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(This post was originally written in the Open SAP HANA discussion forum. I have revised it for posting here, since I believe it deserves a broader discussion).

Hi everyone,

I discussed HANA with a fellow ABAPer the other day, and decided to write up the points that ended up crystallizing themselves during our conversation. My friend had not been following the OpenSAP HANA course, but wanted to know the Impact of HANA on the ABAP world. It got me thinking, and this is the result – for whatever it’s worth.

Key points: focus on the SQLscript/stored procedures areas, don’t bother too much (yet) about the UI aspects (UI5/server-side JavaScript).

That got you reading? Good 🙂 Here’s the rest:

Various postings have been written trying to outline the new and exciting carreer opportunities that come with SAP HANA. Most of these have been focusing largely on XS, and the need for skill sets like html/UI5 and JavaScript. A certain confusion seems to prevail as to whether there are incentives for ABAPers to cross over into this new world of UI development, or whether it will lead to a segregation of developers along the MVC principles, as for other environments. SAP seems to push UI5, coupled with XSJS, stating that these are key skill sets for the ABAP community. By doing so, it is also implied that HANA will be chosen as much for its simplified application server (XS) and presentation paradigm (UI5) as for optimizing new and existing ABAP-based applications.

I’ll focus on the ABAP side. My personal opinion is that the average ABAP developer would profit from focusing on SQLscript and the ability to create views (analytical, calculation and so on) in the HANA repository, as well as learning how to create and consume stored procedures. In fact, I believe this (learning how to push business logic down into the HANA DB) will become a key skill set for any ABAP developer worth their $$ in the years to come. Here’s why:

As a future ABAP developer on a HANA system, you have two options:

  • Write your standard ABAP report as before, hoping that the inherent added benefits of an in-memory DB will make it run faster
  • Or, take advantage of the possibility to push logic down to the DB level, by writing SQLscript procedures and exposing these.

The second option requires that you familiarize yourself with SQLscript, HANA view modelling, and creating/exposing database procedure proxies in HANA. An ABAP developer with the above skill set will be far more efficient than any classical ABAP developer still firmly rooted in the Netweaver ABAP stack, refusing to take the leap. This, of course, also requires that your organization allows for ABAP developers to start hacking SQLscript and building stored procedures, but with the performance benefits this will surely bring, I don’t see why this would not happen.

As for the other exciting opportunities within HANA, such as UI5, Server-side JavaScript, and REST services, I honestly do not believe these to be too practically relevant yet for the vast majority of ABAP developers.

Why? Several factors. To focus on the development community itself, I believe it was John Moy who coined the term “the grey-haired ABAP’er” some time ago – a term still very much alive. I don’t have any statistical evidence for this, but I firmly believe that less than 20% of the ABAP community are proficient in OO-ABAP; less than 5% can be said to have a thorough knowledge of WDA, whereas probably less than 2% can hack FPM. And, these are technologies that have been around for the last 5-10 years. Do we really see these people embarking on a UI5 journey anytime soon?

Secondly, SAP will surely continue to focus on WDA/FPM as the main UI for ABAP-based functionality, and I believe most customers out there will have a hard time seeing the benefits of exposing their new HANA platform via the XS app server to any extent (meaning creating REST services and exposing these using UI5). For some, small-scale applications, this might be done, but the administrative barriers (new role sets, authorization issues, maintenance of two distinctly different lines of access to the underlying data) is not going to sweeten the taste for most larger corporations – again, this is my own, personal, humble opinion.

By all means, obtaining such skill sets will set you apart, and add to your general marketability. However, most ABAP’ers will never make it as UI5 designers, as the inherent skill set for such tasks is different by nature. There’s a reason why the engineers building car engines do not simultaneously design the cars… although a good understanding of the architecture will allow you to bridge the gap between the UI design team and the backend busniess functionality team – which could come in very handy indeed!

What might happen, to some extent, is UI5 taking root as a contender to WDA/FPM, but more on the traditional Netweaver/Gateway stack. When that happens (and it will only happen when or if SAP provides a decent IDE for visual UI5 development – no grey-haired ABAP’er will come around to hack JavaScript anytime soon), we might just see UI5 gaining grounds on WDA/FPM. But what I see as the most probable way forward for the vast majority of the ABAP community – and where real gains can be made by SAP customers – is in the usage of HANA DB procedures consumed in ABAP. This is where I see the ordinary ABAP’er being able to make a real contribution – with a manageable level of effort.

