My takeaways from SAP TechEd 2018
I was recently at SAP TechEd Barcelona and in this blog post I would like to share my thoughts and touch upon all the new and exciting announcements related to SAP Cloud Platform (SAP CP).
Unlike the previous years, there was no movie-take off during the keynote nor did I see Ian Kimbell with his magical demos – but I witnessed a very inspiring keynote from Bjoern Goerke & team. Bjoern shared his dream of being an astronaut and encouraged everyone to think big, remain curious and reach out to their passion. The keynote included a series of demos which articulate how SAP can help deliver “The Intelligent Enterprise” to support the business challenges around a fictional space agency.
The Intelligent Enterprise:
There are 3 components to SAP’s strategy of delivering an Intelligent Enterprise.
The Intelligent Suite comprises of the digital core (S4HANA) along with line of business solutions like Ariba, SuccessFactors etc, to form an integrated enterprise which help in delivering an E2E process in an intelligent manner. These systems need to be open and it should be possible to seamlessly execute E2E scenarios across different systems. SAP plans to deliver E2E integrated processes which span across different LoB solutions – For example Lead to Cash.
Embedded within the suite of applications are the intelligent technologies (comprised of AI/ML, IoT and Analytics) which help customers to leverage their own data and detect patterns/ predict outcomes and gain more insights to changing conditions. The Digital Platform facilitates the collection, connection, and orchestration of data. This platform also enables the integration and extension of processes within the Intelligent Suite.
Bjoern also emphasized that Intelligent enterprises differentiate themselves through three key capabilities to achieve game-changing outcomes – visibility, focus, and agility. Learn more about SAP’s Intelligent Enterprise Strategy.
SAP Cloud Platform Private Edition
SAP earlier announced beta program for SAP Cloud Platform private edition at SAPPHIRE. Private edition means selected partners can provision, host, and operate the PaaS according to SAP’s architecture reference model and could offer it as a single tenant to their customers (with additional value adds). SAP expands its ecosystem for SAP CP private edition to include Atos in addition to its established partnership with IBM. The Release-To-Customer (RTC) date is Nov 2018.
If you would like to know more about this offering, you could go through this FAQ.
Last year, SAP joined Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as a platinum member and has since then been contributing to the open source community. At TechEd, SAP announced Kubernetes as a Service to build robust container-native applications which can be easily deployed and managed in a public cloud of choice without having to worrying about the creation and management of the underlying container clusters. This is currently in private beta and general availability(GA) is planned for next year.
This might make people wonder as to what is happening with the Cloud Foundry direction. As most of you might know that SAP started the SAP CP journey on Neo environment (SAP DC) and since last year also started to offer SAP CP on top of Cloud Foundry environment. SAP is also a platinum member in the Cloud Foundry foundation and is one of the largest contributor to the Cloud Foundry open-source code base. This had made it possible for SAP to offer SAP CP on different IaaS providers like Azure, AWS and GCP. Why is SAP now also thinking of Kubernetes? I would recommend you to go through this blog post “Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes – Where do they differ? How do they fit together?” by Sanjay Patil
Kubernetes is already being used internally by SAP to provide services like Data Hub, IoT, Blockchain etc. SaaS applications like Concur have also started to port their applications to Kubernetes. SAP CP will continue to have services in both Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes. Services would be cross consumed between different environments by leveraging a Service Manager.
New serverless offering on SAP CP
SAP CP now includes fully managed services which run in a serverless environment on top of Kubernetes. This helps in building responsive (event-driven) applications. By serverless, we mean that SAP (as a provider) will take care of managing & dynamically scaling the resources required to run these services. Customer would pay only for the resources which are used and not for the idle time. Note that some of the services are still in beta, and hence pricing is not yet available.
The below video explains in simple terms what “Serverless” means.
So where do we use these serverless services. In the keynote, Bjoern emphasized on “Keep the core clean”. When you need to build extensions for your core systems, build responsive apps/micro-services as extensions on the Cloud Platform which listen to events in the core system. These extension apps could then execute certain task and connect with other system. Below are the three services which constitute the serverless services.
