I am not going to go into too much depth about the mechanics of this and related technologies however I thought it interesting that 650 applications were supposedly built in a period of 7 weeks on this new platform and that the technology is leveraged by Microsoft Duet, IBM Alloy and a research undertaking by RIM.
In his video Sikka gives a hint at what’s on offer but I thought I would spend a little more time evaluating what this thing is all about and what the implications are for SAP customers and partners alike.
At first blush, Gateway is positioning itself as “easy to develop and simple to use”. At least that’s how it has been branded on the exposé posted on SAP Info. Like portal before it and undoubtedly other solutions offered by SAP and partners it claims low cost rapidly deployable solutions based on the R.E.S.T data structure for web services like those used by the leading websites as opposed to SOAP. This not-entirely-new approach supposedly obscures the underlying complexity of the technology at play in serving up and servicing data.Tsvetan Stoyanov from SAP labs in Bulgaria talks for example about creating RESTful webservices with SAP Netweaver CE in his RESTful services development with SAP NetWeaver CEwhich you may like to read but this doesn’t really talk about Project Gateway so much as the concept of RESTful services and how they can be leveraged.
The suggestion is that Project Gateway application will leverage any conbination of underlying technologies as appropriate, including dynpros and BAPIs as well as these new things, Project Gateway Models (PGM). Sound familiar? It should, this was the promise of portal and then the first incarnation of Microsoft’s Duet. Each having it’s own degree of success or failure depending on who you talk to. It is for example suprising to find that there are still many SA customers who don’t have portal, or if they do, hardly use it.
The process seems straightforward enough, pick a Dynpro, BAPI or prepackaged PGM, create a simplified model based on what you selected, create a proxy class using a SDK and then create an application that can be used; expose it ot a multitude of devices and you are that much closer to ubiquitous SAP centric data retrieval and update.
In conversations that I had with Vikram Chalana, the CTO of Winshuttle and folks from SAP at TECHED2010 who were directly involved in Project Gateway it seemed clear that this new offering will facilitate further steps towards improving the user experience in interracting with SAP systems, it will also support more innovative and contemporary ways of building solutions that can expose SAP to a wider community. Although the approach will likely still be relatively developer intensive, it will facilitate more imaginative ways of working with data that historically has been trapped in the machine.
It’s likely too, that due to some engineering design quirks, certain problem areas with working with SAP UIs today will not necessarily be quickly cleanly and easily addressed even with this technology. I am thinking CRM, SRM and APO in particular will continue to be challenge areas where customers are struggling with high volume data processing using web based UIs that are slow and difficult to navigate. These requirements go way beyond the relatively simple requirements of viewing SAP data and encompass mass change and create too as demonstrated in the content and literature that has started to emerge about the technology. There are use cases for single entry, single action and single lookup or even aggregated lookup and aggregated lookup but these are relatively simplistic use cases and for mobile uses these may well be relevant. Voluminous transaction processing is a staple that SAP systems have been built on, the ability to scale to millions of records and tens of thousands of record entries and changes continues to be very focal to the ERP systems model.
Perhaps the RIM collaboration with SAP to bring Native CRM to the Blackberry has a new infusion of energy and capability with the Sybase acquisition and the announcement of Project Gateway as an enabler though I still can’t see the mass creation or change of data from a pocket-snug or tablet device, can you?