I’m going to tell you how easily one organization at SAP uses the HANA Cloud Platform – SAP’s cloud solution – to build amazing software. But first, I want to share a little bit of my history with you so that you understand how everything actually came together.
It was near the end of 2012 when I got off the plane in New York City and headed my way to Philadelphia to start an internship with the Global IT Mobile Center of Excellence team. I was still in the middle of my master studies and had an interview with Martin Lang, head of the department, a few months earlier. We were meeting in the training center in Walldorf (building 5) and except for me telling him about my goals, strengths, etc. he just couldn’t stop telling me about all the apps his department had created. For example, he showed me the Asset Tag app, which employees can use to scan any SAP barcode sticker, no matter if it’s on a mobile phone, a desktop or cable, and instantly you can see who owns this equipment, where it belongs and so on; instantly, and from anywhere in the world. He was really excited about the work and the team, and so was I.
The question was: What should be my part in this department? I had never done any iOS or Android development. I was feeling home in the web technology area but also had a great deal of backend knowledge and wanted to apply it somehow.
So I started my internship in Philadelphia, and it was shortly before Christmas when John Astill, at that time a member of Martin’s team, approached me and told me about this NetWeaver Cloud thing. Basically AWS or Microsoft Azure, but just from SAP. I’ve never developed in the cloud before, so you can imagine that I was a little hesitant in the beginning. Well, John isn’t the type of guy who takes a “maybe”. He gave me an example project, developed by Julia Lakatos and Johannes Riedel, a simple chat app called “Twaddle“. It was a prototype for testing Apple push notifications in the cloud (developed in Java) – and as you can imagine, it worked. He said I should just start on that and get familiar with the workbench.
That’s when the magic happened: I installed the NetWeaver Cloud tools on my Eclipse, imported the “Twaddle” project, and that was it – I was already able to deploy an application to the cloud with a few mouse clicks. I was stunned. I mean, I had developed for SAP and other companies before, and usually you first have to setup a server environment, configure it, no matter which technology and then you somehow need to have a process so that your files get transported to the server (or at least need to upload it via ftp). And now this: Right-click: Deploy. Right-click: Restart. That’s it, that’s all.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the cloud.
Literally deploying an application in the cloud at 39,000 feet.
Since then, a lot has happened. SAP renamed NetWeaver Cloud to HANA Cloud Platform, and started rolling out new features on a biweekly basis. After my internship, I finished my master thesis with the other half of Martin’s team in Germany. Since 2014 I have been a full time employee and proud to be part of Martin’s organization. The team has become so big that it actually had to be split up into two departments: IT Enterprise Mobility and IT Platform Center of Excellence, lead by Florian Heretsch. Former Sybase colleagues from Dublin, California (lead by Lisa Brown) have joined our team as well and develop apps with us together.
Today almost every backend we use for our mobile apps runs on HANA Cloud Platform. Right now, we get 44.000+ unique users every month (inside SAP!) with almost a quarter of a million hits. And we get more every month.
On the HANA Cloud side, a lot of things have changed, improved and been introduced. HANA Cloud now offers a lot of different services, like a persistence service for data storage, a document service for file storage, and so on. Right now, there are more than 20 services you can instantly use by using HANA Cloud Platform. Also, the community has grown a lot. You can find tons of resources, articles, blog posts and support about how to develop applications on HANA Cloud. But once you have started developing an application, deployed it to the cloud, and want to become more serious, the next important question comes to your mind:
How do you do the operations in the cloud?
Just developing an app and deploying it to the cloud isn’t something you would call a rock-solid operations concept. There is no quality control, no testing, no security checks, nothing. Nevertheless, we are still using HANA Cloud Platform on a daily basis. So how do we do it?
The magic words here are: Continuous Integration. We managed to find a really good way to work together across countries and across time-zones by using Git and GitHub. We drive a test-first approach in development to ensure high code quality. We have automated builds by using a Bamboo build server so that we can test the latest code anytime we want. And we even managed to have a 3-tier landscape in the cloud with defined access rights and 24/7 support.
The great part here is: Even though we started implementing processes and defined workflows, everyone is still happy. It’s special, because creating and following processes usually isn’t something that is related to happiness. Our developers are happy, because they are still very flexible and have all the tools they need to be productive and to roll out new software very fast. Our managers are happy because they get really early results and can immediately see how an app is going to look (by using a scrum-like agile development approach). And most important, our users are happy, because they get good, solid software that is always accessible from anywhere in the world.
So, if you are interested in learning how we do it, how we do development and operations, and how you can do this in your organization, then join us at TechEd in Barcelona! As Business Innovation & IT some of our team, including Martin Lang and myself, will be there. We will show you how we use HANA Cloud Platform and other productive tools in our daily work to do what we do best: Building great software – in the cloud. We’re looking forward to meeting you!