- Messaging as a service(MaaS): SAP Cloud Platform Enterprise Messaging (generally available) – Use this service to send and receive messages & events. It supports asynchronous communication between sender and receiver using standard messaging protocols and exchange patterns (such as publish/subscribe)
- Functions as a service(FaaS): SAP Cloud Platform Functions (beta) – Functions are atomic piece of code which can get triggered via HTTP/Timer/Events. Only when the trigger occurs, a function is executed. This has been integrated into SAP WebIDE and developers can use nodejs develop the function.
Here is a blog post which describes more about these services “How to use SAP Cloud Platform Functions and Enterprise Messaging to build agile, responsive applications and “keep the core clean” by Elisabeth Riemann
- Backend as a service(BaaS): SAP Cloud Platform Backend service (beta) – This service enables developers to build OData/RESTful services by providing a data model as input (CDS, openAPI, edmx). The service creates APIs with QCRUD capabilities and the supporting backing services like persistence and caching. Behind the scene, a schema gets generated in the DBaaS (which is bound to the service) and the APIs can be used to create/query entries in the schema.
Here is a blog post which describes more about this service and in which scenarios you would use it “Introducing SAP Cloud Platform Backend service (beta)” by Karsten Strothmann
You can use all these 3 services together or use them standalone depending on your requirement.Here is a blog series which shows how one can architect scenarios using serverless services and Open Connectors “React to events and connect 3rd Party systems using Serverless services & Open Connectors”
These services are in CF Trial landscape and I would encourage you to try it out. Learn more about these serverless service from the SAP Cloud Platform website.
SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory
SAP announced the next evolution of extensions on SAP Cloud Platform – a cloud-native extensibility framework. SAP has customers who have been using SAP CP to extend SAP ERP and other LoB solutions for the last few years. Why do we need this now and where does it come from?
Bit of history – Earlier SAP had YaaS to build extensions for Hybris. It was available on Cloud Foundry, supported pay-per-use model and enabled customers to build cloud native apps based on micro-services. For various reasons, YaaS has now been retired and a new platform was required to support extensions. At this time an open-source project “Knative” initiated by Google in collaboration with Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP was gaining attention. Knative is a kubernetes-based platform to build and deploy serverless workload.
SAP used a private beta version Knative to come up with another open source project called Kyma. Kyma allows one to extend and customize cloud-based and on-premise enterprise applications in a quick and modern way, using serverless computing or micro-service architecture. It comprises of components from other open-source/cloud-native projects – such as Istio, NATS, Kubeless, and Prometheus. Anyone out there can download Kyma and use it to extend SAP solutions.
SAP have taken the concepts/innovations from project Kyma to come up with the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory. This is planned to be made available Q1/2019. Planning is currently underway to determine which components of Kyma will be made available in Extension Factory. As I mentioned in the previous sections, SAP CP have a new set of serverless services (Functions/Messaging etc) and these could very well be part of the Extension Factory. SAP is leveraging Kyma as a ground to prototype new ideas and validate them with the community before moving any required feature to the commercial platform – SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory.
Coming back to the earlier question – What is new here. In addition to the existing SAP CP capabilities, the extension factory now offers the below capabilities which are specifically targeting towards supporting the extension of solutions.
- App registration & connection
- Easy service consumption
- APIs & eventing
You can read more about this from a good blog post “The next evolution for extensions – the SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory” by Rui Nogueira
The benefit of using Extension Factory is that it comes with enterprise support, SLAs, application connectors for SAP solutions (C4HANA, S4HANA, SuccessFactors etc) and the best part is that you can leverage all the existing SAP CP services on the same platform. Extension Factory won’t be sold separately. Customers would be able to pick and choose which services in SAP CP they need for their extension scenario.
Don’t forget to check out the FAQ on Extension Factory.
One of the biggest announcements at TechEd was the general availability of ABAP Environment. This now enables customers to create ABAP applications on SAP CP. Restful ABAP Programming Model (RAP) is a new programming model which has been introduced to develop OData/Fiori Apps on top of the ABAP Environment. There are whitelisted ABAP interfaces which can be used to build REST/HTTP services. The initial release will support S4HANA Cloud customers to extend their solution using ABAP Environment. Later in the year, support for extending on-premise S4HANA system is planned along with code migration tools. This service is currently offered only in AWS Frankfurt DC.
Some may wonder, why is SAP bringing ABAP in the Cloud Platform. This is all about free choice. Developers can continue to use open technologies to build apps on the Cloud Platform and SAP is not making it mandatory to build apps using ABAP. This is a great opportunity for ABAP developers to now get on the Cloud Platform, use their existing ABAP knowledge & learn new things on the Cloud Platform to build cloud applications.
