A journey in SAP Mobility

May 11th, 2012 admin Posted in Mobile Comments Off on A journey in SAP Mobility

Jan 2012 – As someone from SAP Technology background, I started investigating how I could find a toe hold in Enterprise Mobility. The story below gives the knowledge points and the thought process behind that.

Alright – you are from SAP Technical (say ABAP) and/or Portal background, may know some Java and/or OOP and want to check out mobile development.

You know starting off in iOS development means owning a Mac at the minimum (if not also an iPhone/iPad/iPod) – since the development environments needs iOS. The easy one is going to be Android.

A mobile app is basically an interface to some logic or process. Games, Note taking, browsing is fine for native apps, but when it comes to using Mobile phones for doing work (like work!), it’s going to mean interfacing with the backend systems of a company. So it would mean that the backend enterprise applications would get opened up to be accessed by these devices. The devices have to managed, secured, etc. is one piece; the relevant piece here is what would be the application architecture that would enable this talking of mobile devices to backend applications.

There are hundreds of kinds of enterprise applications, and each would get exposed in some manner. Of course there are standards propping up to help out at the communications layer. Starting our journey to narrowing down our focus on SAP, well, as of Jan 2012 we surely know that SAP would expose its data through Sybase’s SUP (Sybase Unwired Platform) product, and in turn through the SAP NetWeaver Gateway. Suffice it to know for now that data would come in the form is OData and would be read and interacted upon in a mobile device (OData protocol would let you programmatically act on application datasets using specific http commands like PUT, GET, POST, DELETE). SAP’s almost going away from SUP as a middleware is a separate topic in itself – though note that it would still need some configuration on the SUP side.

Exposing the business data and process logic in the right format would happen in the backend SAP using ABAP BAPIs, BOR, RFCs, Class Handlers, etc. (we have known that for a while using Portal, Web Services using SOAP, etc.); however the idea of using this data and creating a mobile app would ideally come down to learning some mobile frontend development and its integration to backend datasources as well (Its perhaps going to be a golden opportunity for developers and architects working at the cutting edge to understand how the different frontend mobile technologies work, and how to call out data from the backend and make sense out of it for the professional Mobile GUI developer).

So, knowing the basic architecture, I arrived at the following straw man approach to learning more, given that you cannot even have evaluation SUP software from Sybase (by the way Google various terms if you want to know more on them):

Understand OData source
Understand (only) how a certain BAPI or Function can be exposed to SAP Gateway to make it into an ODATA source. SAP Gateway, by the way, would be installed on top of your ECC system by Basis.

Find an experimental OData source
There are plenty of free ones available (check Azure); even from SAP, I could find one for using the famous Flight Data example.

Set up your Eclipse IDE with RESTlet API
Understand that SAP Gateway would expose SAP data as OData – it will be consumed using REST (Representational State Transfer). There is an OData SDK that is shipped with SUP. But not having SUP should not be a constraint. A RESTlet api can generate classes from OData that can be further used in mobile app development. Good enough as an example to learn.

Generate Proxy Classes
Generate the proxy java classes from RESTlet for the OData source. Use them in a test Java Main class to ensure this part of the story is in order.

Consume ODdata in an Android App
Next, it could be worth a POC to see how to consume OData in an Android App.

Consume any web data on an Android
In order to know this, understand how to consume RSS, XML or other web data in an Android app. App can be a mobile Web app, or a native App that uses this data. Knowing this can’t hurt.

That brings us to the question as to how to build an Android app.

Use eclipse and the Android SDK to build a test native app – setting up the environment and building a Hello World (it took about an hour or two). And you can run it on the Emulator (not even an Android phone is required). That part was fine. Followed on with building the Note taking app – a tutorial for which was also easily available, but the app itself was complex.

That got me to a point where I felt there would be easier ways to develop Android apps. As I looked online, I found a flood of information on different choices available and it took a while to make any sense out of it. Especially becomes troubling when you see each vendor claiming you can make an App in minutes, while you know that making those two apps in Eclipse was not really that easy and needs quite a bit of development and understanding.

