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NetWeaver Mobile 2007 – Data Orchestration Engine: A Sneak Preview

Ever since I read about the announcement of Netweaver Mobile 2007 in the computerwoche, with a reference to Data Orchestration Engine (DOE) – the sequel to Mobile Infrastructure, I was looking forward to a sneak preview of DOE. Now that I have managed to get one from SAP’s Netweaver Mobile Team, I thought of sharing some of the really cool and innovative functionalities that they have incorporated into this product, with – who else but the SDN community? One thing is pretty clear – this product is definitely going to take Enterprise Mobile Computing to a level where no other technology vendor has ever reached. If anybody asks me to compare and comment about this product with similar competing products, then I would say SAP is in a league of its own, when it comes to Enterprise Mobile Computing Technology. The first impression that I got after the sneak preview was that SAP has made a careful study of MI’s shortfalls, understood the bottlenecks (clearly) based on customer feedback, rectified these and also built in a lot of cutting edge functionality that makes enterprise mobile computing agile, reliable, robust and a user friendly experience. And the most amazing aspect is that SAP has managed to achieve all this by drastically improving performance, security and scalability when compared to its previous products. Sshh…! I was told that DOE is at least one hundred times faster than MI – WOW! It is all these improvements coupled with a major architectural overhaul that makes it deserving of the name “Data Orchestration Engine”, or DOE for short.   So my first instinct was to gather what exactly is the giant leap from MI to DOE that SAP is talking about and does this new product really meet the requirements of an Orchestration Engine? But before I start sharing my initial experience with DOE, let me warn you that I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty of what DOE is all about. But I will definitely try and touch upon some of the core functionalities that I am very impressed with.    From the list of functionalities that I saw, the one that appealed to me the most is the powerful and flexible data distribution capability that was targeted to improve the scalability and its ability to easily adapt with changing organizational structures and business strategies. This functionality is made available using a very efficient and powerful rule engine which decides who gets which data and when it will be delivered. Another interesting feature to note here is that the criteria defined for a rule need not be constant all the time, but it can be a variable that can be driven from the backend itself and SAP calls this a Dynamic Subscription. All of these features revolve around data objects that are nothing but carriers of data between the DOE and the backend, as well as between the client and the DOE. Data Objects reside in the middleware and act as platform neutral entities. It is this feature that enables the middleware to connect to any backend, be it SAP or non-SAP. DOE also has a sophisticated data persistency as compared to MI.   The ability of this product to work in offline mode and then later on synchronize with DOE was another key feature. It’s not that this particular feature was missing in MI. But things like conflict detection, zero tolerance for data loss, disc synchronization, and enhanced security are some of the additional features that got added to the off-line capability. SAP calls this an “Occasionally Connected” mode. How does that sound? SAP has enormously enhanced this feature by bringing in the flexibility required to carry out business operations in any remote corner of the world, with the least amount of technical infrastructure.   There is some good news for those who had a tough time with the synchronization capabilities of MI. There is a tremendous improvement in it. SAP’s new approach to Synchronization has not only improved the performance but has definitely built in zero tolerance for data loss. I was told that there is a major overhaul in the queuing mechanism that is used in DOE as compared to MI.    DOE also comes with a robust backward compatibility feature. Any application developed in MI can be smoothly migrated to DOE without much hassle. Most of the MI functionalities are maintained exclusively to ensure a smooth transition from MI to DOE. Even though there are no major improvements with the backend adapters other than performance at this juncture the new middleware can make use of Exchange Infrastructure (XI) to connect to any backend and mobilize any application. Isn’t that great news for application developers? 😀 Now let’s summarize the other features and improvements:Offline versus Online:Another interesting feature that I saw in this product was the Online and Offline capability. As I have mentioned before, this feature is now known as “Occasionally connected” mode. This works a lot like Microsoft Outlook that most of us thrive on (Hmm…). Data that needs to be pushed to the devices are stored in queues and once they sync, this data is pushed to the appropriate devices from the queues. Similarly, data collected by the device(s) while offline (if any) is pushed back into the middleware during sync. Conflict detection will take care of issues such as multiple users/devices dealing with a particular record at the same time, etc. This will also ensure that a transaction is completed with the best possible end result by resolving any conflict that may arise due to various reasons. This feature is currently available on mobile devices like PDAs and Laptops.     