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Note: At the recent Influencer Summit in  Boston, there were a variety of important announcements (for example, SAP’s  desire to be the new #2 Database vendor by 2015). At such events,  participants are flooded with information and they need time to absorb and  process the fire hose. As an attendee, I was also faced with this problem.  I  decided to take a different approach. I wanted to look at the small bits of  information that I encountered at the event and surface the stories that they  tell us. I was afraid that if they weren’t exposed to a broader audience, they  would vanish. 

There is an (in)famous novel entitled ‘The  Story of O’, I’d like to look at a less scandalous topic – OData in SAP’s  OnDemand offerings. 

SAP’s use of OData and its own extensions of the standard are  usually discussed when referring to Gateway.

SAP NetWeaver Gateway uses OData  for SAP applications, which contains SAP-specific metadata that helps the  developer to consume SAP business data, such as descriptions of fields that can  be retrieved from the SAP Data Dictionary. [SOURCE]

Some readers may be thinking “Boring. Nothing new. We already  know about Gateway’s use of OData.” True but I encountered OData in two other  settings during the Influencer Summit where I started thinking about some new  OnDemand-related possibilities.

On December 15th, there was a portal  chat on twitter where the new Portal OnDemand offering was discussed.   During this discussion (which was excellent. I’ll be mining the results in  upcoming blogs), there was one exchange concerning OData that I found most  interesting.

The important fact is that the Portal OnDemand can also be a  consumer of OData.

On the 15th of December, there was a conversation  amongst influencers after one of the keynotes about Gateway and OData. During  this discussion, there were comments about the use of OData in Business  ByDesign.  A Enhancing Enterprise Mashups with SOAP and OData Service Support describes how ByDesign can consume OData. The information, however,  that came out of this informal conversation concerned the potential of ByDesign  to produce OData.

I have no idea if and when this potential will be  implemented but the fact that it is theoretically possible was intriguing and  made me fondly remember an old friend from my SAP Portal days.

A Cloud Makeover for SAP’s Business Packages 

What are Business Packages? 

SAP business packages are sets of  predefined content used for carrying out standard business tasks. The packages  run on SAP NetWeaver Portal, and can access different back-end systems, such as  SAP ERP or SAP CRM [SOURCE]

Partners and SAP itself create this content. There is a list  of various Predefined Portal Content Integration and the existing packages range from Automotive Channel Management  to Recycling Administration.

I started to think about the various uses of OData in  OnDemand settings and realized that with OData it would possible for Business  Packages to remerge. 

Note: I don’t know whether the OData  consumption is based on the Portal OnDemand offering or in the Java  PaaS. 

Customization is possible in ByDesign via various means – via  ByDesign KeyUsers who add fields and partners who add solutions via the ByDesign  SDK. Despite this ability, the nature of ByDesign and indeed most SaaS offerings  is that a high level of standardization is possible and desirable.  I expect  that this standardization will also be apparent in the resulting OData data  streams (with SAP extensions). By focusing on this standardized interface,  partners and / or SAP could create one business package and sell it to a wide  variety of potential customers (who in all likelihood will be ByDesign customers  as well).

Note: I’m using “Business Packages” to  describe this new content type.  It might be useful to define a product name for  this type of content that distinguishes it from the old SAP Portal-based  content. 

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the potential of Gateway in  association with the Portal OnDemand offering but I view this as more oriented  towards customized solutions.

 

Since there a variety of other OData producers, you could also  imagine new Business Packages that combine other cloud-based services along with  content coming from ByDesign. 

A variety of Microsoft products (Sharepoint, etc) are also  OData producers, so there are also interesting possibilities for hybrid  (OnDemand / OnPremise) architectures as well.

Some readers may be thinking: “Do we even need Business  Packages based on Portal OnDemand offering?” I would answer: “The use case is  exactly the same as the old SAP Portal Business Packages.  As the Predefined Portal Content Integration demonstrates, there is definitely a market for them. There may users who don’t have access  to ByDesign but need access to the data stored in ByDesign. Portal OnDemand  provides a perfect environment for such requirements.”

Conclusion

I’ve always looked for use cases where an interaction between  SAP’s ABAP and Java-based PaaS offerings is possible and warranted.  The  possibility of OData-based Business Packages presents such an opportunity.  Currently, there is no OData support in ByDesign and industry-specific content  on the platform is rather limited. However, as the platform evolves and Portal  OnDemand emerges, I’d suggest that SAP contact those partners who have created  SAP Portal Business Packages and ask them to look at the possibilities in this  OnDemand setting.   With their domain knowledge, a new OnDemand-based offering  from such partners might be possible and would be a benefit to all (SAP,  ByDesign customers, etc) involved.  

Disclosure: SAP paid for my travel and expenses to the Influencer Summit in Boston. 

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