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SAP proven as the robust, dependable, and integrated software system (ERP) offers wide spectrum of business solutions that makes it attractive to companies in all market segments. The optimized and well integrated database layer makes the ERP system scalable for businesses of small, medium and large sizes.

Standard SAP application interfaces are delivered through Graphical User Interfaces (GUI). SAP also provides proprietary programming languages such as ABAP, BSP, and WebDynpro to customize users interactions with business solutions.

In this blog, I discuss few alternatives to SAP GUI and discuss some of the common questions asked by the clients.

Common technology alternatives available to develop web based user interface are:

  • Business Server Pages (BSP)
  • ABAP WebDynpro (ABAP WD)
  • Java WebDynpro (Java WD)
  • Non-SAP Solutions

Table comparing the alternative UI techniques based key criterias:

 Criteria  BSP   ABAP WD   Java WD  Non-SAP
 Underlying Language  ABAP  ABAP  Java  Any
 Ease of Development  Medium  Medium  Complex  Medium
 Skill set in the Market  Easy to find  Rare  Very Rare  Depends
 Time to Market  Fast  Medium  Slow  Slow
 Integration with SAP  Built in  Built in  Build in  ES
 Security  Integarted  Integrated  Custom  Custom
 Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)  No  No  Yes  Yes
 Leverages Enterprise Services (ES)  Not needed  Not needed  Yes  Yes
 Leverages Function Modules (FMs)  Yes  Yes  No  No
 Leverages Remote Function Calls (RFCs)  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes
 Leverages BAPI  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes

 

Business Server Pages (BSP):

It is a common belief that the BSPs are under appreciated programming language with great potentials. Its ability to customize HTML code and insert custom JavaScript gives great flexibility and unlimited opportunity for the developers. Yes, BSP requires more coding compared to WebDynpro technology where you can insert components. I see BSP as making a pot out of clay whereas WebDynpro as putting a puzzle together. The pot built from scratch could be as creative as we would like it to be however, the outcome of a puzzle is a fixed pattern. In addition, BSP applications can be stateful or stateless.

ABAP WebDynpro:

It is the most marketed User Interface tool by SAP. The development duration can be drastically reduced if we have experienced ABAP WD developer. This development tool is an attempt by SAP to compete with leading UI development tools from Adobe and Microsoft. The web application is  stateful. Best part of ABAP WD is, developers can utilize function modules and RFCs seamlessly since, the code runs on the ABAP stack.

Java WebDynpro:

In my opinion, SAP wants to be impartial hence they provided the Java WebDynpro version for anyone who wants to build applications using Java. Netweaver Developer Studio (NWDS) (compare it to visual studio for .NET) is required to develop Java WebDynpro applications. The web application is stateful. Enterprise services (ES) are used by the Java application to process data. Enterprise services Repository (ESR) is in-built with NWDS which makes it easy for Java developer to find a ES without having to depend on a ABAP resource. RFCs and BAPIs can also be used. Java stack should be implemented in order to develop Java WebDynpro applications.

Non-SAP Solutions:

Microsoft .NET solutions are very common considering that many companies are Microsoft shops and have some .NET developers in house. The Enterprise Service Repository (ESR) enables .NET applications to interact with SAP. However, ESR does not have answer to all user needs in which case custom RFCs are required. The common problems arise with the use of proxies and .NET connectors when using RFCs. Technical troubleshooting could sometimes be challenging since it requires interaction between Microsoft and SAP development team who can sometimes struggle finding the problem area if they don’t understand each others technology.

Adobe offers creative solutions that enable SAP customers to develop rich internet applications (RIA). Adobe flash islands can be embedded inside BSP and WebDynpro programs. Flex Ajax Bridge (FABridge) allow users to transfer data between Flash island and SAP.

Useful links:

Enterprise Service Workplace serves as the repository for enterprise services and documentation.  http://esworkplace.sap.com

 

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Disclaimer: The article and the content are authors reflection on technology based on experience and research. Please use this as a guidelines and do further research before finalizing your technology options.

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6 Comments

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  1. Bharathwaj Ragothaman
    Hi ,

    Each UI technology addresses a different need. Comparing frameworks like WDA , RIA and bare bone web technologies like BSP is probably not a correct comparison. And none of these are rich user interfaces. Using BSP smartly can provide rich user interfaces though..

    The way UI technologies are evolving , deciding on a technology should not be based on how it interacts with SAP systems alone but based on a variety of factors like target users , internet / intranet , amount of customization required , bandwidth etc.,

    And I am curious why ease of development is difficult in WD Java.

    Customers have to come to the realization that one size solution fits all is never gonna work with user interfaces. The best way is to build the data access and persistence layers as flexible as possible and build different user interfaces based on their need..

    And whatever they do , everyone should have UX designer interacting with the app developers before starting anything.. This is probably the biggest issue than any technology limitations..

    Thanks
    Bharathwaj

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  2. Pim de Wit
    Could we please stop mentioning Enterprise Services as the way to go to build User interfaces.

    We’ve tried it, There to generic, big and slow and don’t fit our (customer) requirements. Nice for demo but not for real life!

    Even Vishal Sikka stated during last Teched: “Even though in ECC, we have 3,000 enterprise services, the enterprise services are usually large, and they are designed for process consumption, not for UIs. UI are not there, the SAP data protocol in this old data mechanism that Microsoft has, this is not there. People are looking for all kinds of interfaces, this is all the lessons we learned from SOA over the last years. There isn’t a single SOA. We did that. We have 3,000 enterprise services. But those make it possible for us to connect and extend the processes. What about UIs? What about master data? What about lifecycle management? So, the Gateway, think of it as a protocol adapter, that you can attach to a legacy system and have it speak to the world outside”

    So lets stick to RFC and BAPI’s until the new concept proof otherwise.

    Tnx Pim (@pimdewit)

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    1. Thanigaivelan Muthu Post author
      I understand, agree and share the same experience you had with using enterprise services for UI development. The enterprise services delivered by SAP serves great value in business-to-business integration.

      Custom web services are easy to generate and can be very useful when developing web applications using non-sap technologies.

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    1. Thanigaivelan Muthu Post author
      Good comment. Thank you. Yes WDA can handle web services. Since WDA runs on ABAP stack, we can directly leverage RFCs and BAPIs and avoid using web services. Hence I marked No. I accept your feedback and will update the blog accordingly.
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  3. Priya Ranjan
    I do not agree with your assessment that WDJ skillset is rare, If you could provide some factual data behind your assessment then it would be great. Frameworks have a sweet spot and it’s more important to understand which framework should be used when, rather than an assessment of them in terms of complexity and skills availability.

    This happens a lot in Java space where you have 200 odd frameworks now. Understand your needs and choose the best framework for it.

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