Ease of Development:A new DOE and Dev Studio makes the development experience that much easier and pleasant – yeah, right :). As in ABAP, there is a DOE workbench that takes care of most of the middleware related development needs. Similarly, applications are built using WebDynpro, and I don’t think there is any need to explain the ease of development using WebDynpro, which is already popular among the existing ABAP Developer community. Another important thing that I have noticed is that they have aligned this product with other NetWeaver components like XI etc. For e.g. SWCV (Software Component Version) was introduced to group all related objects under one umbrella and this feature was previously available in XI only.  Better administration capabilities:A new and enhanced administration capability gives the administrator a lot of flexibility, who can easily register and un-register any number of devices with just a few clicks. And quickly decide who gets what application, data etc., besides being able to deactivate a device if it is lost or stolen. The Administrator also gets to see a detailed log of all the activities. Talk about fringe benefits! But that’s not everything; from now on an administrator should be able to create devices in bulk with very minimal effort using specific data objects. This will come in very handy if there is a need to create 1000’s of devices. Support for any device:Even though only Laptops and PDA’s are the only devices that are currently supported, I was told that SAP definitely has plans to support any kind of device that is available out there in the market. SAP plans to achieve this by allowing vendors to write their own protocols and plug it in to the middleware.  So to conclude, all these great new DOE features put together, enhances the ability of middleware to listen to just about any kind of data that is coming its way and respond to any request for that particular data too. DOE will ensure that these requests are formatted to fit the mobile device requirements. This is more like an orchestra, where several instruments of several different kinds are managed simultaneously to produce a meaningful output (or should I say music?) that can be savored by appreciative audiences the world over.  Having listed some of the key features, it will be unfair on my part to make the SDN community believe that everything is rosy when it comes to DOE. There are a couple of apparent pain points that I would like to share with you:  §     DOE Design time tool offers a variety of modeling tools that are intended to make the life of administrators easier. The primary idea behind this initiative was to reduce TCO, but this initiative has made the otherwise easy life of a developer a more complex one.  §     More features mean a steeper learning curve. Since DOE has evolved into a complete solution for Enterprise Mobile Computing, it also makes it equally difficult to master all the functionalities that are built into it when compared to MI.  Now that SAP has migrated some of its existing mobile applications on to the new architecture, it’s just a matter of time before we see partners and customers also doing the same. SAP is also relying heavily on its partners to get the ISV engagement to take DOE to the next level.  The proposed customer Ramp-Ups are already underway. I’m pretty confident that we’ll get to hear some success stories trickling in pretty soon. I hope those who are already working on these projects will soon begin to share their DOE experiences with the SDN community.   Keep reading and logging in your feedback, Cheers! Fawzi 😀
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  • It’s an excellent article about the Data Orchestration Engine & whoever want’s to get an good overview about the Netweaver Mobile,they can achieve it by reading through this blog 🙂

  • I was pleasantly surprised, when I read the article. Good to see DOE is finally introduced to the larger audience. I am personally looking for to this technology being put to use. It certainly has a lot of potential.
  • Got to admit it that I thought it was a sales pitch for DOE in the begining. But the article did a good job of bringing out both the pluses and the minuses.
  • I think its an excellent blog giving a good insight of the product thats being offered.
    By bringing out both the pros and cons it makes life for a beginner simpler.

    I would say this is just a tip of the iceberg and we have to wait and watch the whole picture.
    DOE is much bigger than just a mobile platform, its Orchestration Engine.

  • Life getz hectic sometimes, Fawzi missed on some points.. It has the new model driven development enviornment & compliance to industry standards.

    You have to checkout the way how applications can be built using the new architecture.

    Good Work Fawzi & Keep Rockin.


  • i am very excited with the new functionalities of SAP MI.
    I think SAP must provide a dotNET framework for developing offline mobile application. AWT or Swing is just too slow and difficult to use and develop.

    -Peter Ha

    • Peter,
      SAP is already building a state-of-the-art .NET framework and Visual Studio .NET based modeler to leverage further on DOE and mobilize on Windows Mobile 5/6.