an ABAPer’s journey to Netweaver CE (#2)

Let me give you an update on my journey onto pastures greener that are the SAP Netweaver Composition Environment (CE). If you’ve missed the first part of this series, go, go, go and catch up now!

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”, Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time in SAP’s own Enterprise Services Workplace on SDN, which is a pretty good resource to look through SAP’s latest enterprise service offerings. It’s actually more than that: it’s THE place where you can find up-to-date info on documentation for services which you deem appropriate for consumption or exposure in your own landscapes. On their SDN website, the ESW is described as follows: “The ES Workplace is the central place to view consolidated information about all available Enterprise Services delivered by SAP.”. Fair dos.

You can install an ES Repository yourself, but chances are you’re not always on the latest release, so checking the ESW is always a good way to see what’s around the corner.

Now you would think that the ESW gives you an easy overview of the services on offer, describing to you exactly what each service does (especially when you compare them to each other). You would probably also think that the ESW gives you a nifty little search engine which enables you to sieve through the 2000+ services and get what you want quickly.

Well, things have definitely improved and especially the testing part of the service (against SAP’s own Discovery System, ie an ECC app stack) is much better now. However much is still left to be desired as far as documentation, search facilities and test harness is concerned. Oh, and while I’m at it: don’t even think about opening up the ESW in browsers such as Firefox, Safari or Opera.

Luke Skywalker

It simply looks to me as if these services have been arranged in such a way so they fit well together with SAP’s module documentation and education plans. This doesn’t always sit in line how other consultants look for services.

In contrast, here is the way how I approach a service from a developer’s perspective: I know I want to create a sales order in a backend system. From my old BAPI days I remember that I need a few parameters to feed the service in order to get order processing going without those elusive error messages. You can find the “Sales Orders Create” service easily enough, but of course that’s only part of what’s needed. If you’re looking around for services to find sales organisations, sales groups, divisions et cetera, you’ll be surprised how difficult it can be to get the information out of the backend that you’re looking for. Bottom line for me is: finding the services you require and testing them is still far from easy.

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny”, Yoda (Star Wars)

Now as a developer there is an underlying danger in all this. Let me tell you what this is: The more time you spend looking for those services and collecting your data, the more you’re inclined to log into the backend using SAP GUI, enter the letters “S-E-8-0” into the top left of the screen and create a little remote-enabled function module, expose it as a web service (using a wizard) and get those pesky sales order related details out of the ERP system. Even worse, you’re even contemplating copying a SAP standard function module to extend it so it does what you want it to do. Do not give in to the powers of the dark side….

Now can I just say one thing here: I bet there are other ways to retrieve data out of the backend system. Whilst I love to hear about them, all I want to illustrate here is that I’m currently on a long journey during which I will learn how to find the services I require quicker and get the backend to do what I want it to do. The benefits will be that the customer I work for have systems that need less support and testing after an upgrade, because services to external systems are provided via standard services which are constantly updated and maintained by SAP.

However a little help from SAP by making the ESW easier to use wouldn’t go amiss!


an ABAPer’s journey to Netweaver CE

SAP Mentor Yoda

SAP Mentor Yoda

“You must unlearn what you have learned.”, Yoda (Star Wars)

Heeding Yoda’s advice, I’m currently in the process of unlearning some (but by far not all!) of the skills I’ve acquired over the years as SAP Development Consultant. During the past 11+ years, I’ve developed a lot of my applications within the ABAP stack, mostly for use within SAP GUI, sometimes within a browser.

Now, to some of you this might sound a bit pretentious, but I wanted to do something new and different! SAP ERP products are great but not perfect. I spent over a decade performing ABAP and config work in order to mold SAP ERP systems into a shape so they do exactly what a business wants. Make no mistake, these years were very valuable for me and my backend expertise is going to come in very handy in my new job. But I wanted to get out and explore, see what’s beyond and discover pastures new.

Over the years I’ve brought a lot of help and value to businesses with my ABAPs and web apps, but it always entailed changes or enhancements within the ERP core system. Sometimes these changes were not easy to make, as end users wanted to keep their system as free of customisation as possible, fearing problems and endless regression tests further down the line.

Moreover, before ABAP OO came along, reusability of development components (DCs) was merely restricted to INCLUDEs and Function Modules. Thankfully this has all changed now. But let’s face it: adoption of ABAP OO based development principles is still not a reality in every SAP development team. Things have definitely improved, but it’s far from being fully adopted.

Enter Composition Environment, Netweaver Developer Studio, Composite Application Framework, Visual Composer, Guided Procedures, Enterprise Services Builder and all these other tools & repositories of a new service-oriented world that is Enterprise SOA. My new world. “The other side of the pond”, as I call it.

