The HANA Distinguished Engineer program came about as one of the initiatives to help scale skills in the SAP HANA marketplace, and each of the Council Members was asked to introduce one of the first round of Distinguished Engineers. I gladly chose Thomas Jung, who is the Mentor’s mentor at SAP and currently servers as one of the SAP HANA Product Managers.
Tom is a tireless contributor to the SAP Ecosystem, but who is the real Tom Jung? Where did he come from and how did he get to where he is now? What’s coming in HANA SP06? Some sneak peeks follow!
How did you end up in the SAP world?
You might say my career started in the SAP world. On my first day out of university, I went into the SAP implementation kickoff meeting. It was a Y2K project to get off the mainframe – there were a lot of those at that time. I’m thrust into this big conference room with the implementation partner, Ernst & Young.
So I started with a SAP customer, doing an ERP implementation and then I remained in the IT department of that customer for 10 years as an ABAP developer. We move from ERP to BW and then XI, Portal and a variety of other things in the ERP ecosystem.
Things started to change for me a little when I got involved in SCN – SDN back then as it was called. I was already involved in ASUG but complained that there was no similar developer network to MSDN. I was a MSDN subscriber at the time to support .Net development and they had a great MSDN library. It was a great channel for knowledge and we did’t have anything like that in the SAP world, not even in the user group. Your knowledge ecosystem was just inside your company, and our development team wasn’t that large – 3-4 developers.
When SDN came around, I felt like I’d complained so hard for so many years that I should get involved with it now it was there. I answered questions in the ABAP and BSP forums. And Brian McKellar encouraged me to start blogging about what I was doing at the company I was working for. I then became a SDN Top Contributor, and came to meet people like Brian, who was the development manager for BSP at that time, and I started to see a broader world. Brian and I came to write a book together for SAP Press [Advanced BSP Programming], and that’s when I realized that whilst I enjoyed development, I wanted to spend more time doing presentations and writing, and I wanted a job where I could do both of those things together. That’s what led me to apply for a job at SAP, and take a job in Product Management.
Product Management – particularly for developers tools – allows you to spend time using the developer tools, and so you’re not shipping product but rather example code. So you can spend 50% developing and 50% sharing knowledge and giving presentations and feedback to the development team.
Who were the other people that were instrumental?
Brian was the main person at SAP, and then as the community was forming, Mark Finnern was helping me as a main customer contributor to SDN. Early on, inside of SAP, Peter McNulty was the one who I really looked up to. He taught me how to present, and navigate the SAP Ecosystem and what happens behind the scenes.
What drew you into the HANA world?
Unfortunately when we do reorganizations and we move someone around who is high up in the organization, they take their people with them. And so I moved to into the Solution Management organization, which became more sales focussed. I then moved into the RDS organization through a series of reorganizations which moved my role away from what I wanted to do: close to the development tools.
With HANA coming about, the opportunity arose to get back to doing technical product management for the developer tools. My first reaction: HANA is a database thing, why would I be interested in that? Then I realized there was a developer story behind it.
Which are the pieces of the HANA puzzle that you’re most involved with?
Anything that touches the developer role. The ABAP development tools on HANA, the JDBC & ODBC connectivity to HANA. My primary responsibility is twofold: the native HANA development story – inside the HANA Extended Application Services (XS) and the developer tools within HANA Studio.
I joined HANA product management January 2012 and there was no-one doing this role. It wasn’t until the release of HANA SP5 with the native developer tools that we could actually talk about it and start blogging.
HANA Studio existed before you joined your role. How has it changed?
We originally called it the HANA Developer Workbench and considered putting it in a different copy of Eclipse. We then merged it into HANA Studio but it’s all new aspects. The HANA Modeler tools are actually developed by another team in India, whilst the developer-centric tools are developed in Walldorf, Berlin and Israel.
What are the main additions that have come?
Well there weren’t any developer tools at the time, so we’ve delivered those. There were analytic tools and modeling but there was nothing to create code, or services – OData and REST based services. We knew what we wanted to deliver and we shipped it all in SP05.
The first few weeks of SP05 were spent making some additions to SP05, so people don’t have to wait for S06. Instead we’re going to add it in at the beginning of the lifecycle of SP05. SAP UI Integration Services is coming for instance, which is a lightweight portal that lets you build pages out of widgets, personalize themes and it’s based on OpenSocial so you can take their widgets and integrate them in.
So what’s this XS engine all about?
The XS engine is a whole application server, web server, design time and runtime for HANA. It’s an alternative – and it’s valid to consider using ABAP, Java or .Net for the application server layer – but as we start to use HANA more of a platform and push more logic into the database, and it makes the app server layer thinner, we can just use it for some comparative logic or service enablement. Then it makes sense to move more layers into the HANA platform.
