At the TechEd in Berlin, there were a variety of new technologies that were introduced (such as River) or already introduced innovations (such as Project “Gateway) where more details were provided. What was missing was an indication of how these new technologies fit together and how they relate to the existing architecture. There was often confusion, because the big picture was missing.
I’ve created a quick diagram of how these new developments relate to one another. Obviously, I’m not going to include all technologies / innovations that were presented at the TechEds.
Initially, I’m not making a distinction between on-demand and on-premise offerings although the emergence of the on-demand has created the foundation for the new tools.
For me, the most important is the focus on the lightweight offerings that are REST-based and are primarily directed at the mobile market. The basic desire is to increase usage of the fundamental business functionality in the Business Suite. As Kaj van de Loo suggested at the Innovation Weekend “We need to open up our systems for consumption to all users. Project Gateway will help. Sybase UP will help too”. Equally important is the reassurance that the Enterprise Services aren’t going to disappear – indeed, without them, SAP would have had difficulty to move ahead with Project Gateway – but are focused on a different set of use cases.
There are indications, however, that Gateway represents a shift for SAP. The development platform choices that are the platform targets for Gateway currently don’t include Java (see picture below) but focus on web-technologies not usually associated with enterprise settings (PHP, Rails, etc.).
Support through “Gateway” for mobile devices (photo: Frank Völkel) SOURCE
How does this new emphasis on lightweight applications relate to those “heavy” business processes for which SAP is so well-known? Slicing and dicing existing on-premise processes to fit this new model probably won’t be successful. The true challenge is to transform existing processes to reflect the inherent revolutionary qualities in these new devices. Whether SAP has this knowledge or whether Sybase’s experience in mobile platforms will prove the necessary foundation for success is still open to debate.
A few points regarding this shift from Enterprise Service to a REST service created by Gateway
- The ability to create REST services based on Business Suite functionality is nothing new. DJ Adams has written about this possibility as early as 2004. The novelty is that the creation of REST services is part of an official development tool.
- Previously, the creation of REST services was a development task. With Gateway, this task becomes more of a configuration task. The speed to create such REST services increases flexibility. The improved simplicity also provides the ability to create customized services that can directed to a specific user group. User mash-ups based on these simple REST interfaces are also easier than using the complicated SOAP interfaces in EnterpriseServices.
- Enterprise Services were defined by SAP in cooperation with the ecosystem. I haven’t heard anything about a set of REST services that will be created by SAP – standard REST services that are available out-of-the-box. Thus, there may be a governance issue that must also be considered.
- I haven’t heard much about how authentication works when using these new REST services.
- The fact that SAP is using open standards such as oData, JSON and ATOM in Project Gateway is a good sign and shows that SAP is aware of the importance of developments outside of the enterprise software space – at least where the use of such developments makes business sense.