IDE – use Eclipse Indigo, or use Basic4Android IDE or use Sencha

  • Appcelerator Titanium – lets you use Javascript and Html5 to code, but writes an Objective C or Java code that’s loaded up. Bought Aptana also.
  • Phonegap – is Open Source, owned by Adobe – lets you code in Javascript, but runs in a framework in the phone. Integrates with Dreamweaver 5.5.
  • Appmobi – lets you write code online, lets you code in javascript, but runs in a framework in the phone
  • Corona – supports apps for Nook, Kindle Fire amongst other Android and iOS
  • Others like Appgeyser, Mobilenationhq and App Inventor (Google – MIT) let you work online – drag and drop tools – probably of little use in enterprise world

The more I read, the more I got into how to make the apps platform agnostic with respect to Operating Systems (iOS, Android, Windows 7, BlackBerry, Bada, etc.) and also Device agnostic (Phones, Tablets, eReaders, TVs of different specifications and capabilities). The easy answer seemed like use of a Javascript library to leverage advances to HTM5 and CSS3 standards (making it even Browser agnostic). This could make most sense for cost conscious enterprise IT departments (more details on that is a separate topic in itself).
Or it would be for SAP to start closely supporting a couple of approaches, and create tools and processes to support it.

At a tactical level, I veered to the point of view that one really should be learning how to use jQuery for Mobile to create the app on the phone (its more than a web app as it still leverages the camera, the accelerometer, the GPS, etc.). jQuery Mobile seems like most obvious choice as is preferred by MS, Nokia, and even Google (though it also supports GWT). By the way, another competing framework is Ext JS used by Sencha. Yet another is Dojo.

My conclusion for short term is that one could continue coding basic Native app using Eclipse using Java to tie into backend systems. Or it will serve well to understand and know (short of an expert) jQuery Mobile for building end user interfaces that work across devices and platforms. There is an SDK available for JavaScript as well – called OData Javascript Library that could help leverage the SAP ERP data for these web apps.
As far as jQuery for Mobile is concerned, in any case, it will serve well to first understand some nuances of jQuery before one gets into more of the mobile version (I used Aptana Studio to work on it, with some free video tutorials from thenewboston.org). There may be further issues around Single Sign On, security, app provisioning, etc., using jQuery, but I don’t see them as insurmountable.

Not to miss the point, using SAP or Sybase’s SUP 2.1, one only gets code snippets for different platforms that then need to be inserted into a front end development environment of choice to build the final Mobile Apps. Sybase provides only limited front end development tools.

Of course this is one way the journey could have been taken. In mobile world, as you would know as well, there are numerous ways of getting to the same result. Or may be a little different result, but who knows what’s better. And this could just be the one way to learn, and many more could follow.

So that’s how far a week’s journey has taken me thus far.

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SAP Personal Shopping Assistant in Mobile Consumer Retail

October 9th, 2011 admin Posted in Apollo, Mobile Comments Off on SAP Personal Shopping Assistant in Mobile Consumer Retail

икона за подаръкSAP Personal Shopping Assistant is a new breed of mobile retail application designed for the consumer market. Somewhat like iPhone and Android apps like ShopSavvy or RedLaser, but actually a lot more. While these apps sport features for tracking and crowd sourcing deals, finding out price-matching policies at various stores and finding out what store near you has a product in stock., SAP Personal Shopping Assistant provides deep value to interaction between a particular retailer and the consumer.

SAP had earlier this year introduced “Precision Retailing” powered by Apollo – which is at the crossroads of retail and technology.
Apollo completely changes the shopping experience for consumers, and also how retailers and consumer product (CP) companies can use it to influence customers.
The SAP Consumer Mobile Solution is a new offer tailored to the needs of retail and consumer products companies to create interactivity with consumers at the point of decision.

  • To the consumer, Apollo is a personal shopping assistant that delivers rich product information and special offers in real time through mobile phones.
  • To the retailer and CP, Apollo is a marketing tool that enables real time interaction with the consumer at the point of decision to inform and influence consumer behavior, drive traffic and increase average spend. Retailers and CPs are able to interact with consumers in the field, one-to-one, with a very high level of personalization.

The solution has two components: a consumer mobile application connected to a retail/CP marketing content management platform (on-demand application with role-based dashboards). It delivers customer context-specific information and special offers to the consumer both inside and outside the store, and enables the creation of a real-time information-based service covering the entire retail/CP value chain. The areas of focus include social communities, personal shopping assistant and closed loop couponing/special offers.