“There is no future with ABAP alone, and there is no future in SAP without ABAP” – Bjoern Goerke
Check out the Announcement & FAQ blog post by Harald Kuck. Keen to find if your custom ABAP code is ready for ABAP Environment, follow this blog post “How to check your custom ABAP code for SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment” by Olga Dolinskaja
SAP Cloud Platform Open connectors
SAP also announced the availability of Open Connectors which provide over 150+ adapters to tap into non-SAP systems. Open Connectors help in bringing together both SAP and non-SAP systems and help in orchestrating processes between these systems. Open Connectors can easily be integrated with existing SAP CP Integration tools to achieve more flexibility when defining integration scenarios.
There are plenty of updates to the Mobiles services in SAP CP. Martin Grasshoff has covered most of them in his blog post “Introducing Additional Mobile App Development Tools“.
- Mobile Service is now available on Cloud Foundry
- SAP Cloud Platform SDK for Android is now generally available. Check out my youtube video on how to use the new Android SDK to build native apps.
- SAP Fiori for Android design language is now available
- Updated SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS 3.0. Check out my youtube video on how to use the updated iOS SDK.
- Mobile Cards are now available for Android in addition to the support for iOS
- Mobile Development Kit is now available for Android in addition to iOS
- Mobile OData Service Generator – Tool to help in generating OData service based on CSDL
- Portal service is now available on Cloud Foundry. Currently available in AWS EU Frankfurt. More info on how to create a portal site has been covered in this blog post “Develop your first SAP Fiori launchpad site with portal service on SAP Cloud Platform Multi Cloud – part 1” by Iris Sasson
- Partnership with LivePerson – Its now easy to integrate LivePerson into your SAP Cloud Platform Portal to offer premium Messaging capabilities which provide an ongoing, continuous conversation with employees & suppliers. More info on SAP AppCenter.
API Management service on SAP Cloud Platform reaches another important milestone. It is now generally available on Cloud Foundry in AWS Frankfurt. This is a great steps towards offering the service on multi-cloud.
Business Services on SAP CP
SAP continues to differentiate itself from other providers by offering out of the box Business services. There were announcements related to offering Master Data as a Service in order to obtain a consistent view of Business Partners across different solutions. This would enable us to maintain/reference a central business partner with information which can be harmoniously used by different solutions in the landscape.
There was also a mention on GDPR related business services like consent management and personal data management which would enable one to build GDPR compliant applications. Stay tuned.
Application Programming Model
Another topic which gained lot of attention is the new Application Programming Model. Well, its not really new – its been there for few months, but TechEd was a great opportunity for developers to get closer to it.
Application Programming Model is a framework of tools, languages and libraries to efficiently develop business services and applications. Its meant to guide developers with a golden path of best practises so that they can focus much of their time with their domain problem rather than technical tasks.
To know more about this Programming Model, I would like to point you to this blog post “Introducing the new Application Programming Model for SAP Cloud Platform” by Daniel Hutzel
If you would like to get started and build applications using this new programming model, DJ Adams has compiled everything for you in his blog post “Application Programming Model for SAP Cloud Platform – start here“.
SAP Fiori 3
SAP Fiori 3 design concepts were released at TechEd. There is a new harmonized design which will appear across all the products with a consistent structure and layout.
In the immediate future, we can expect to see a “Product Switcher” which will enable a user to switch between different sites (product specific home page).
In the roadmap are also plans to arrive at a common data model between different products to provide a consistent integrated UX.
Another interesting update was the release of Fiori Fundamentals. SAP Fiori is no longer tightly bound to SAPUI5. Fiori Fundamental is a light weight presentation layer which can be used with any UI framework (Angular, React etc) of choice to create Fiori like applications. This is currently being incorporated into many SAP solutions including C4HANA. SAP have published specifications as to how each control needs to look like in the github page referenced above.
SAP will continue to invest in SAPUI5 and at the same time is providing a choice to both internal/external teams to offer a consistent Fiori UX using the technology of their choice.There is also some good news for designers as there are plans to provide sketch plugins to design Fiori apps (thereby removing dependency to use BUILD)
You can find more info on this at experience.sap.com.
