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First Week with HANA Cloud Portal & Application Development

Even though I had a trial account on HANA Cloud Platform, it was was recently I got a chance to work closely on HANA Cloud Portal and understand its architecture. I developed and deployed a couple of SAPUI5 applications on HANA Cloud Portal (HCP) and I must say, I have enjoyed the process. I don’t think there is any need to write an article or a blog post on how to develop your first HCP application. There is an official documentation that can help you develop your first application – SAP HANA Cloud Platform Deploying SAPUI5 application isn’t very different either.

Recently, I participated in some discussions on HCP, Client Perspective, and Future Opportunities in HCP. One question that was posed almost all the time was how different HCP is compared to traditional enterprise portal and what other or additional capabilities HCP has to offer? I will try to list out my understanding on this question and what is that clients are expecting out of HCP.

1. Why HCP, Why not Traditional Portal?

Both are different products and HCP isn’t a replacement of traditional portal. At least, it doesn’t look like at this time. HCP is lean and fast. Traditional portal cannot beat HCP on this point and HCP wins just on this. Though it looks like HCP is more of a content oriented portal that helps you build event sites in no time. In fact, you can build sites even with trial account. Traditional portal does not offer this feature and experience cannot be match even with Web Page Composer.

On the face value, if you intend to build sites that focus mainly on content that is both static & dynamic, then HCP is the best choice. Let us not be tempted to think that when it comes to enterprise content, traditional portal is the best choice. HCP widgets is a promising area and there is a lot of scope to integrate enterprise applications by building enterprise UI5 apps and using them as a widget.

Role based application access, authorizing, and SAML 2.0 based SSO are sufficient to manage security and I feel HCP is safe to use even for public cloud access.

2. Is HCP only meant to build sites?

No! Plain and Simple. Though there are not many use cases on building custom widgets and integrating enterprise applications with HCP, I think HCP is capable to match traditional portal experience. One of the grey areas is managing Identity Providers (IDP). By default, HCP support SAP ID Service that uses SCN user store. But we can use custom IDPs such as LDAP or Active Directory. I also read that we can create local IDP, but I am not too sure about how to do that. If anybody knows that, I’d be happy to learn.

One major advantage that HCP offers is that you can get started & publish sites in no time. You don’t need BASIS to install Software. Simply register on HANA Cloud Platform, and start developing applications. This is great in my opinion.

3. What I’d like to know more about?

I did not find any clear documentation on integrating 3rd party applications that do not comply same origin policy. I’d also like to learn more on how can I use a custom IDP with my site or custom application? I only have trial account at this time and it looks like I cannot do much with trust, authentications, and roles with the trial account. I tried generating trust certificates that can be used for SAML SSO, but the link “Generate Meta-Data” was disabled. From the documentation, it looks like I cannot work on identity federation without this file. Is there is a way out, I’d love to hear about it.

Working with application roles is also another area that isn’t given access to trial accounts. I defined custom roles for my applications in Web.xml, but I could not find any of those roles in the Roles section of my HANA Cloud Cockpit.

4. Application Development

Though there is an official document available that will guide developers to build “Hello World” application, but I feel there is a scope of improvement. In one of the official documentation, I read that you need to Install SDK, whereas, you don’t really have to INSTALL an SDK. If extracting SDK is installing then I agree, otherwise not. There are 3 flavors of SDK available and initially I got really confused which SDK I really need to develop my first applications. It looks like you can download any of these 3 SDKs and everything will work well. You need SDK only at the build time when you configure SAP HANA Cloud Server. This is just one time activity and you don’t have to do this again.

When I was deploying my 2nd application, I learned that trial account allows only ONE active application and I must stop 1st application. However, I randomly experienced deployment errors. Sometimes, deployment simply halts at 8% and I cannot do anything about it. When I re-start eclipse, & manually click on Start server, I could deploy the application. Apart from this, there isn’t anything complicated. Once deployed, applications can easily be integrated as a widget on HCP with a URL widget.

Thoughts at the end of first week

HCP is loaded with capabilities that are yet to be discovered. I think HCP has huge potential and  it can revolutionize portal offerings. It is just a matter of time when clients, and organizations understand this and start moving to HCP aggressively. Please note, I haven’t taken the cost associated with HANA Cloud Platform before coming to this conclusion. That might be a major point, but as a developer or consultant who has worked on every SAP Portal version from 5.0. to 7.4, I find HCP a great product to work with. What I love is its speed and that makes me want to work more with HCP. I hope to learn more on HCP capabilities, IDP, SSO and so on in coming weeks, but at this moment, HCP looks impressive.

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