SAP TechEd Barcelona: the developer view

German softwarehaus SAP held its annual European TechEd technical conference in Barcelona this week. So was it technical? Yes, any keynote with command line code presentations surely ranks as technical.

CTO of SAP and president SAP Cloud Platform Björn Goerke told the Computer Weekly Developer Network how hard it is to gauge between presenting the firm’s keynote sessions as either a) extremely code focused or b) rather more business focused. Even the most critical naysayer would probably agree that the team got the mix about right.

SAP TechEd Europe differs from SAP TechEd (Las Vegas) in size (obviously), choice of food (obviously), temperature (again, obviously) but also (perhaps less obviously) in terms of the attendee’s general position on the road to cloud.

SVP and head of product management and co-innovation for S/4 HANA at SAP SE Sven Denecken told us that the Americas events are populated by firm’s developers who have been bred as comparatively cloud-native (Cloud 1.0, if you will) citizens.

Whether this is because they come from Palo Alto startups (or any other North American tech hub), or it is because of some deeper cultural trend it’s hard to say.

Eurotech: less what, more how

Denecken explained that [we] Europeans are asking few ‘what cloud/data/application/analytics tools do I use?’ questions and more ‘how can I use these tools?’ queries – and that generally this comes down to the fact that there are often more legacy systems in place in Europe.

Although this is a generalization, it is still a trend.

Denecken underlined his comments by reminding us that Asia is readying itself to attempt to leapfrog everyone with still-developing next-generation Cloud 2.0 services.

In product areas, SAP has highlighted its SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK, a software development kit designed for partners with productivity tools and templates needed for ‘quick innovations’ (as SAP would put it) to make the development process even faster.

“Many of our customers are asking for an intelligent Enterprise Resource planning solution that not only addresses broader industry needs, but also supports their unique microvertical business challenges,” said Franck Cohen, president, Digital Core & Industry Solutions, SAP.

Out-of-the-box vs. customise

There’s a real sense of this with SAP, that is – much of the software can be used out-of-the-box and the firm speaks at length to detail the amount of crowdsourced machine learning (ML) automation that it offers. It’s logical enough i.e. SAP works with hundreds of customers, so it crowdsources a lot of know-how from use cases and then (appropriately anonymised) presents out-of-the-box head starts for other customers to develop with.

The out-of-the-box vs. customise theory is rounded and explained by CTO Björn Goerke in his ‘keep the core clean’ message, where he advocates that customisations (to a core ERP system) should be done through standardised APIs in the SAP platform and not in code of the kernel itself.

“SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK significantly enhanced the development process for extensions for SAP S/4HANA Cloud,” said Leonardo De Araujo, partner and chief technology officer, Beyond Technologies. “Instead of manually implementing all required code to handle oData service calls, the SDK generates them automatically for us. With this, we have been able reduce development by up to 50 percent.”

Other developer developments

The company also announced an expansion of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning capabilities based on its upgraded SAP Conversational AI service that will enable companies to build increasingly sophisticated corporate chat bots.

SAP also announced an investment in intelligent robotic process automation (RPA) that is intended to help SAP automate repetitive processes across its portfolio. Further, SAP plans to release smart application design capabilities in the SAP Analytics Cloud solution and has added new partner content in the business content library.

Overall, the message was keep the core clean, develop in the platform and integrate, integrate, integrate at an end-to-end level.

As one speaker commented during the break outs, it’s tough to make a base level technology practice like end-to-end integration sound sexy and interesting, but… perhaps, if we think about the core+API connected layers mantra here as a means of expressing what contemporary cloud software application development should be, then it could be pretty cool… or, as they say in Germany softwareunddatasexycool, yah?

< class="wp-caption-text">SAP’s Björn Goerke: Keep the ‘core clean’ please kids.

< class="wp-caption-text">Number of developer tutorials completed at SAP TechEd (end figure estimated at 2000).

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