“Rest, Neo. The answers are coming.”, Morpheus (The Matrix)

However all these new tools can be quite daunting for a SAP Development Consultant who in the past usually spent most of his time using one single development workbench: SE80. In addition to new tooling and code syntax (Java), a CE development consultant also needs to understand the landscape far better than an ABAPer. It comes with the territory: if you want to build apps that link systems and leverage services then you surely have to know your backend from your Java stack from your Dev Studio. Simple as that.

If you’re an experienced ABAPer then you must expect to be out of your comfort zone (aka ABAP Development Workbench) once in a while. Books, TechEd videos, Tutorials, SAP help and helpful colleagues are hopefully at the ready to make the transition easier for you. Benefits you can reap from the learning process are more DC reusability, agile and flexible development, modern development tools and many, many more  (at least that’s what I hope for!). Imagine to cut down development time and deliver solutions to end users at a much faster pace than what you’re used to in SAP Land. Isn’t that worth the effort?

At this point I would also like to divert your attention to my CompriseIT colleague Tom Scaysbrook’s blog “Journey into SAP”, another great read in the CE arena and beyond.

So what are my observations so far?

  • I think that my background in SAP’s web app offerings and ALE/IDOC are a distinct advantage when it comes to understanding services, protocols, MVC paradigm, Object Orientation and parts of the new tooling. So if that’s your background, great.
  • Here’s the frustrating bit: most CE tutorials on SDN are out of date. Details in the tooling have changed in CE, disadvantage being that screenshots and descriptions have you got your head scratching more than once. It sometimes happens to me that I spend more time looking for a button or a tab than I actually need to complete the tutorial. CE consultant Thorsten Franz has also emphasized this on SDN some time back in 2008 in more detail.
  • diggin deeper: I was curious and had a look at the ABAP coding behind a web service for “sales order management” and was surprised. I guess my expectation was to see a lot of wrapped BAPI calls, but instead I found a lot of usage of the MV45A screen modules (even FCODEs). Very interesting to see how it was done though. Learning how to use BAdIs to enance web services is high on my agenda.
  • another perspective: another thing that I find fascinating is the Composite Application Framework. It is integrated into the NW Developer Studio and enables you to write your own CAF services but also define your own structures and data tables. Storage of data (or “persistence” as it is called) is all dealt with by the framework (which is nice!). The topic of “data storage in backend or CAF – pros and cons” will surely tempt me to a blog post in the future.


TechEd Berlin 2008 roundup

Now that I’m back home from TechEd Berlin 2008 let me try to describe the experience. Berlin itself is summarised very well in the following lines by the German Punk Band Ideal.

“Zweiter Stock, vierter Hinterhof, neben mir wohnt ein Philosoph. Fenster auf, ich hör’ Türkenmelodien, ich fühl’ mich gut, ich steh’ auf Berlin!

“Second Floor, fourth backyard, next door lives a philosopher. Windows are open, I hear turkish melodies, I feel great, I love Berlin.

Ideal, Berlin

Community Day

In the weeks prior to the event, I found it hard figure out if the additional time spent at SDN Community day would be worthwhile spent. In the end, I decided to go for it and participate – mainly down to many recommendations from other SDNers and people I follow on Twitter. So now that the TechEd lies behind me what’s my verdict? Well, how right were they! Community day for me was a perfect opportunity to meet some of the most talented and knowledgeable SAP developers out there. I wish more developers out there in the trenches of SAP Land could see this – it would certainly blow a lot of those cobwebs away that SAP development can be shrouded in sometimes. Community Day is a meeting point for multipliers and disruptive developers – overused words, I know, but in this case certainly the right description.Whilst TechEd enables you to look beyond your own development landscape, Community Day in addition gives it a completely new dimension. I attended sessions on building RIA’s using WebDynpro ABAP, Flash Islands and Floorplan Manager (SAP’s unfortunately named Web UI configurator) held by Rich Heilman, Thomas Jung and Dan McWeeney. In the evening we had even more chances to chat, network and drink at a bash in the Berlin Radio Tower (Funkturm), an excellent venue for an event such as this – and a great way to end SDN Community Day.


The keynote was disappointing – a speech by a leading SAP software architect (instead of co-CEO Leo Apotheker) might have fitted the bill (and expectations!) better. I was lucky enough to be offered a seat right in front row – I think there were a few gaps that needed to be filled. To my surprise there was no “Ask the Execs” session. We were given no explanation as to why none of the submitted videos were shown. To be honest I wasn’t expecting my video to be shown anyway, as it was fairly critical of TechEd admittance fees.

