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Building Modern Apps with JSON Services and JavaScript UIs using SAP HANA & Play Framework

The SAP HANA cloud database can easily be combined with Play Framework to build modern apps.  Today applications UIs are moving to the client-side via JavaScript and mobile clients.  This change requires back-ends to produce structured data instead of HTML markup.  The de-facto standard method of exposing back-end data is through RESTful style JSON services.  In browser UIs are now being built with JavaScript running on the client using frameworks like AngularJS.  Combining a JavaScript UI and RESTful JSON services built with Play Framework & Scala along with SAP HANA provides a modern architecture that scales and provides dramatically improved productivity.  This article will walk you through the steps to setup your SAP HANA & Play Framework environments and then build a simple JSON service and JavaScript UI.

Setup Your Environment

  1. Create a SAP HANA Developer Edition on Amazon Web Services
  2. Download and install Typesafe Activator
  3. Download and install SAP HANA Client Developer Edition

Create a New Application

  1. Launch Activator and search for the hello-play-scala template
  2. Create a new application using that template

You should now see the Activator UI for your new application:

Connect to the HANA DB

In the Activator UI, open Code and then navigate to the conf/application.conf file and add the follow lines (replacing the values with the ones for your environment:

From the SAP HANA Client Developer Edition, copy the hdbclient/ngdbc.jar file into a new lib directory in the root of your new Play project.

In Activator open Run and click Restart and now your running Play application should be connected to SAP HANA.  Open your Play application in a new browser tab and verify that it runs correctly: http://localhost:9000  (Note: If there were any problems connecting to your database you will see those errors in your browser.)

Build the RESTful JSON service

For this example app we will use the out-of-the box sample PSA (Personal Spend Analysis) data which includes a table containing some transactions.

Create a new directory and file named app/models/Transaction.scala containing:

package models

import java.util.Date
import java.math.BigDecimal

import anorm._
import anorm.SqlParser._
import play.api.libs.json.Json

case class Transaction(id: Int, amount: Double, tranDate: Date, postDate: Date, description: String, category: String)

object Transaction {

  val rowParser = {
    get[Int]("ID") ~
    get[BigDecimal]("AMOUNT") ~
    get[Date]("TRAN_DATE") ~
    get[Date]("POST_DATE") ~
    get[String]("DESCRIPTION") ~
    get[String]("CATEGORY_TEXT") map { case id~amount~tranDate~postDate~description~category =>
      Transaction(id, amount.doubleValue(), tranDate, postDate, description, category)

  implicit val jsonWrites = Json.writes[Transaction]


This contains a value object named Transaction that will hold the data we get back from the database.  There is also a rowParser that creates a mapping from a JDBC row to the Transaction value object.  The jsonWrites creates a way to serialize a Transaction to JSON data.  Refresh the http://localhost:9000 page in your browser to make sure there aren’t any errors with your new code.

Create a new web controller method that will fetch the transactions from the database.  In Activator edit the app/controllers/Application.scala file and add the following inside the Application object:

  def psaTransactions = Action {
    import anorm._
    import play.api.db.DB
    import play.api.Play.current
    import play.api.libs.json.Json
    import models.Transaction

    DB.withConnection { implicit c =>
      val result = SQL("""SELECT * FROM "PSA".""""").as(Transaction.rowParser.*)

This new controller method does a select on the psa_transaction.Details table and gets all the rows and columns out.  It then uses the Transaction.rowParser to convert each row into a Transaction value object.  The result is a list of each Transaction from the database.  Finally the result is converted to JSON and returned in the HTTP response.

To map this new controller method to an HTTP URL edit the conf/routes file and add the following line:

GET        /psa-transactions    controllers.Application.psaTransactions() 

This will tell Play that an HTTP GET request to psa-transactions is handled by the controllers.Application.psaTransactions() method you just created.  Try it in your browser by navigating to: http://localhost:9000/psa-transactions

Build the JavaScript UI

For simplicity we will use CoffeeScript (which compiles to JavaScript) and jQuery to fetch the JSON data via Ajax and then render the data in a pretty table using Bootstrap for the CSS styling.

Create a new directory and file named app/assets/javascripts/ containing:

$ ->
  $.get "/psa-transactions", (data) ->
    t = $("<table>").addClass("table")
    thr = $("<tr>")
    $.each data, (index, item) ->
      row = $("<tr>")

(Note: Be careful with the indentation since CoffeeScript uses significant spacing to indicate code blocks.)

This CoffeeScript makes a GET request to /psa-transactions when the web page loads and then iterates through all the JSON data and constructs a new table containing the data, and then finally adds it to the web page.

To run the JavaScript that is compiled from this source edit the app/views/index.scala.html and add the following right above the <div class="well"> line:

<script src=""javascripts/index.min.js")"></script> 

Now when you open your browser to http://localhost:9000 the request will be made for the JSON data and then once it returns you should see a nice table containing the transactions from the HANA DB in a table.  It sound look like:

Further Learning

Congratulations!  You’ve created a modern application that uses Play Framework, Scala, CoffeeScript, and jQuery for a JSON service and JavaScript UI along with connecting to the SAP HANA cloud.  To learn more about Play Framework check out the documentation and explore the other Play template in Activator.

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      Author's profile photo Isaias Cristiano Barroso
      Isaias Cristiano Barroso

      Nice Post.

      Just to remember that you also can apply this knowledge to develop a Play application on SAP HANA Cloud at no cost, just get an trial account and try it (SAP HANA Cloud Platform)

      Author's profile photo Ralf Enderle
      Ralf Enderle


      interesting post!

      Did you do this just as playground or did you test this approach in a real application?

      Author's profile photo Rui Nogueira
      Rui Nogueira

      Hi James, nice blog.

      Did you know that the SAP HANA Cloud Platform also lets you deploy HTML5 apps?

      In case you are interested check-out a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago on Lightweight HTML5 apps and Git on SAP HANA Cloud Platform

      It also provides all necessary steps in a 12 minute video.


      Rui Nogueira

      Author's profile photo Rui Nogueira
      Rui Nogueira

      Oh. And what I forgot to mention: together with the FREE developer license for the SAP HANA Cloud Platform you also get a free HANA instance running on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform with no additional costs. No AWS necessary.

      You work on a shared HANA instance with small limitiations, but given the fact it's for free I think it's ok.

      There are 2 openSAP courses just starting this week explaining how to use the platform. Check out the Introductory course and the Advanced course.