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.”
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.