So, to conclude (and I hope I don’t come across as too pessimistic here – I’m just trying to keep my feet on the ground), I believe ABAP developers should focus on the HANA Database Procedure area – at least in the short- to medium timeframe. This means SQLscript and view modelling – in short, learning to map the current “data to code” approach to the HANA-style “code to data” way of doing things. This, in itself, will be an exciting challenge, and could pave the way to further insight into the HANA XS world.

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23 Comments

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  1. Naimesh Patel

    Hello Trond,

    Thanks for the article.

    I agree on the part where we want to leverage HANA DB capabilities – Views with Calculated  Columns, Stored Procedures, Built-in Parallel Processing and others – whenever possible by doing the Code-Pushdown. This would certainly change the way the existing programs are designing – which bring the lot of data upfront and determining the end result within ABAP stack.

    Regarding your point of having WDA and FPM against UI5 development – I think when you start developing in UI5 on top of HANA, you don’t need to have any ABAP skills. In other words, developing UI5 application with HANA would be a different skillset. To design a UI in WDA, you need to have knowledge of ABAP as the business logic would be coded in ABAP. When you go for UI5 on HANA, ABAP wont come into the picture. Ofcourse, from 731, you can have UI5 addon installed on non-HANA ABAP NW and start creating Web Applications without using WDAs.

    I believe as an ABAP developer, it would be a good idea to have proper understanding of using UI5 so the requirements can be easily materialized. A person without UI5 exposure on HANA, may end up creating a WDA application which uses ABAP to call Stored procedure to expose the data vs using UI5 calling ODBC to expose the data from HANA.

    Thanks,
    Naimesh Patel

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    1. Trond Stroemme Post author

      Hi Naimesh,

      completely agree with you. My argument however is that the vast majority of ABAP developers will never learn UI5. If you look at WDA, it’s been around for almost 10 years now and only a small minority of developers have any substantial knowledge of it. Even seasoned ABAP developers (or, perhaps, specifically the seasoned (“grey-haired”, as John Moy called them) have ignored it completely, perhaps at their own peril. For these people, I believe learning SQLscript and building stored procedures will provide an easier way to adding value to their companies, and allowing for huge performance benefits in their work.

      I regard UI5 (or html5, more precisely) as a much better platform for UI development than WDA, both in terms of flexibility, performance, and (eventually, with the introduction of a decent IDE) ease of use. In that regards, I believe every ABAP developer should focus on this skill set – along with all the other tools that come in the HANA XS toolset.

      But again, my aim was to try to guide the majority of developers – those who look to boost their productivity in the short- to medium term, and who are very reluctant to embracing new UI technologies – towards building new skill sets useful in a HANA world.

      Regards,

      Trond

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  2. Suhas Saha

    Hello Trond,

    A very well presented blog (don’t see quality blogs in ABAP forums now-a-days).

    With the HANA buzzword doing the rounds, i am lost & feel myself alienated already 🙁 I have always wanted to know what difference HANA (as a database, not as an application) will make to the daily activities of an ABAPer. Your blog points me in the right direction.

    Unfortunately i missed on the HANA training conducted in my current organization. The openSAP HANA training discussed HANA as an application & less as a DB, hence the open question 😐

    May be in your next blog can discuss your hands-on experience 😉

    Cheers,

    Suhas

    PS – I’m far from being a “grey-haired” ABAPer 😛

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  3. Fred Verheul

    Hi Trond,

    Thanks for sharing these insights here on SCN. Though I’ve attended the openSAP course, I did’t participate (or even have a look) at the forums because of time constraints.

    I totally agree with your point of view that most of the current ABAP programmers should focus on the new stuff in the business/data logic layers instead of the new SAPUI5/HTML5 user interface possibilities. It’s an easier transition, and just as important IMHO.

    Being a grey-haired ABAPper (as my wife let me know just yesterday, the grey part that is) it also happens to be the career path I see for myself for at least the next couple of months/years.

    That said, if you want to stand out, you’ll have to do both (SQLScript/Views + SAPUI5). So that’s the challenge for the minority that does want to stay on top of the game and keep having a current skill set.

    We’re living in exciting times!

    Cheers, Fred

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  4. Uwe Fetzer

    Hello Trond,

    I totally agree with you on the numbers (percentages), I’ve got the same experiences in my projects.

