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TechEd 2008

During and after my TechEd sessions (Las Vegas and Berlin), there were a lot of queries and questions about BRFplus. Many wanted to know more about BRFplus. For instance, some attendees wanted to immediately test BRFplus and include it into their current or future projects. There were also questions about when to start, which version to take, limitations, and so on. Hopefully, I can answer these questions with this blog.

Availability in NW 700/710

BRFplus was shipped for the first time in support packages of NetWeaver 700 (also known as NW 2004s) and 710. These shipments had many limitations, for instance, there were no user interface. We used BRFplus for some SAP components and also for a few selected customers. The BRFplus team interacted and collaborated closely with the development teams while working on the use cases. There was no documentation available and some incompatible changes were needed. It is strongly recommended not to use these versions of BRFplus. An upgrade to a higher release can break code and content.

Availability in NW 700/710 Enhancement Package 1

With enhancement package 1 on either NW 700 or NW 710 BRFplus has its first full shipment, including user interface and some further previously undisclosed objects and features. Currently, NW 700 EHP1 is in the ramp-up. You can download a trial version here. GA is planned for November. Please note that the ramp-up release of BRFplus has quite some bugs. You should apply all notes for SP0 and SP1 or better use the GA version which is SP2.

To play with the tool and learn its capabilities, we recommend Enhancement Package 1. It can be used in simple use cases. All basic concepts are available with EHP1. However, there are some limitations that are explained in this blog (see below about Enhancement Package 2).

Learning from the mistakes

We intentionally did not roll-out BRFplus too early, for example with 700. BRFplus development started 3 years ago. First, all the good features from existing SAP tools (BRF, Formula Builder, HDS) and external BRMS had to be analyzed. Then, a very small team developed a first version of the infrastructure and first projects were started using BRFplus. From the use cases, we learned a lot for BRFplus. It was not always a pleasure to use it and we were forced to do some incompatible changes. However, this experience was very important and changes introduced by an iterative approach were inevitable.

The approach of BRFplus is very ambitious. Some catchwords:

  • User Interface (for business user and developer, standalone or embedded, various rules representations)
  • Performance (code generation and the ability to include custom code)
  • Addition of customer expression and action types
  • Delivery modes (table types, transport, XML, content updates)
  • Trade-off between internal projects and customers
  • Connection/Integration with NW BRM (exchange of rules, one engine calling the other)
  • Ability to replace many old tools from SAP and third-party
  • Repositories (DDIC, GDT, application exits)
  • ECC and Business By Design

Enhancement Package 2

The features that are planned for Enhancement Package 2 show some of the limitations of Enhancement Package 1. We incorporated all the learning and feedback so far.

  • Deep Context: Ability to define deep contexts (e.g. table as a component of a structure)
  • Ruleset: Temporary ruleset variables, initialization section, priorities for ruleset evaluation
  • Rule: Value changes and assignments,
  • Code Generation: All objects supported, no gaps anymore
  • Simplifications: Usage of ranges and constants as part of more powerful expression types (for example, decision table and decision tree) to improve performance and reduce complexity in maintenance and support; this also allows us to simplify the usage of user interface and API
  • Action and Expression Types: New (such as LOOP, EMAIL) and improved action and expression types (for example, clear separation between actions and expressions and better integration of actions)
  • User Interface: Many simplifications/usability improvements, configuration, version management, new tools
  • Simulation and Debugging: Ability to debug rules, upload test data from spreadsheets

Please understand that this list is not exhaustive and does not give a guarantee for availability. In case, we cannot complete the implementation of all the features, we will do it in one of the next releases. In any case, we expect that the improvements in EHP2 will make it possible to use BRFplus in a convenient way in big and complex use cases. In case, you miss features in the list, do not forget that BRFplus has an open infrastructure that allows you to add your own expression and action type.

EHP2 is planned for ramp-up in Q2/2009. GA is planned for Q3/2009.

NW 700 Enhancement Package 1 vs. NW 710 Enhancement Package 1 

There are only minor differences such as

  • new ABAP language features (for example, in 710 the new data type decfloat is used)
  • new APIs (for example, new currency and unit conversion classes)

There is so little difference that we do not explicitly list them. With NW 700 Enhancement Package 2, many ABAP language features will be made available. Therefore, the difference to 710 Enhancement Package 1 or 720 will be even less.

New SDN Forum for Business Rules 

There is a new forum in SDN for all questions and comments related to Business Rules: SAP Business Rules Management

Hope, I have it all for now. Till then, stay tuned for more information on BRFplus.
We are currently setting up an SDN page for BRFplus. Several documents to be released are currently being reviewed.

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