More mobility in business communications
// SAP-Processes & Systems
An estimated 4.4 billion people will be smartphone owners by 2017, and a large share of these people will be using apps regularly to quickly and easily access information and functionalities that otherwise could only be reached cumbersomely via the web browser. That this trend cannot move past the business environment is apparent, but there are numerous hurdles in the way, such as the existence of different operating systems, ensuring appropriate data security, or connectivity to the current system landscape.
If I could wish for something …
Heads of IT are therefore increasingly being subjected to pressure and have to find a way to satisfy the needs of all parties involved, despite these problems. For one, executive management demands more efficient and more dynamic business processes in order to remain competitive or to even gain a competitive advantage, and for another, customers and employees don‘t want to miss the usability of apps that they are used to – the latter not the least in order to be able to work more productively. So, how can these advantages of a mobile strategy be played out without exploding the cost framework? SAP recently introduced a solution offer by providing the SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 (SMP3).
The SMP3 combines the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP), the Sybase Mobiliser and Syclo Agentry in a single product and furthermore provides for a SAP NetWeaver Gateway for data integration. It is a development environment for mobile enterprise applications with which existing apps can be maintained and new ones can be developed. Numerous open standards such as HTML5, HTTP REST, OData and Cordova were included in the development so that even developers who are not familiar with SAP will have an easy entry. Below, please find a selection of the most important features:
Integration of systems
By providing a SAP NetWeaver Gateway, preferably SAP, but also third party systems can be connected with the objective to provide their data as a web service in the Open Data Protocol (OData). Among other options, BAPIs or RFCs may function as data source. Contrary to the SOA protocol used to date, this protocol is more light-weight and thereby designed for mobile scenarios. The option to generate corresponding services for Android, iOS or HTML from the gateway decouples the dependencies between the actual origin of the data and its presentation so that in case of an unchanged interface, the backend can be replaced effortlessly.
Choice of operating system
The question for which operating system an app should be developed can be answered only with great difficulty and is dependent on the functionalities required. Fundamentally, however, the SMP3 allows for the development of both native and hybrid apps with the help of the Mobile Application Framework (MAF). Native apps are applications that are created for exactly one operating system and in most cases convince with respect to performance and user experience. Hybrid apps, instead, are applications that are developed with the help of HTML5 and which are subsequently only compiled for the different platforms. With respect to performance, in general, the latter are at a disadvantage in comparison to native apps, but feature a considerable advantage with respect to expenditure and costs. Corresponding libraries are currently provided by MAF for both options (natively, currently only for Android and iOS) so that the services of the gateway can be used without a lot of effort.
Administration of an app
Each app first is configured under a unique key in the administration interface of SMP3. In this, the available services to which the app is allowed access are assigned to the app as well as via which system a user is allowed to authenticate. All registered users and end devices that subsequently log in via the app are listed in detail and it is then possible to activate an error logging for specific end devices. This way, error messages can be investigated by users quickly and efficiently.
In mobile scenarios, on of the essential factors of uncertainty is the connection. Often, it can happen that the connection is very slow or does not exist at all. In these case, the app must be able to nevertheless react to this and to display cached data instead of current data. The same applies in case of data that was modified locally in offline mode which must be exchanged with the server upon renewed connection. The MAF provides for corresponding caching mechanisms that merely have to be adjusted to the individual requirements.
As such, the SMP3 provides tools for a series of typical mobile scenarios in order to make the development and administration of an app easier. Even though a large share of the work continues to be the responsibility of the developer, it is - most of the time - limited to the customer‘s individual requirements. For a lot of IT managers this platform is therefore a matching answer to the increasing demand for mobile solutions. However, if the expenditure for one‘s own app is deemed too much, SAP offers ready-made apps for a series of standard processes.
It is going to be interesting to see if the SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 (SMP3) will succeed in the marketplace and will fulfil the high expectations posed.