    Glad I’m not a grey-haired ABAPer anymore, I’m now a no-hair one and so I’m allowed to code also UI5 😆

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    1. Suhas Saha

      Glad I’m not a grey-haired ABAPer anymore, I’m now a no-hair one and so I’m allowed to code also UI5 😆

                         

      Rofl … Almost fell off from my chair reading this #waterinmyeyes

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  5. John Moy

    Hi Trond,

    Great post!  And thanks for the mention.  But just for the record … I didn’t actually invent the term ‘Grey Haired ABAPer’, although you probably know I opportunistically used it in a previous blog post.  I actually saw the term in an SAP presentation on SAP Gateway (back then Project Gateway) years ago, where the presentation depicted a separation of ‘Grey Haired ABAPers’ (focussing on server-encapsulated business logic) and ‘Long Haired Developers’ (focussing on the user interface layer) with Gateway in the middle.  Just thought I should set the record straight.

    Cheers

    John

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    1. Trond Stroemme Post author

      Hi John,

      thanks for clarifying! At any rate, the term has stuck – I see it popping up all over the place these days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it outlive even a technological paradigm or two…

      Regards,

      Trond

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  6. Venkat Konanki

    Hi Trond,

    The blog is nice and want to learn SQL Script/Stored procedure areas, where can I find the tutorials for this?? I am currently learning WDA/FPM but worried that UI5 will replace WDA/FPM soon is that so??

    Regards,

    Venkat Konanki.

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    1. Trond Stroemme Post author

      Hi Venkat,

      the best option for learning these things is to follow the HANA XS development course on open.sap.com. The course was run in June/July, and is now closed, although the learning materials are still available (click on “self study”). It will also re-start later this autumn.

      As for exposing SQLscript views and consuming these in ABAP, this was mentioned during the extra materials for the mentioned course. Here is a link to an interesting tutorial:

      http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-41437

      Working with the example in the above document requires you to have access to a Netweaver 7.4 ABAP system running on HANA. This is available as per the following doc:

      http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/go/portal/prtroot/docs/library/uuid/a0ad328a-b7d5-3010-f7a8-ff048136b04f?QuickLink=index&overridelayout=true&58540404299724

      Regards,

      Trond

      PS: I believe WDA/FPM will be around for quite some time, but as UI5 gains ground, will become less important other than for existing applications. New UI’s will undoubtedly be developed primarily in UI5 (or at least using html5), since this allows you to target a wide range of appliances, such as tablets and phones. I’d focus on both if I were you.

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  7. Simon Rotherham

    Excellent blog.  I agree with most of your conclusions.

    We also need to remember the development of ABAP as a language is continuous.  You only need to see the changes SAP have introduced with ABAP 7.4.  I suspect as HANA becomes more widely deployed, we will see functionality in ABAP to execute procedures at the DB level, not just stored procedures, but also maybe function modules (this is currently wishful thinking!).  Who knows what ABAP 7.5 will bring!

    The other message I picked up from the openSAP HANA training and one that is broadcast across SCN is that eclipse is the future development tool for all things SAP.  Once we embrace eclipse, I’m sure the other technologies such as UI5, SQLscript etc… won’t appear as daunting as the development environment will be familiar.

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  8. taha bashir

    Hello Trond,

    Your blog is a great read. thank you for it. I am relatively new in the SAP world. I am an ABAP consultant since the past 1 year. I am interested in business intelligence. what should be my initial steps as I am confused with SAP BI, HANA, Lumira and SAP visual analytics. what would you suggest?

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    1. Trond Stroemme Post author

      Hi Karma,

      I’d be reluctant to provide any carreer advice; my blog was written from my standpoint as an ABAP developer with 20+ years working with ABAP. I guess the best advice I can give is try to gain as much and as varied knowledge as you can, within your specific area of interest, and keep an eye on the remaining parts of the SAP ecosystem to see what else is getting “hot” out there!

      Regards,

      Trond

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  9. Changxing Bu

    Nice blog! I just had a HANA overview 2 days ago. Although I cannot see any HANA project in the company I work for in 1/2 years, But I have to start think about this and be well prepared.

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  10. Kelly Artuso

    Interesting read, and perhaps reassuring in some ways, being over 3 yeas later.  I just responded (again) to the “grey haired ABAPer” thread with my most recent thinking on the matter and in that, was pointing out how I have recently been exposed to an environment where calculation views are just starting to find real value in a new-this-year implementation of ECC on HANA.  That lines up what was laid out in the original post.  In that particular environment, getting a handle on SQLScript will be a huge asset.  Unfortunately, I’m not the one working on those at this point – I’m just writing the ABAP that reads from the CVs.  While this thread is now over 3 years old, the principals are holding true, at least in that one case.

    Has anyone – ABAPers, that is – made deeper dives into this area?  How is it working out?  What kind of solutions are you being tasked with?  Has anyone made any forays into UI5 and/or any other GUI development?  Again, what kind of solutions are you building?  Are there any demands for end-to-end solutions?  (I.e. repository to GUI)  Any contractors among you?

     

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