#37 Cloud, ABAP, UI5, Edge Computing
In honor of this, the 37th issue of The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter, here are some fasctinating facts about 37:
It is the 12th prime number
It is the 9th permutable prime, meaning that reversing its digits also produces a prime number
NGC 37 is a lenticular galaxy in the Phoenix constellation, about 150 megaparsecs away
NGC 2169 is known as the “‘37’ Cluster” because of its visual resemblance.
Tell us you’re not excited about that, too!
-Jelena and Paul
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Not Everyone Loves Cloud
Two separate pieces featuring conversations with DSAG insiders point to some grumbly Germans. And I can understand the grumblings! They're talking about S/4HANA and its various on-premises/hybrid/private/public cloud options and variants. That subject is broad, and it is insanely difficult to capture all the relevant perspectives. I've snagged a couple of juicy thoughts from these pieces, and below offer a super hot take of my own.
GROW: "Cloud yes - cloud-only - no." Great distillation of the state of things. Not everyone can arrive to the cloud party utterly unencumbered with their previous enhancements and investments.
DSAG says some member companies haven't even gotten returns on investments made for on-premises customizations. I can sympathize: if I backed up a dump truck full of cash for customizations that my ERP vendor now wants me to drop, I'd also be politely direct with that vendor.
Another support extension ain't gonna happen. I believe it anyway, but also trust Jon Reed on it.
SAP is not to be hated on, I don't think. Apart from being stuck between a rock and a hard place in the whole scenario, they do occasionally concede to customer demands, like making it easier for companies to implement Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) regulations.
Here's my super hot take. Have a bias for all things cloud, but don't beat yourself up if you can't make it there. By the time 2027 rolls around, I think pretty much all major software will be showing signs of having evolved under the influence of the current moment (AI/LLMs), and agility will matter more than being right about something a decade prior. PM
How do I learn ABAP in 2023?
When I wanted to learn Java in 2000, it was easy to start: I bought Java in a Nutshell book at local Barnes & Noble, downloaded a compiler from a website, and then used Notepad to write the code on my consumer-grade desktop PC.
When I learned ABAP in 2005, it was a more complicated affair. One had to take expensive in-person training from SAP to learn the basics (BC400 FTW!). Then, sacred ABAP knowledge was mostly passed from person to person like in pre-Gutenberg days.
You would think in 2023 it’s much easier to learn ABAP. In some aspects, it is. Even though SAP killed the best ABAP trial version, the older version is still out there. It has pretty high memory requirements and I’ve never been able to make it work, but it exists. There is also a shared Cloud trial system, which SAP tutorials seem to lean on. (If you manage to get one of these trial offerings up and running though, you deserve a medal.)
But it’s also harder now than in 2005 because which ABAP do you even need to learn? There is “classic ABAP”, the IF-THEN-ELSEs of language itself. There is ABAP Cloud that is… I don’t even know anymore, but Steampunk is somehow involved. There is ABAP RAP, which is a “programming model” that is heavily based on CDS views that are very important but not written in ABAP. Oh, and “entity manipulation language” (EML) also entered the chat. Madness!
I think regardless of all the “new stuff” SAP unleashes on us and renames every year, the first step for the beginners still should be learning the basics, the IF-THEN stuff. There are some ABAP learning options that need only a browser and ABAP Starter is a comprehensive list of resources I wish I had in 2005.
And who knows, maybe eventually it will be as easy to learn ABAP as it was Java in 2000. Hope springs eternal. JP
UI5 Might Not Be Terrible!
I used to be an SAPUI5 fanboy. I've got a couple books under my belt to prove it! But even the most devoted fanboys can't ignore their beloved's shortcomings forever. In the last couple years, my rose-tinted glasses have started to fade. I'm more of a distant admirer than a die-hard devotee.
