Skip to Content

SAP TechED 2004 San Diego: Conference Diary; Day 1 – Afternoon

Boy, am I tired. Talk about a full day of content! Yesterday I arrived at the conference center at about 8:30am for the key notes. I didn’t end up leaving the conference until well past 9:00pm last night. I have to say I am getting my money’s worth from the sheer volume of content if nothing else.

Ultimate ABAP 640 Feature Show
The first session of the afternoon that I attended was the Best of ABAP – The Ultimate ABAP 6.40 Feature Show. If you have been to TechEds in past years, you have seen a similar presentation in the form of ABAP News. This year they where trying a new format however. Instead of the PowerPoint slides of the new functionality, they gave 7 or 8 live demos. Personally I really liked this approach. I’m the type of person who you rather see the code example rather than the on-line help; so this really appealed to me.

They covered 7 major new features of the ABAP language: Generic Programming, ABAP Debugger, ABAP Unit, Memory Inspector, Simple Transformations, Shared Objects, and Checkpoints in ABAP. Each topic was touched on and a live demo was given. Many of the topics will have longer sessions of their own later in the week (I know I plan to hit the Shared Objects 4 hour hands on Wednesday morning). Overall this session was a great introduction to the conference (especially if you were staying mostly in the ABAP track). They had a packed room from start to finish.

My favorite new feature is probably a toss up between the new debugger and Shared Objects. The Shared Objects looks like a very easy to use way of storing redundant data into a Shared Memory area. Their example of a on-line catalog seemed ideal. Instead of the storing the catalog items in each users’ sessions, why not store the catalog once in shared memory. Then all the user sessions have access to this single catalog via reference not copy. I can see this being a very useful tool for Stateless BSP development.

The other new feature that landed in a tie for first place in my opinion was the new ABAP debugger. I guess if you write perfect code the first time, you probably don’t care about this tool. Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who fits that description. I really liked the flexibility of the debugger to allow you to configure the look and layout to the way that best suits you. Having done a little bit of programming with the BTF Editor and XML, I have often wanted the ability to decode UTF Binary Strings in the debugger. Now the new ABAP debugger has this ability. So in the end I give Shared Objects the win for great new programming construct and the new debugger for best new Workbench Utility.


Introduction to Web Dynpro for ABAP
My next lecture session of the afternoon was Introduction to Web Dynpro for ABAP. I have to say that I was quite excited about this session. I wasn’t disappointed either; the session had some great live demos of ABAP Web Dynpro. However I should probably start with the same disclaimer that the session started with. The following is taken right from the slides:
This presentation reflects current planning. Contents may be changed without prior notice, and are in no way binding upon SAP.

Right away you kind of get the feeling that this is a little cutting edge, don’t you? The presenter, Dirk Feeken, started in early with what was surely everyone’s question: when will we get Web Dynpro for ABAP. He answer was simple: NOT in NetWeaver 04. According to the presentation, Web Dynpro for ABAP will be available in the next release of NetWeaver following 04. The exception to this is the converter from classic dynpro to Web Dynpro. The presentation said that this will NOT be released for ERP 2005 development. I guess there is some discussion now about how useful is it really to convert you classic dynpros to Web Dynpro. The user interface of the classic dynpros isn’t necessarily well suited to match the rest of the Web Dynpro transactions. If the end result of this conversion is that the Integrated ITS is still generating many of the screens, does this really buy you anything.

The main thing that was really driven home by this presentation was that Web Dynpro, despite the name, isn’t really tied to the Web as its interface mechanism. SAP wants Web Dynpro to be independent of the client that is serving it. There was a lot of talk about the future Web Dynpro smart client. When the next generation of user interface eventually replaces the Web Browsers, SAP wants to be ready with Web Dynpro without having to make a major conversion. Therein lies one of Web Dynpro’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. Because of this layer of abstraction, you do lose some flexibility when you build your applications. You are not allowed to insert any HTML or JavaScript code of your own. Even though today Web Dynpro uses HTML and JavaScript to render in the Browser, this same coding might be meaningless to the future Smart Client. Therefore you lose abilities that we have today with BSP, such as creating your own UI elements (in BSP we can create our own BSP Extensions) and customizing the look and feel of the application beyond the portal style sheets.

I don’t want anything to think that I am disappointed in Web Dynpro for ABAP. Overall it still looks to be a very powerful tool. However it just turns out to be a little different of a tool than what I had expected. After seeing the live demos, I have to say that BSP Model View Controller development has prepared me well for Web Dynpro. I immediately felt comfortable with many of the design concepts because they were so similar to BSP MVC. The most impressive aspects where how well everything is integrated together in the ABAP Editor. My main complaint today about BSP MVC is that I spend too much time navigating between my Model Class, my Controller Class and my View Coding. In Web Dynpro for ABAP these separate components are more closely connected, with easy navigation between them. And there were many times that I wish that I had the great WYSIWIG View designer from ABAP Web Dynpro in BSP.

Welcome Reception

SDN Jam Session
Following the welcome reception in the vendor area (pictured above), many people crowded into the SDN clubhouse for the evening Jam Session. I don’t know if it was the promise of free beer and ice cream or the technical presentations; but the room was packed. Next year SDN certainly needs a bigger club house! The technical presentations were quite interesting. Each presenter had eight minutes to give a live demo of some cool new technology. The crowd then voted on the winner via their reaction

The winner was the BI presenter who performed a real time aggregation of over 1 billion records in less than 4 seconds! Although this was quite impressive, I personally preferred the demonstration of the Voice Interface for SAP. They did a live call into the system and via the voice interface, they changed the status on a delivery. I thought this was very cutting edge. Or maybe I am just dreaming of the day when I can actually phone in my ABAP code from home!

Overall this was an amazing first day. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store! I will leave you with some pictures from the SDN Jam Session.



1 Comment
You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
  • … for the postings.  I’m not sure whether the tidbits make the day here at work more interesting, or more frustrating because I’m not there myself.