App generator: SAP NetWeaver Gateway
Creating apps and sending SAP data anywhere – that’s what SAP NetWeaver Gateway is designed for. The standalone version, set for release in Q2 2011, uses (Web) standards and enables developers to use their own native environments.
The name SAP NetWeaver Gateway may have only just debuted at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011, but the focus of the technology formerly known as Project Gateway remains the same: facilitating rapid, user-friendly development of apps that support every device and platform.
SAP NetWeaver Gateway is a technology designed to reach a wide audience of developers, as programming with it requires no ABAP or BAPI skills. Plus, its use of common (Web) standards makes data from the SAP back end available everywhere. Version 0.5 of the technology was already released (see the article “Two-Minute Apps”) as part of Duet Enterprise, the collaboration software SAP developed in cooperation with Microsoft. Version 2.0, meanwhile, is the standalone product that was presented at SAPPHIRE.
Read on for a look at what SAP NetWeaver Gateway will offer upon its Q2 2011 release and what future innovations are planned.
Structure and functions
Since SAP NetWeaver Gateway is designed to support rapid development and ease of use, every application created with it should focus on a clearly defined business requirement while integrating the corresponding business data and processes. SAP’s technology generates the objects required based on aggregated data drawn from various SAP systems and other sources, and transfers information between user and SAP applications using a REST-based standard.
In addition to REST services, SAP NetWeaver Gateway utilizes Atom and OData 2.0 as its transfer protocols, which also support SAP-specific notes. The technology’s model repository makes it possible to save, search for, and call up analysis models following their creation, and a push channel supplies developers’ apps with information from SAP systems, which can then be transferred, for example, to an e-mail client.
Meanwhile, SAP has set its sights on establishing an ecosystem with enough expertise to meet its customers’ needs from day one. To this end, the company has joined forces with Capgemini, CompriseIT, intelligence, and Software AG to found the Design Partner Council.
An independent life cycle
To keep the respective life cycles of apps and the corresponding back end separate, SAP NetWeaver Gateway also includes an “abstraction layer.” As such, updates, upgrades, and new releases on one side won’t require adjustments on the other. Since the technology is an ABAP platform add-on, most SAP Business Suite customers – as well as those on SAP R/3 4.6C and later – will be able to use it.
Development made easy
As an additional advantage, those who develop their apps with SAP NetWeaver Gateway will be able to use more or less whatever integrated development environment they choose. SAP also plans to offer optional plugins that will make it easier to incorporate Visual Studio, Apple’s Xcode, and Eclipse. In addition to Xcode, the technology is to support Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry devices, as well as the Web frameworks .NET, Ruby on Rails, PHP, and ASP.NET. It also includes an object- and screen-based generator that will enable developers to reuse models they program just once on other end-user devices – without further coding. Preconfigured models, meanwhile, will map objects from SAP ERP and SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), and runtime services will support IT engineers with regard to security, monitoring, and administration.
At SAPPHIRE NOW 2011, SAP demonstrated five apps created with SAP NetWeaver Gateway:
Generating leads through social media:
The company Asian Paints uses an app created with SAP NetWeaver Gateway to analyze Twitter, Facebook, and other social media portals based on keywords. The results flow into SAP CRM in the form of leads, which enables the company to take immediate action – by tweeting offers to potential customers, for instance. The information Asian Paints gathers can also be used in sales promotions, marketing, and finding out what customers think of its products. And here’s the kicker: A developer created the app on his own in just two weeks.
Assembling project teams:
A staffing app based on Adobe Flash retrieves information on projects and resources from SAP systems and uses a mapping function to compare it against employee profiles, thereby assembling suitable project teams. The resulting data then flows back into the SAP systems in question. This app took just three weeks to implement.
Mobile public administration:
Another of the apps presented directly connects citizens with their community’s public services. For issues regarding accidents, waste disposal, or vandalism, users can call up the app and get in touch with city hall. The photos, location-based information, and descriptions they provide immediately tell their city’s officials where something needs to be done. The app also employs push notifications to let concerned citizens know when each issue has been addressed. In this case, Xcode was the development environment used.
An app developed in .NET provides sales personnel with information on customers’ preferences (with their consent, of course) using facial recognition software that will be familiar to anyone who frequents Facebook. Along with their social media profiles, the app displays data on customers from SAP CRM, and every customer visit is also fed back into SAP CRM in lead form.
Employees in the field:
The fifth of these apps enables field sales employees to compare their current location against a list of customers who live in the area. SAP CRM then tells them when the customers last made a purchase, along with what they bought. An interface to SAP StreamWork also makes it possible to access documents on past interactions with each customer – revealing how satisfied they were with the service, example. The app runs on HTML5 and took just a week and a half to create.
SAP NetWeaver Gateway & Duet Enterprise
As part of Duet Enterprise, the current version of SAP NetWeaver Gateway (0.5) links SAP software to Microsoft Office and SharePoint. Meanwhile, feature pack 1 for Duet Enterprise 1.0 – scheduled for release in the second half of 2011 – is to incorporate version 2.0 of the technology. One of the goals of this move is to enable the numerous developers who use .NET to access SAP applications through SAP NetWeaver Gateway. A Windows Azure SDK for the technology is also planned, which will give .NET developers the ability to create cloud-based applications without leaving their preferred development environment.
SAP NetWeaver Gateway & SAP middleware
How does SAP NetWeaver Gateway relate to SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management, and Sybase Unwired Platform? For applications that are too complex for the technology described here, SAP still recommends the use of enterprise services. For instance, SAP NetWeaver PI offers further functions for A2A and B2B integration – albeit at a higher cost of development and maintenance. SAP NetWeaver BPM, on the other hand, aids in modeling, executing, and monitoring business processes. SAP also plans to connect the component to SAP NetWeaver Gateway.
Since SAP NetWeaver Gateway is not designed exclusively for solutions at the mobile or enterprise level, its pending integration with Sybase Unwired Platform is of particular significance. In the future, the technology will serve as a link between the platform and SAP back-end systems. While it already offers comprehensive mobile enterprise functionality – including multiple-device management, device and data security, connections to further data sources, and offline support – the platform will also be able to access SAP Business Suite through SAP NetWeaver Gateway following a planned update later this year.