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#AndroidForEnterprise 6: SAP support for Android

Where’s the value in mobility?

One of the trickiest parts of your enterprise to mobilize, is the SAP back ends. They form your system of records, the backbone of your enterprise IT. As an enterprise it feels counter intuitive to make the data in there accessible from anywhere at any time. You want to protect that data as much as possible. On the other hand, as an employee, it makes sense to have this important data at your fingertips. So enterprise IT needs to find a balance between protecting and leveraging the backbone of the company.

Many enterprises run SAP software for their Customer Relationship Management, or Enterprise Resource Planning packages. When you want to introduce mobile access to company resources, you have to consider providing access to these complex back end systems as well, but in a safe and secure manner. Your backbone is where all your data, functionality and essentially, IT value lies. SAP acknowledged this problem as well and started collaborating with Sybase a couple of years back (2008’ish), to create a platform for Enterprise Mobility.

Image copyrighted by Sybase. Click Image for Sybase website and more information.

What they set out to develop together, was a multi tier platform. On one hand, they needed a middleware to connect multiple backends, with multiple front-ends. They also needed this middleware to act like a buffer and a security wall as well as providing administration and monitoring functionality. On the other hand, if you want mobile applications for your platform, you need a way to develop them. So they also included a development studio in their plan of action.

Developing for multiple mobile systems is a tricky exercise. Every platform has a different architecture and maybe even a different programming language. So instead, SAP and Sybase decided that one must be able to model the core of the application and finish off the UI development in the proprietary development studio of that mobile OS.

Device support

In 2010, SAP then acquired Sybase in a strategic move to support mobile devices in the enterprise. By then their platform SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) already hit version 1.5.2 supporting Blackberry, iOS and Windows Mobile devices. Android support was, however, still lacking at that time. Ever since, we’ve seen announcements every other month or so, about a new version, which would finally bring Android support. First, it would be version 1.5.5. Then version 2.0 would bring relief; or maybe version 2.1 and finally version 2.1.1 which would be released in december.

Thruth is, at the time of writing, there still wasn’t any official support for Android in the SUP platform.

Oh sure, they made their database SQLAnywhere available for Android. Any self respecting mobile developer knows that Android has SQLite support out of the box, which is used in the SUP iOS solutions as well. And yes, they also have HTML5 support now in SUP development. So theoretically, you can run an HTML5 app your Android. And Android is now also supported by Afaria for device management. (Not only the Samsung devices btw, but all Android phones can be manged through the policy API).

So nearly all components for Android support were there, except the development support for Android apps… Why was that taking so long? I already created an offline + synchronization framework for SOAP services over half a year ago on Android. Granted, it was rudimentary, but it worked and only needed some different SQL statements depending on the service content.

Good news

In a first draft release, a reader nudged me in the direction of the support packages for SUP. Guess what, SAP and Sybase came through on their promise of releasing 2.1.1 with native Android support in December. You have to look for it a little bit, because it wasn’t listed in the latest releases, but on December 22, they finally released the version with native Android support embedded. You can find the full documentation here.

This means that the missing cornerstone in SAP’s mobile strategy is finally in place. Now supporting iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Android, the unwired platform covers nearly all of the enterprise’s smartphones. There’s still some Symbian smartphones out there, but it’s a neglectable share.

Having this cornerstone in place now also means that there is nothing stopping Android devices from conquering the enterprise space. They can now profit from the extra security which SUP provides. They benefit from the rapid application development with the SUP development studio and the increased integration with the enterprise.

I love it when a plan comes together!

This article is a part in the #AndroidForEnterprise 1: Management Overview series

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  • It took some time didn’t it?  Android is one of the 2 main mobile platforms out there and the platform that has a much easier point of entry for developers.  No need for an expensive Mac, apps can be easily developed, tested and deployed without the tight Apple app store / device restrictions.  Now the only thing missing for a great SAP mobile 2012 is easier access to development licences from SAP which is also supposed to be on it’s way and we can comfortably predict an exponential explosion in the number of enterprise demo and pilot plus productive apps.

    Would be great to hear from those that have tested the MBO’s with native android how that experience is.    

    • It sure did.

      and even though I put a lot of time in keeping up to date with Enterprise Mobility, I seem to have missed the announcement in which they launched the Android Native Support.
      I think SAP may give a bit of attention to this milestone. It may be a late achievement, but it’s an important one none the less.

      I purposely kept this blog in draft for quite a while because I had to finish with “Alas, it’s still not here”, So I’m very happy that it arrived so I could end my blog with a positive note. I now look forward to getting my hands dirty again… If only I would have a potent server on which I can tinker. It’s only available for 64bit,…

  • Android 4.0 was released in October 2011, first devices came out in November 2011. SUP 2.1.1 was released after that and did not support 4.0. SUP 2.1.2 was released in March 2012 and still does not support Android 4.0. Apparently it is planned for end Q3/2012, or nearly one year after Android 4.0 came out. Oh well …