We remove layers, improve technical performance by reducing the number of network hops and reduce complexity, reducing TCO.
How did the journey from ABAP programmer to HANA programmer feel?
At first it feels a bit foreign because you have to immerse yourself in the database – the database for an ABAP programmer is like a black hole where data goes into and comes out of, and we don’t understand it – and we don’t care. It’s just a big storage space.
So we have to begin to care, write more complex SQL like SELECT SUM, Subquery and ORDER BY – all the things we got used to doing at the application server layer. Once you get past this learning curve, moving things to the database that you used the application server for before.
You have to retrain your mind a little, and design differently.
What advice you would give to someone wanting to program in HANA?
Learn some SQL. Get an Advanced SQL book like O’Reilly’s Learning SQL. Immerse yourself in that lower-level SQL. Particularly ABAP developers have ignored this for a number of years. Once you’re better versed on SQL – just get out and use it. Use the HANA on the Cloud, Developer Center – there are some really low cost options for getting access to HANA and educate yourself. Create something, build something, write SQL – or do something more advanced like creating Analytics Views, SQLScript and eventually HANA Application Services development. That’s where traditional ABAP and Java programmers will feel most comfortable.
There’s ton of really slow ABAP code in the wild. Do you think this will affect how people code back in ABAP?
It’s one of the interesting things. The time you spend learning deep SQL – that’s something that really works for an ABAP programmer today whether you know it or not. You’ll find that a lot of the optimization you’re doing will apply to a traditional RDBMS and improve performance there too.
Preparing for HANA is still a skill-set you will take advantage of today, and you’ll write better ABAP code overall and that’s a misconception.
So is that people think that you have to totally rewrite their code to move to HANA. ABAP works perfectly fine on HANA but you will find you want to make changes to optimize for HANA, to get the optimal performance. It’s about maximum value and optimizing for HANA, but if you put these into your traditional RDMS you will also get an improvement.
Where should people go to get the community experience for HANA?
I still think it’s SCN. I’m not sure it works as well as it used to – maybe it got so big it feels a bit impersonal and with the platform change it feels a bit scattered. But it’s the same people, the same opportunities and whilst you have to work a little harder to make the personal connections within the community, it remains the best place to combine the connections with the online community, with some in-person activities like TechEd and the User Group Meetings.
What’s on your wish-list for HANA?
I have a whole list and it’s not a wish-list – it’s the product backlog! My area is about continuing to build out past the base functionality in SP05. With any platform you get the basic functionality out there first and then you improve the tools around it.
You need a rock-solid compiler first, and we don’t have the most beautiful editor. We’ll see more graphics, wizards, and things to improve developer productivity. The same with the overall platform capabilities like job scheduling. A database doesn’t need this but a platform needs this and it’s on our roadmap.
We’re going to round out the platform capabilities and work on ease of use. We’re going to get all these to first-class tools. Some will be graphical, some will have code completion and code highlighting.
We’ve borrowed a bunch of the developers from the ABAP group to work on our tools and they did a great job with ABAP on Eclipse, so I’m encouraged they can build out a quality environment like ABAP, and I’ve seen the journey over a 12 month period from command line editing right through to what’s available in SP05 today. With what we achieved this year, I’m really looking forward to the end of next year.
SCN, Inside Tracks, Enterprise Geeks, SAP Mentors and ASUG. The newest is E-Geeks at 4 years old. What’s next?
I don’t know! It’s hard to find time for what we’ve got already. We’ve not done as many webcasts and podcasts. I’d like to find a channel that doesn’t require as much coordination! I’ve always been really enamored by video presentations. I was doing video blogging with screen early on and it’s really hard to explain that in the written word. When tools become drag and drop and videos are the best way to explain many of those things.
There we have a new channel with the HANA Academy, self-paced learning via videos. We’ve produced a set of HANA XS videos for the SP05 launch and we’re going to expand that in the New Year by internally training our sales people. We’re then going to turn that into learning material for the Academy.
Do you think the HANA Academy can change education in the market?
That’s a big challenge for it. I think there’s different roles that education can play in the market. There’s people who are coming into the SAP Ecosystem from the outside and need to start from scratch, and a lot of information in a short amount of time will let them become productive.
The HANA Academy can be a supplement to other eduction people can receive, like an existing developer that gets SAP and needs the delta to get up to speed on HANA. They’re training on the job and can’t get to a class.
The typical SAP customer base can be impacted most by the HANA Academy by providing that information piecemeal, and this fits the learning information. Later when they have a project there’s something they can use and re-watch the details of it.
We’re now headed off to Walldorf in January to decide what’s coming next in HANA SP06!