Unlike other companies that merely broadcast generic information to users, the SAP consumer centric solution ties consumer location and interests, to loyalty programs/buyer history and inventory information to create a personalized shopping experience, thereby maximizing value for consumers and merchants – it delivers true real-time, one-to-one content to the consumer to empower consumers at the point of decision.

Project Apollo leverages existing SAP products such as SAP Real Time Offer Management or SAP Business Object enabling SAP’s customers to interact with their consumers, in ‘real real-time’, with the right information depending on the shopping context.

The Global Business Incubator at SAP is a global organization dedicated to developing innovative businesses targeted at meeting the needs of new market opportunities. Each initiative is structured like a start-up company, consisting of a small team of individuals, responsible for all aspects of the firm – from strategic planning to tactical implementation – for all functional areas. An initiative CTO works with the product management and development teams.подаръци

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Understanding upcoming opportunities in SAP’s mobile play

February 23rd, 2011 admin Posted in Mobile 2 Comments »

почистване“Without Mobile, There Ain’t No Real-Time Enterprise”. Enterprise pundits are only beginning to imagine how mobile will change the game not only in business logistics, but how the entire Human Resources user experience can be revolutionized by mobile. With SAP having the business processes, and Sybase an ace in mobile and network messaging, the most immediate synergy and a profound impact at enterprise level is in making. Mobile 1.0 era thus far has only boosted efficiency. 2.0 will now herald the real-time enterprise.

Know that Sybase primarily does not bring apps to the table, nor the backend. Sybase’s well-honed mobile device management software is the actual differentiator. Sybase’s products ensure that enterprises look at all devices as IP addresses only. The software takes away the burden of handling the different mobile device platforms. What the mobile devices will themselves do is a function of integration with backend, and the ingenuity of the developers who will create the user interfaces.

SAP used Sybase’s mobile platform before it bought the company. This May, the combined company plans to release a system development kit (SDK) for third-party developers and customers to build applications on top of the SAP-Sybase platform. It will “work on all kinds of phones”, and you should not need to write different applications because it’s a different phone. It is designed to connect to other applications, not only SAP applications, but also with Oracle and other competitors’ applications.

However, with this major realignment underway in underlying architecture, there are some clouds over what SAP talks in its documentation and training available today.

Backend data can continued to be consumed by the way of exposed Web Services, or even by use of BAPI’s via JCA. Netweaver Mobile Data Orchestration Engine (DOE) can also be used. However, SAP’s old LMS (Light Mobile Server) technology is giving way to the new SAP Gateway as a backend access tool (Architecturally, LMS, Project Gateway, and even SAP Mobile Connector are similar).
If you want to think in which direction is the momentum – SAP’s NetWeaver Mobile team has moved into the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) team. DOE will be integrated into SUP.

Now, there are two categories of mobile app in the SAP vision:
1. Instant Value
2. Mission Critical

SAP had already designed some sample instant value apps using LMS. However they have recently been rewritten using Gateway and are in beta for some time now:
– Employee Lookup
– Travel Expense Capture
– ERP Sales Lookup
– Mobile StreamWork

Now Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) is a layer between data and its consumption. Some instant Value mobile applications may not need a lot of advanced services offered by Sybase Unwired Platform and they can be written without using Sybase Unwired Platform. However, there will be other Instant Value Mobile Apps that can be written on SUP and SUP will in turn consume SAP data in four different ways, including preferably using Project Gateway. The mission critical apps will likely use more of SUP.
Note that Sybase Unwired Platform can be used to connect to non-SAP data and applications as well. It will act as a synchronization middleware, amongst other things and with functionality like providing security and management (Afaria).

Ultimately, Project Gateway has a very important role to play in making it extremely simple to consume SAP data through any popular environment or device. It is already the key enabling technology for the latest behind SharePoint and Duet Enterprise for Office users to connect to SAP applications (and apparently also for similar access through IBM’s Lotus technology). And Project Gateway technology is forming the underpinning for enabling access to SAP applications through Mobile devices as well. SAP’s plan is to integrate Project Gateway and Sybase Unwired Platform as well as part of their Mobile SDK project (as announced here: http://www.sap.com/usa/about/newsroom/press.epx?pressid=14101).