SAP Screen Personas Cloud Edition
At TechEd, SAP announced the beta program for SAP Screen Personas, Cloud Edition. Rendering of the flavours will be carried out in SAP CP. Customers no loner would need to update the Kernel or apply SAP Notes when they start to use the Cloud Edition. This also provides a faster way for customers to obtain the latest innovations for Screen Personas as all the updates would be applied on SAP CP.
More information on this blog post “TechEd Barcelona – harnessing the wisdom of the crowd on the way to the cloud” by Peter Spielvogel
SAP currently supports Hyperledger fabric & Multichain implementations for Blockchain. SAP is now adding support for Quorum, an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum. Its available for early adopters. SAP also announced the network extensibility service for open business collaboration in order to meet customers specific regional/regulatory requirements. This service enables customers to integrate different blockchain infrastructures seamlessly. This means customers could create a blockchain network with SAP provisioned nodes and connect them with nodes that are available elsewhere on-premise or Cloud.
Five new ML services have been released. You should be able to view them in API Business Hub sometime soon.
- Scene Text Recognition
- Customizable image segmentation
- Customizable text feature extraction
- Cloud text-to-speech by Google
- Cloud speech-to-text by Google
There are plans to offer SAP ML services on Google Cloud Platform by end of this year. This will now enable customers to build enterprise applications using GCP and SAP CP services.
SAP CoPilot & Conversational AI
As most of you would know SAP CoPilot is the digital assistant which is embedded with S4HANA Fiori Launchpad. You can chat with the bot, take screenshots and share with colleagues (in-context chat) and also create business objects. As per the roadmap, CoPilot is planned to be embedded in SaaS solutions like SuccessFactors (already in beta), Concur, Ariba etc.
Beginning of this year, SAP acquired Recast.AI and rebranded it to Conversational AI. Couple of times I have been asked when to use which tool. I found the answers in one of the TechEd sessions. When you look at the CoPilot strategy, it provides a skill builder (on SAP CP) to use pre-delivered skills or create new skills which can be used with SAP solutions. There is also a bot integrator which can connect to other bots like SAP Conversational AI or Watson assistant and integrate them within messaging apps like Slack or MS Teams.
As a thumb rule, when building bots for employees leverage SAP CoPilot to interact with enterprise systems. For external consumer facing bots, use Conversational AI.
Intelligent Robotic Process Automation
SAP enters the market of Robotic Process Automation in a big way. I hear its the first company to provide RPA on Cloud embedded with ML/Chatbots. This is a very exciting announcement as its going to open up more possibilities for automation. Imagine configuring a chatbot which can accept an image of an invoice and it connects to several systems and completes the posting of the relevant data with ease.
Think of ML as the brain of the robot, RPA as the legs/hand which does the manual job and Conversational AI as the interface which receives and dispatches information. Its planned to be made available Q1/2019 starting with a robot infrastructure for cloud and on-premise editions of SAP S/4HANA.
SAP Analytics Cloud
SAP introduced Application Design with SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC). SAC is a great tools for self-service and creating stories. For advanced scenarios, when you want to build corporate applications with predictive/planning capabilities, you can use the Application Design and get your programmers to use Java script to enhance an adhoc story into an actual application. Developers can use the scripting engine and can code the logic against events which would be invoked by users. There are also plans to support SDKs and other visual libraries for developers to further enrich the application.
The general availability is planned sometime soon. So stay tuned.
SAC also provides business contents (analytic contents) for different LoB/Industry solutions. The ecosystem has expanded and we are now getting to see partners like Renew HR, Visual BI etc contributing to the business contents which can be found in SAP App Center.
Lastly, SAP is simplifying the buying process for customers by enabling them to transact online at sap.com to subscribe to these solutions – SAP Analytics Cloud for business intelligence (BI), SAP Analytics Hub, and SAP Digital Boardroom.
These are the key announcements which I was able to capture in the last few days. I am pretty sure I have missed few. Feel free to post them below.
It’s a very interesting period in the SAP Cloud Platform journey and its great to see “openness” as one of the foundations of the platform. Be it Cloud Foundry or Cloud Native Computing Foundation, SAP is playing a significant role and contributing actively. I believe SAP is truly positioned to be a cloud-native company. Whether you are looking to build serverless extension app, Cloud Foundry application or containerized application, SAP Cloud Platform can support by providing a multi-cloud foundation.