August 5, 2021

The future of SAP development

AuthorGabor Toldi

2027 marks the official end of maintenance for SAP R/3. How much this affects software customers depends on how they use SAP. Even R/2 was spotted still running in 2011, 30 years after its release and 19 years after the official release of SAP R/3.

So it will be exciting to see how long R/3 manages to stay in the race. 2027 does not simply mark the end of a software lifecycle, it is a paradigm shift that began with HANA in 2010 and was finally completed no later than with the release of S/4 HANA anno 2015. From platform-independent software, which also brought other companies, such as Oracle, continuous growth, the path goes to a firm commitment to its own database technology with the HANA in-memory solution.

SAP development: these challenges could arise

In SAP's technology stack, however, there are many different areas that a developer can come into contact with. The focus of expertise a developer must have depends largely on which area of UI, data provisioning, business logic, transaction services, data modeling and the database itself, they are working on. Some areas are inextricably linked, while others can be outsourced to specialists because of the different technologies used. Whereas knowledge of UI design and knowledge of the specialties of the SAP GUI used to be an indispensable part of developer skills, with SAP Fiori and SAPUI5 this has more or less shifted to the classic web developer strengths with HTML, CSS and Javascript.
The now technically specified software architecture basically differs little from the sensible development structure of applications that has long been in force, with the division into data retrieval, application logic and interfaces.

The least difficult aspect for the developer is probably the use of core data services and their architecture. Ultimately, data retrieval is encapsulated here and, in contrast to pure SQL, extended to cover more complex needs by means of coding.

BOPF as an extension of the SAP universe

A concept that is new in the SAP world is BOPF. The Business Object Process Framework is the basis for Transaction Services and works with business objects, which can be enriched with business logic via the framework. Such concepts can also be found more frequently in application development. There is no way around ABAP OO here, which is a good thing given the power of object orientation. In another blog article „ABAP … a vital part of success“ we write about the emergence of this programming language.

Besides the BOPF, the biggest difference is the mental shift in the software architecture via the code pushdown to the HANA database. Whereas in the past, the most minimalistic possible ways were sought to transport and subsequently process data via the bottleneck of network and disk mechanics, the motto now is to let the processing take place at the location where the data is stored and to transfer only results. This also requires getting used to a new syntax.

However, there is still one revolution to mention: The breaking of the backward compatibility paradigm. With S/4 HANA, SAP ends 100% backward compatibility with previous releases, although it is still difficult to judge what impact this will have.

Either way, development work remains exciting and varied, and many things will make the adaptability of future software much easier.

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