Sybase mobile SDK includes SUP and the Project Gateway which connects mobile apps to SAP data and processes. It will include server and client APIs, API libraries and development tools build around Eclipse. The SDK will also enable GUI design via HTML5, and offer pre-built HTML5 mobile app templates.

If you are a developer or a system integration organization, get ready for multiple opportunities
(1) Building add-ons to the mobile SDK
(2) Selling analytics apps on SAP’s EcoHub
(3) Build EPM (enterprise performance management) apps linked to SAP
(4) customizing mobile apps – 100% of enterprise customers add customizations to their mobile apps today

Opportunities will be plentiful; what is required is to position ahead of time, both for individuals, and organizations.вик услугиКартиниИдея за подаръкикониikoniикониПравославни иконииконописikoni

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Sybase Mobile Apps for SAP – whats next?

May 12th, 2010 admin Posted in Mobile Comments Off on Sybase Mobile Apps for SAP – whats next?

SAP’s $5.8 Billion purchase of Sybase suddenly brings to focus Sybase as a visionary enterprise mobile apps company, more than just what it is usually known for – a database vendor.
Looking at Sybase from within the SAP world, it looked like a database company that of course no SAP customer uses, and with a couple of mobile apps for SAP. Considering that there are now tens and tens of thousands of mobile apps now being produced by perhaps thousands of small and big companies and even individuals, Sybase’s mobile apps appeared as handiwork of a small group of developers within Sybase. The demo of their app “Mobilizing SAP CRM and Workflow on iPhone” in Teched in Phoenix seemed just like that – just an entry in the Demo Jam (most of the entries are by individual developers). The Jam session highlighted a day in the life of a sales rep using the Sybase Mobile CRM and Workflow for SAP functionality on an iPhone.
Today Sybase only advertises a couple of Mobile scenarios for SAP – Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP® CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite.

And the platforms supported are iPhone, Windows Mobile, and to some extend Nokia Symbian and Blackberry. Support for Android, and even Palm and the new Windows 7 could become critical in coming months.

There is no doubt that as an SAP’s independent business unit, Sybase would now double and quadruple development efforts more SAP scenarios. Which SAP process could become early candidates, it would be interesting to see. Some of the Employee Self Service and Manager Self Service apps could be early candidates, in addition to more robust support for Inbox, Travel and Expense, etc.

It would also be interesting to see how Sybase’s embedded database and Mobile Data Management could be put to even better use, like synching up with some SAP data for the user, and helping even in offline scenarios: if people could do their expense reporting on the phone while sitting in an airplane, they would love it.

Sybase is such an engine with the telecom companies with SMS and MMS, etc. – the old SMS could find an easy application as a notification medium for some workflows.

Sybase has also developed strategic alliances with leading mobility solutions providers, including Apple, Samsung, Verizon and RIM and leading  service providers including Verizon, Orange, and MobiDM – all this could give SAP a decisive edge in getting enterprise data to millions of enterprise users on the move.
Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP® CRM provides anywhere, anytime access to SAP® Customer Relationship Management. It is supported on iPhone and Windows Mobile smartphones, with support planned for additional devices, such as RIM. Remote access to CRM data from mobile device and is fully certified and supported by both SAP and Sybase, and leverages the proven mobile infrastructure strengths of Sybase Unwired Platform and SAP NetWeaver®. The solution provides full access to SAP CRM accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, activities and analytics all from a mobile device.

Key functionality includes Account and Contact Management, Lead and Opportunity Management, Activity Management, Sales Documents and Analytics and Customization and Enhancement Capabilities.


Sybase mobile sales for SAP

Using the Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite solution, mobile workers can now receive and manage SAP Universal Worklist notifications and alerts on their mobile device of choice. Pre-defined processes, such as requests and approvals for travel or leave can quickly be completed on the go. Additionally, clock-in/clock-out activities can easily be recorded directly in to the SAP Business Suite system, all from a mobile device. The solution currently supports iPhone, Windows Mobile and Nokia Series 60 smartphones, with support planned for additional devices, such as RIM BlackBerry smartphones.
Universal Worklist Workflows, Alerts & Notifications
Leave and Travel Requests
Clock-in/Clock-out Capabilities

Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite

Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP® Business Suite

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