There is a lot of talk these days about a new trend in web development called “Offline First”. We are just getting comfortable with redesigning our enterprise application screens according to the “Mobile First” design pattern, and it is now time to design and build our applications offline-first.

I have in the last few years discouraged customers from offline scenarios and claimed that offline should only be implemented where absolutely necessary and often as an emergency backup solution. Much in the same way as you would see at a point of sales in a store – you manage basic operations such as backup credit card handling to be able to sell your merchandise in the event of connectivity loss.    

We used to think that the connectivity issue would be solved quickly and that the world would soon have global online coverage. Unfortunately that was wishful thinking and it looks like we will have to live with unreliable networking for some time still.

This new paradigm will help create applications that are always usable with a new way to design your applications.

We at Neptune have created a new easy to use offline functionality for SAPUI5 to meet this new challenge and you can watch this recorded webinar where Ole-Andre Haugen creates an offline sales order application in just 40 minutes 😎


Also you can read about the technical solution in this blog.

No more data roaming for your travel expense app!

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  1. Michael Appleby

    Hi Njal,

    Not sure how new this trend is.  SAP Agentry products have embodied the Off-Line first design approach for almost two decades now.  Back then, network connections were not as robust or available as they are now.  I think that On-Line first is the newcomer to the environment but most people are so used to their cell phones and tablets always being connected one way or another, it does not occur to them.

    Cheers, Mike

    SAP Customer Experience Group – CEG

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    1. Njål Stabell Post author

      I am not referring to offline capabilities in general. I have done enough implementations with rugged devices that docks and integrate with SAP through files and then IDOCs 🙂

      The new paradigm is for development of web apps. We are going from a request, response standard web application to applications utilizing the offline capabilities of HTML5.

      Here are a few links to some of the evangelists in this area:

      Say Hello to Offline First

      Offline First: Your Next Progressive Enhancement Technique?

      Best regards

      Njål

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      1. John Patterson

        Hi Nijal

        Very timely blog and conversation above.

        I am getting a number of requests from customers around replacing aging legacy ‘rugged device’ SAP solutions, solutions built on top of IDoc’s, Terminal Emulation, ITS even DCOM Connector with a view to replacing the old technologies with something like SAPUI5, noting wrong with the process, just hard to support technologies. My current project has me investigating using RhoElements API’s which is kind of like PhoneGap for rugged devices with SAPUI5 an area i believe Neptune is familiar with.

        Often the investigation leads to build vs buy discussion. For example SAP has recently released the new version of Syclo Inventory Manager, I know nothing about it other than it now provides a lot more integration with the Extended Warehouse Management Module, this area has traditionally been a mixture of bespoke and non SAP commercial solution, and a white space for SAP.

        I see vendors of COTS solutions like SAP Syclo for example leading discussions with Offline is a must!  And on the surface for many scenarios it does appear a necessity, but to me using something like a MEAP in most cases is overkill, often a  big solution looking to solve very small problems.

        Given your experience in this space, how much offline is needed? you said you thought it wasnt needed before, what problems are being solved, are they technical or process or both, and given the limitations of working with the browser, capacity, sync etc. what is best done where, native – hybrid- browser/industrial browser.

        I think this is a very interesting topic, one that many customers are having, and definitely timely with offline capability being added to Fiori apps just round the corner.

        Cheers

        jsp

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        1. Njål Stabell Post author

          Hi John,

          We have done several implementations with older Motorola Devices and RhoElements. In those cases we have used pure HTML5 as SAPUI5 requires more memory than those devices can handle.

          We see a trend where customers are replacing their old Rugged Windows based devices with either new Android versions (Such as the MC40) or use tablets with Bluetooth scanners or iPods with scanner solutions such as products from Linea-Pro. These new devices are cheaper than the traditional Rugged ones and you can run UI5 on them. So I would strongly advice you (Your customers) to consider replacing the Windows Embedded or CE devices!

          One of our partners have created a fantastic WM template based on Neptune and UI5 if your customers want to have a ready made solution. You can have a look at the documentation here:

          S5 Consulting | Neptune Software

          Regarding offline support I think we owe the people that have struggled with browser based ITS (and the horrors of LM00) a more robust solution (Imagine doing 80% of your inventory counting and then loose your data due to a dead zone).

          The idea behind offline first design is to have a working solution even without network but you don’t need the entire SAP database locally. As a general rule you should not update master-data offline for obvious reasons and also be careful when changing existing transactional data. The new offline support we introduced with UI5 and Neptune where you cache the UI5 models locally has changed my view on creating applications that have offline capabilities. Not only is it fast to implement but you also reduce the memory usage of the SAP server drastically as you have full control over the requests to the server. Another major advantage compared to other solutions is that you don’t replicate SAP data to a third party solution.

          Hopefully we will have the opportunity to discuss this topic over a beer at Dcode LV if you are attending this year:-)

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          1. John Patterson

            Hi Njål,

            Thanks a lot for the reply and the advice on ‘Rugged Devices’, will definitely be doing some prototyping before ordering.

            The S5 SAP Warehouse Management solution looks really good, very impressed, how does it look on a smaller screen, would be interested in seeing similar screenshots on a device.

            I have been to a number of talks recently on Offline First!, and have road tested both Hoodie and PouchDB with UI5 with varying success, as you point out above care is needed when updating master and transaction data, simple gets complicated quickly. One of the areas that really looks promising (literally) is The ServiceWorker it has a lot of cool features, pity it that we will have to wait a while before we see it fully supported in standard browser.

            Looking forward to catching up and discussing over a beer or 2 at DCode Vegas. JSP

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