For years, SAPUI5 has been the target of whispers and outright complaints about its less-than-stellar performance. It's like the hare that lost to the tortoise – flashy and full of potential, but ultimately lagging behind in the race. A plethora of viable options have emerged, vying for the title of "Best Framework for Enterprise Applications in the SAP Ecosystem." Names like Neptune Software and Microsoft with its Power Apps have entered the fray. Ways of securing and standardizing APIs have made other web frameworks like React suitable for apps that use SAP data.
However! I have to acknowledge that the SAPUI5 team/ecosystem have really continued to evolve and power-up that framework. And when you talk about performance, the latest (and more to come) updates are directed right at that criticism. Rendering is set to receive a much-needed makeover. With faster UI frame rates on the horizon, we can expect a smoother and more enjoyable user experience. This transformation won't happen overnight, but rest assured, it will be rolled out step-by-step through upcoming UI5 releases.
SAPUI5 has always been a fantastic batteries-included framework because of the huge list of great controls that come along for free. Really hitting the rendering and smoothness factor will give developers reason to continue to consider UI5 a viable option. PM
Living on The Edge
A recent CIO magazine article declared “edge computing arrives” as one of the trends “defining the enterprise IT market today”. My reaction to these articles is usually “well, wooptie doodly doo” but I think edge computing is an interesting concept that everyone in the biz should be at least aware of.
What is it all about? Cloud is all fine and dandy but when you need to run, say, some analytics on driving a Chevy to the levee, it quickly becomes clear that constantly connecting from the edge of the cloud to a remote data center is inefficient. It would be much faster to process Chevy usage and the levee supply chain data organically and locally. That’s, in a nutshell, the edge (or fog?) computing approach.
It might appear recent but edge computing stems from the 1990s concept of content delivery network (CDN). Network latency has been a challenge in IT for as long as networks existed. Even though we now have much better and faster networks, there is also more data, so this seems like a never ending catch-up game. But these days smartphones and other small devices can provide significant processing power, so at least we don’t need to drag the whole server to the levee either.
For more serious and detailed information on the subject, I recommend these reliable resources from Microsoft and IBM (I liked MS slightly better). JP
AI, Generationally Speaking
This is a brilliant idea for a podcast: get voices from 4 generations together to talk about the thing that's on everyone's mind: generative AI. You should ABSOLUTELY give it a listen. Some of what the guests discuss intersects with my own thinking on generative AI (I think I share with a lot of folks that this tech is constantly pinging around in my head. I talk to everyone I can about this stuff.)
It's a little harder than I thought to predict where someone stands on various pieces of the issues, and this podcast is no exception. Don't jump into a conversation with an older person expecting a Luddite (in the neutral sense) perspective, and similarly don't expect the young 'uns to be fully bought-in, wired-up, AI gearheads.
Across the age spectrum it also feels like there is consensus about risk, but just what that risk is is about as variable as the person you're talking to. Every view from "it will convince your mom that she should buy FTX" to Yudkowski-esque "it will utterly eradicate all life on Earth" has representation.
From a practical standpoint, what I think about most (and why this subject matter belongs in an enterprise software newsletter) is alluded to above in another of my stories. In the near term, I just can't imagine a world where software of all shapes and sizes is not deeply impacted by the capabilities emerging right now. Personally and professionally, our tools will radically change. Software, its creation and its use, will never be the same. PM
Failure is Always an Option
NDC presentation Failure is always an option from Dylan Beattie is a great collection of stories around, well, failure. It starts with talking about the Apollo missions (“one heck of a user story”) where, as the famous quote goes, failure was not an option. Until it happened, sadly, due to “gradually decreasing strictness”.
Each of Dylan’s fascinating stories provide “lessons learned” and food for thought to anyone interested in software development. My favorite was the closing story from Africa where Dylan talked about user ingenuity. And how sometimes the “wrong” use case could present a brand-new opportunity. I think this 45-minute video deserves your full attention. Failures are unfortunate but learning from them is most valuable. JP
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