We’ve all been there: systems need upgrading, support is ending, and it can seem like a mountain to climb to get everything moved along. You want to start reaping the benefits that SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) can offer, but you feel like you need to update your backend systems first. I’m here to tell you that you can start to benefit from all that SAP BTP has to offer long before your systems are upgraded.
I’m currently working with a client who has extended their licence with SAP for an older ERP product, as they simply aren’t ready for the transformation for S/4HANA yet. But promises were made to end users for an improved user experience, and with the upgrade being delayed this might have seemed like something else that would also have to wait. Not true: the client has made the decision to start building up their BTP environment, ready for when they do upgrade their backend systems, but also to provide some immediate benefits now.
BTP is a monster
…by which I mean anybody claiming to be a “BTP expert” is a true rarity, as the thing is vast and seemingly endless in its offerings. I only claim to be familiar with a tiny portion of BTP, and even within this I’m constantly discovering new things.
SAP’s RESTful Application Programming model (RAP) enables the quick development of UI5 applications, by allowing the developer to define and annotate their own Core Data Service (CDS) entities. These entities are then exposed though an OData service, and (with the right, clever annotations) this service can be used to generate the entire front-end Fiori-style application.
(Side note: As an SAPUI5 developer this saddens me just a little as I love writing applications from scratch and having full control over every aspect of the UI, but even I can see the immense benefit of this approach when it comes to quickly churning out factsheet and transactional applications.)
By default, we associate RAP with S/4HANA (or at least I do!) but within BTP you have access to its own ABAP Environment (known as “Steampunk”) where you can develop your RAP applications, even if your backed SAP system’s ABAP version would be too low to do such a thing. Yes, you will need to write an interface layer between Steampunk and the data in your backend system, but the “heavy lifting” can be done in the RAP layer, making a few “light weight” remote function calls (RFCs) to the backend, and handling the responses accordingly.
On a technical note, all development for Steampunk can be done in the Eclipse IDE using the “ABAP for Eclipse” plugin. This is a more modern and friendly way of doing development compared with SAP GUI (which of course we all know and love, but also realise is somewhat a relic of the past!)
Where an application needs development “from scratch” we have Business Application Studio (BAS) on BTP which is an IDE based on VS Code which runs in the browser, enabling you to build and test your applications, with next to no set-up quickly and easily.
More often than not when we are developing Fiori-style applications we are accessing them via tiles in a Launchpad. The application itself can be “wrapped up” as an MTA (Multi Target Application) and deployed directly to SAP Cloud Foundry, the home for all applications on BTP. Not only UI5 applications are deployed here, at my previous client they deployed a docker container to Cloud Foundry which contained a UI application as well as node layer and much more.
Connecting BTP to backend systems could not be simpler
You install the SAP Cloud Connector on a server inside of your network (where it can “talk” to your internal systems) and then “point” this to your BTP account. Authorisation is (usually) then set-up using Principal Propagation for your Single Sign On (SSO), allowing users to log into BTP with, say, their email address. This is then mapped to their users in SU01 of the backend system(s), meaning they don’t need to authenticate again against every data system which BTP interacts with.
It would be easy to get carried away into a great level of detail on each paragraph I’ve written above so far, but since there are many wonderful articles already out there with the details of how to do all these things, I’m just giving you the highlights and ideas of things to search the web for next!
The point I hope I have made in this short article is that it’s never too soon to start adopting SAP BTP and linking it up with whatever systems you do have, to begin to get yourself and your business ready for the future. The other take-away from this article is, I hope, that BTP is vast, complex and (seemingly) ever expanding. In the past 10 years I’ve gone from become aware of HCP (HANA Cloud Platform) and then SCP (SAP Cloud Platform) as it was known back then, to now where most of my work is based on BTP.
Lindsay Kelly – BTP Consultant (Associate) at Aliter Consulting