Hands-On Sessions

Given the sheer number of available 2 and 4 hour hands-on sessions, I think only 2 pre-bookable hands-on sessions are not enough. Enabling attendees to book 4 sessions ahead of TechEd might be better. Logistically this would obviously quite a feat for the organisers.


I’ve mentioned this already in a chat I had with Craig Cmehil: I think 4 weeks to make use of your SAP Certification discount is not enough. Why not extend this time span to say 6 months?

RIA Hacker Night

I used RIA Hacker Night to catch up with even more interesting people from SAP Dev Land (and beyond) and as lucky enough to win a Adobe Flex Pro SDK incl book.

Web Dynpro and ABAP

Anyone who still claims after this convention that ABAP is on its way out (SearchSAP, can you hear me?) has to have a serious problem. I attended 2 WDA sessions, one of them an update on the WDA dev stack and the other one about WDA and Enhancement Framework, which opened an entirely new perspective to me, because so far I never thought about changing SAP standard WDA applications (as there aren’t that many!). WDA integration into the Enhancement Framework has been executed well and will on one hand give consultants a lot of flexibility and relieve end-users from painful upgrades on the other.


A 1 hour session on RIAs (Rich Internet Apps) and RCAs (Rich Client Apps) and how they fit into SAP’s GUI strategy turned out to be a very valuable one. I’ve heard about Business Client before and it was good to hear a little bit more about it. We were assured that BC will not replace SAP GUI, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this would change over the coming years. It was also interesting to learn a little bit more about RCA and RIA dev apps from Adobe – Flex and Air. During RIA Hacker Night I even managed to win a Adobe Flex Development Pro SDK and a Flex Book ! No more excuses… SOA and

Composition Environment

During Community Day I attended Owen Pettiford’s (founding member of BPX network) interesting SOA session. He talked about the framework and approach he uses in his daily work. I like his approach to deal with small “pains” first, keeping it simple and making use of existing, perfect systems by bringing them together with SAP Composition Environment, for example. Inspired by this, I decided to learn more about CE on Community Day. I might be way off here and there is lots more to get into, but especially in the current economic climate CE might play a larger role in the short to mid term.


I attended a 1 hr session on Atlantic’s state of play – a joint development venture between SAP and IBM. A lot of my clients use Lotus Notes and have asked me many times about planed or existing interfaces and integration between these two worlds. The presented product hinges on Notes 8.02 as installed base and enabled SAP workflow integration into a Notes context (not vice versa). The usual holiday or Purchase Order Approval apps were demoed – no surprise there. I have to say though that the 2 presenters from SAP and IBM weren’t exactly “geling” – which may or may not say a lot about the cooperation. I can’t help but thinking that IBM needs this project more than SAP does.

TDMS (Test Data Migration Server)

As I’ve been involved in many data migration projects in the past I decided to learn more about this product (I didn’t even know it existed). TDMS provides a fairly lightweight migration server that lets you specify business objects and Z tables that you want to migrate. Several migration scenarios (timeslice or object related, for example) can also help in keeping your dev and QA enviroments in a healthier data state – always a winner in my book. According to other consultants I spoke to it seems to come with a hefty price tag (depending on your db size), but I’d hazard a guess that you could recoup your investment within 6-12 months. A very interesting session, which was slightly marred by a very arrogant presenter.

general observations

  1. Mac Books, Mac Book Pros, iPhones… Thanks to Boot Camp and Parallels Apple products have certainly hit the SAP community. Three years ago in Vienna I remember being the only one with a Mac at SAP TechEd – someone actually saw me getting out my Powerbook and commented: “At least one person with a REAL computer at this convention !”.
  2. describing Berlin ICC as a “starship” is well deserved and apt. I still get lost in the vaults of this monster of a building whilst trying to find my way to “Lecture Hall 1” (or was that Room 5?). I think by the time I got to grips with the corrisors and escalators it’s Thursday evening. No, but seriously, I love the ICC and its “starship” style.
  3. No sessions whatsoever on BSP, yet further updates on ITS and ITS Mobile


TechEd Berlin ticked almost all the boxes for me. I’ve enjoyed chatting and mixing with other peers, I liked the workshops and most info sessions.  The organisation and logistical effort (sessions, food, venue, entertainment) spent on it are amazing. TechEd is not cheap and offerings such as the pre-booking of sessions and certification discount could be improved. If I index TechEd Vienna 2005 with 100%, TechEd Berlin 2008 should receive 200%. It was simply that good.