I have to start off by saying that I am quite tired. To call the first day of the SDN Meets Labs Conference hectic would be an understatement. There has been so much to do and so many people to meet today that there was hardly time to catch my breath. But I wanted to go ahead and capture my thoughts tonight before I head off to bed. I just hope this weblog still makes sense in the morning.
Before I get in my detailed notes of the individual session, I wanted to remind everyone to check out the pictures over on Flickr. There are already some pictures out there from the evening party (incidentally I am going to have to practice up on my Pinball Skills if I hope to beat Mark Finnern next year!).
Shai Agassi kicked off the event with a few words. It is good to see that support for SDN does come right from the top of the SAP organization. I think that Shai being here and starting things off sends the right message that SDN is important to the future of the whole SAP Ecosystem. I see from my notes that he mentioned Netweaver06 by name. Could that possibly have been a hint at the product announcements that are sure to come at Sapphire?
Shai’s goal for SDN is to make it as big and important as the existing Java Developer’s Network. He went on to say that there will soon be 200+ powered by Netweaver solutions and 4000 active Netweaver implementations. But with this quick adoption of Netweaver, there is a change from the past. The majority of the customer education for Netweaver is coming from SDN and the community instead of directly from SAP or one of the major implementation partners.
George Paolini added that SAP is really undergoing a transformation as an organization as well. SAP has 1200 employees in Silicon Valley alone. 40% of the development is now done outside of Germany. They see themselves as transitioning from an applications provider to a platform provider. I couldn’t help but notice that in several of the presentations, including the key notes, SAP executives took some good spirited jabs at the Oracle Fusion project. This is the first time that I remember in a presentation like this that an SAP executive even acknowledged the competition. I get the feeling thought that SAP feels that they have an excellent opportunity here to really pull ahead of Oracle and set the standards for the industry while Oracle is distracted by Project Fusion.
Taking Interactive PDF Forms to the next Level
Not only is the PDF Forms tool very exciting, but Matthias is also quite a good presenter. Now that I finally have systems at home upgraded to Netweaver04 I was really looking forward to this session and learning what I need to get started creating PDF Forms. The session didn’t disappoint. Matthias told us about some of the upcoming enhancements to the tool such as the ability to mass digitally sign documents on the server, validate incoming document signatures, and dynamic offline PDF Forms (abilities such as adding more lines items to a table). He even showed us a little trick that allows you run interactive forms in the test tool from ABAP.
After the session, I asked Matthias about the possibility of integrating a PDF Forms output into a BSP application. He told me that the PDF Forms function modules should be able to be manipulated in order to pass back the PDF data in a raw format. You could then just place this PDF content in the response object and pass it back to the frontend. I promised that I would put this very near the top of my to-do list when I got back to work. If I get everything working fine I promised Matthias that I would write a weblog on the subject.
Developing Composite Services Using CAF Core
I think that for the first time after seeing this session that I truly understand what the Composite Application Framework is! I’m the kind of person that really doesn’t feel comfortable with a technology until I can see the source code – and that’s exactly what I got to do today. They built an example live in the session. Even though it didn’t exactly work as planned, I feel much better for having seen the tools in action.
The example that was shown was quite impressive in its scope. It was the underlying technology of a new Guided Procedure. Inside the Guided Procedure you had Guided Procedure Actions. These actions sit on top of WebDynpro Components. These WebDynpro Components in turn depend upon a WebDynpro Model that is generated by the CAF. Next up you have the CAF service itself. Then finally reach the lowest level services which are comprised of RFCs and WebServices. The CAF creation tools they were showing were Java based. I liked what I saw, but I do hope to see a ABAP version of CAF at some point (hint, hint).
Custom Composite Applications at Nike
This is where this conference has been so interesting. One session you go to and you are exploring the technical details of the latest SAP technology. Then the next session you get to hear customer stories of how they are using this technology. This session from Nike was a good example of the latter. I really can’t do it justice in just a short description. If you missed the session I encourage you to go out and download it when it is available. One thing I will say – boy I wish I had their custom development budget!
Using Web Services for B2B – Opportunities and Challenges
The last regular session of the day that I attended was this one. It was a nice overview of WebServices, WS-I, and B2B standards for anyone who hasn’t been exposed to these topics. It was a little light on technical details, but a good session that I will definitely pass along to my EDI administrator back home.
SAP Future Strategy from a Technology Perspective
Its always fun as a customer to be able to put your supplier on the spot with the tough questions. There certainly were a few in this Panel discussion. The following are a few of the highlights that I am going to take home.
1. IT departments are really going to have to restructure in the near future. The departments themselves are going to have to center around the roles of Application Composition and Component Lifecycle Management instead of Application’s Development.
2. Organizations are going to need to begin to come up with strategies for managing services (when do they become shared and who owns/maintains them).
3. Organizations must determine what reusability of objects becomes profitable. There is a functional bell curve with extremely specific objects on one end and extremely general objects (like update database) on the other end. The value to the business lies in the middle (like update customer).
4. In the near future Hardware and Infrastructure should become invisible. Instead we should have a collection of services from different applications running across a cluster of different hardware. This will impact how we monitor our infrastructures and applications.
5. SAP is working to reduce the effort it takes to build User Interfaces. But the browser isn’t the only UI endpoint that you need to target. Next generation UI’s need to be meta-model based and independent of the delivery medium (the coming age of Smart Phones and RFID is an example). But no one answered the direct question of when the SAPGui will be retired.
It is getting very late now. I have another full day tomorrow! I am especially looking forward to the SAP NetWeaver Programming Models session tomorrow afternoon. I hope that other attendees will be posting weblogs on their experiences as well.