps and extending SAP functionality, do you see any signs that the new version will open up to consumer apps more? Thanks.

Dave Haseman:  The marketing material that we have read implies that version 3.0 will, in fact, open SAP Mobile Platform up to the consumer apps.  An important characteristic that SAP Mobile Platform continues to follow is that it does best when the back-end data plays an important role.  The SAP Mobile Platform toll will never be used for such development as games.

Comment from David:
  Ross and Dave, thanks for taking questions.  From what you've heard and seen, do you think version 3 will focus on advanced mobile capabilities or expanding mobile development capabilities to a broader set of developers, or both?

Ross Hightower:  I think both.  One thing that continues in SAP Mobile Platform 3 is the "bring your own" philosophy that SAP has taken.  It will be easier to integrate third-party development platforms and frameworks with SAP Mobile Platform.  There are also enhancements to the SAP Mobile Platform, such as the mobile application framework.

Comment from Guest:
  What are the big differences in working with Hybrid Web Containers vs. developing native apps?

Ross Hightower:  Hybrid apps are developed using web technologies, such as HTML5/CSS/JavaScript, whereas native apps are developed using the device's native development language.  The advantages of native apps are greater control of the interface, faster performance and full offline operation.  The disadvantages of native apps are greater complexity and having to maintain separate codes bases for each device.  The advantages and disadvantages of hybrid apps are the reverse of those for native apps.

 Can you talk about the changes you've seen to the SAP Mobile Platform since version 1?

Dave Haseman:  With each version we have seen a major improvement in performance, functionality and features.  Reliability was a real concern early on, but with versions 2.2 and 2.3 we have seen big improvements.  We have also been told that with version 3.0 they have replaced the server and that we should see improvements in performance.

Ross Hightower:  I agree, the platform has been significantly improved with each version and the outlook for SAP Mobile Platform 3 is very exciting.  It looks to be the most significant update to date.

 You have a chapter in your book on building Mobile Data Objects.  When using these MBOs, can you share some of the pitfalls to avoid either in getting set up or during development?

Dave Haseman:  One of the issues we have found is that sometimes when you are editing and redeploying MBOs the changes do not get posted to the server.  The solution is to go out to the server and manually delete the MBO and then redeploy.

Comment from Guest:
  Ross, you mentioned some changes you're looking forward to in SAP Mobile Platform 3. Are there any other updates we should look ahead to?

Ross Hightower:  Of course this is speculative but I welcome the emphasis on oData, the on-device database, and tighter integration with SAPUI5.  I also like Kapsel because it provides a more flexible framework for customizing the container.

Comment from Guest:
  At TechEd, SAP said the cloud version of SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 is built on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.  How does that affect mobile developers working on apps?

Dave Haseman:  We have been told the cloud version and the on-premise version of 3.0 will appear very similar to the developer and will deliver very similar apps.

Ross Hightower:  The nice thing about SAP Mobile Platform is that it supports many approaches to mobile app development.  I would suggest that users start by getting access to the developer license for SAP Mobile Platform 2.3 and exploring the platform.

 Just to clarify... where is SAP Mobile Platform 3 in the release cycle?

Dave Haseman:  We have been told that the ramp-up version 3.0 will be release this Friday.  While the schedule has not been made public, in my opinion, version 3.0 will be released to the public sometime next summer.

Comment from Jonathan:
  What is a good strategy for using the domains in which the MBOs are deployed?  Is it a good idea to have a specific domain for each hybrid app that is developed?

Ross Hightower:  I see domains as a way to manage security profiles.  So the choice of where to deploy MBOs depends on the security profiles that apply to the apps using them.

 And then to follow up: For SAP developers who are interested in mobile development, what skills do they need?  And similarly, what do mobile developers need to know to develop apps for SAP?

Dave Haseman:  Skills sets that are important are those that relate to learning languages, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript for hybrid apps.

Ross Hightower:  For native apps the language you use depends, of course, on the platform: Android and BlackBerry (Java), iOS (Objective C), and Windows C#.

Comment from Hemal Shah:
  Will MBOs continue to be supported in SAP Mobile Platform 3.0?

Ross Hightower:  They will be supported, but they are being deemphasized.

 We're wrapping up our Q&A now.  Thanks to everyone who joined us today, and to those who posted their questions. It was a great discussion.

Moderator:  Dave, Ross, thank you again for taking these questions today. Again, you can find out more about their book at the SAPinsider Store here.  

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