CTO Matt Lovell looks at how DevOps is challenging the ‘Old Skool’ world of SAP.
The DevOps community has both challenged and led the accelerated adoption of public cloud in many areas and is now inspiring the ‘Old Skool’ world of SAP. As the demands of the digital age mean customer expectations continually increase and technological capabilities become a differentiator, DevOps has the ability to transform the way organisations deliver SAP applications to respond to market conditions. Successfully implementing this philosophy can be the difference in today’s ultra-competitive markets, and SAP systems are certainly an enabler to do so.
As a business data platform, the real business benefits HANA enables relate to
accelerating initiatives, products and services as well as reducing time to market and response times to customers. SAP HANA is exceptionally powerful in terms of leveraging key attributes the ‘web-dev’ world depend upon to automate, optimise and analyse. SAP HANA has over seven engines pre-enabled across the columnar store data structure which supports these capabilities. These include the calculation, spatial and graphing engines as well as data quality, web service, predictive and business rules engines which provide a feature rich environment for developers to leverage with SAP HANA and between other platforms.
DevOps helps provide an ongoing cycle of development and delivery, so that HANA can deliver quicker and with better quality. Gartner has already recognised the potential of this approach, stating “by 2018, the transition to agile, DevOps and web-scale IT practices will become as disruptive to IT as the adoption of lean was to manufacturing in the 1980s”.
Right first time or fail fast, fail often?
Previous SAP code development approaches have been more restrictive limited to ABAP and RICEFW objects to deliver defined and auditable outputs understood by SAP. Quality Assurance has always been imperative for organisations large and small in terms of testing and assuring multiple application changes within proven business processes, workflows and code sets. As the data platform has expanded coupled with the number of sources of useful data, so too has the need for Quality Assurance processes to adapt and respond to different angles and frameworks. Now with multiple data sources and languages supported and the code base largely irrelevant, SAP HANA offers a new set of horizons for customers. Leveraging Agile methodologies with microservices, customers can now draw upon open community support to maintain a standard SAP HANA core approach and rapid development of services to integrate data to platform.
With ideas like Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI CD) as well as immutable application principles emerging, the web-dev is evolving rapidly. The emphasis falls here on testing small increments at a faster scale, using automation, and releasing them quickly before the next set of changes come along. This means that if the application is working well, it can be moved on. If there are errors or QA issues, these can be played back and resolved faster and retested. Using this approach enables a move to a constant stream of updates for shipping code, on different instance of the platform, which we see many organisations successfully using to maximise availability and continuity.
Breaking big problems into bite size chunks
Using a microservices architecture, development of applications can be broken down into a stream of micro activities rather than larger more complex projects. This supports SAP HANA developers to simplify their development cycles and improve responsiveness to business change. Whilst this is a good start, the movement from the traditional to the new DevOps approach for SAP HANA requires a far more radical approach involving automating processes wherever possible.
If we consider the key elements of a Quality Assurance framework, we are testing change and managing risk in changing an existing process and delivering a specific outcome. Microservices architectures enable developers to move incremental changes through the QA process with lower risk to business, maintain assurance and outcome certainty whilst permitting audit on existing and revised processes.
Providers of virtualisation and cloud services have combined with orchestration tools, such as automated arrangement, coordination, and management of business logic and data services, to automate the build of micro services for repeatable deployment. For services that carry large amounts of legacy, the ability to reduce manual intervention, increase resiliency and speed deployments is critical. Equally critical is only importing appropriate data from sources, be that existing SAP repositories or other sources. This is imperative to optimise both data processing speeds as well as capacity management and storage costs.
As more organisations turn their interest towards moving HANA to the cloud, the adoption of a microservices approach can help this integration go smoothly by breaking down components into easily managed and modified services.
HANA technology now available to all, for free
DevOps and microservices isn’t the only way to revolutionise the powers of SAP. For most organisations today, open source has already become a daily reality in development. SAP HANA Express has now become readily available, which is the 32GB open source edition of the latest phase of openSAP HANA’s evolution, meaning accessibility of HANA to all as an application development is possible.
This introduction of free open source capabilities makes the SAP HANA platform as easy to use for new or startup application developers as the likes of MySQL, Hadoop, Cassandra and other open source database alternatives.
This helps improve accessibility for all, and the edition download includes free training and tutorials for developers starting out. Additionally, greater discussion on publicly available websites such as StackOverflow are easily available and accessible for those needing inspiration, help or a sounding board.
Shaken and Stirred
Combining DevOps with the power of SAP HANA opens a world where the possibilities are endless. More importantly with accessibility for all with openSAP HANA combined with Agile and microservices development, the reality of delivering faster and more responsive platforms to business using more data sources is here. The core of SAP is now both open and shaken, the question is, has it stirred your business?