Tag Archives: ABAP

On ABAP in the Cloud

ABAP in the cloud

Michael Koch kicked it all off with a tweet,

to which of course I had to reply:

then I was prodded:

and prodded:

and then James beat me to the blog:

and if you haven’t read James’ post, please do, it is excellent.

So whilst I’m waiting to hear how much it’s going to cost me to fix my car of which the engine has decided to stop working whilst on the way to work today, I thought that rather than drinking a bottle of Pinot Gris and attempting to forget about the shitty waste of a day I’ve had, I’d do something useful, productive (this post), and drink beetroot, apple, ginger and celery juice instead.

So here are thoughts upon which I will rant.

  • ABAP is a proprietary language which make its code costly to support.
  • Building for cloud is far more than just supporting cloud systems.
  • If you love ABAP to the exclusion of everything else that’s your bed, you lay in it. I like beetroot juice, I am so going to have pink pee later.
  • Java is the boring enterprise language of choice.
  • A PaaS really should be language agnostic, if not it’s a pretty crappy PaaS.
  • Why on earth have we ended up here? Who is paying for this?
  • Evolve or die.

These are all going to get intermixed in this rant, but I will still try to address them one by one.

Firstly, on the joys of ABAPers. I have discussed and even written about this, and it may just be the particular markets where I play, but it’s damn hard to find a good and excited ABAPer. People don’t learn the language unless they want to work on SAP products. Imagine how quickly that strips out the fun people. But where people have got good ABAP skills, they tend to have far more than that, also great business process understanding (Robbo has recently written about this https://blogs.sap.com/2017/10/02/abap-in-sap-cloud-platform-why/ ) Have a read, especially if you fall into the ABAP diehards camp, it will make you feel much happier than this blog post will.

But because the good ABAP folk have such great depth of business process understanding, they command a reasonable rate – and why not having a BA and a coder in one is a bit of a win is it not? So they are expensive. One hopes because they deliver better, but I find this is not true. They just cost more. But you have to have them to support the huge monolith that is your SAP ERP system. So embedded in companies around the world are these folk who can code ABAP, understand their systems and are if not well paid, expensive to have hanging around.

And you won’t find someone off the street who has just learnt ABAP who is useful, because the skill in ABAP isn’t in the language, it’s in understanding the existing library of¬† standard code and frameworks that you can use to get things done.

FFS the language still doesn’t have the concept of a Boolean!

The requirement for ABAP support is one of the reasons that SAP costs a decent amount to run. In the future as we move to S/4HANA public cloud (and we will, slowly but inevitably) cost saving will be essential. ABAP costs, so get rid of it in the equation. Out-source your custom development, even better, purchase it as SaaS from someone else, are you a custom software development house? No – they why do you try to build your own software? Concentrate on dishwasher powder, chocolate bars, beer or whatever it is you have as your core.

If we start building cloud extensions in ABAP we are locking down the list of people who could support them. This will cost us extra. Having worked with SaaS for the last few years, I can clearly state, cost of delivery is far more important now than it ever was on-prem. The expectations of customers are different. They will not pay the same amount to build an extension as they paid for the SaaS solution it enhances. ABAP ain’t cheap, and neither are ABAPers.

I don’t think ABAP and it’s whole lifecycle management is really well designed to build cloud apps. James mentioned some great points in his blog around dependency management, and how ABAP doesn’t support non-linear and project based development (hopefully ABAPGit will help here, the official voice of support from SAP is very encouraging.) But having spent the last 5 years build cloud apps that integrate to SAP systems, I have been so impressed by the huge amount of standard tooling and functionality that is available for projects outside of SAP. Like have you used Maven? It’s fricking awesome! To consider even thinking about managing the huge number of libraries that I use in most of my builds to do without this tooling would be unthinkable. Since James was probably more detailed and eloquent on this point I will stop there. But really, even if SAP support ABAPGit there is a hell of a long way to go to even think of being put into an imaginary cloud development language magic quadrant chart, let alone featuring anywhere but bottom left.

#ABAPisntDead. No of course it isn’t, there will be legacy on prem apps that will run and people will make businesses out of it, like those Rimini Street folk. But if you can’t see anything out there other than ABAP, my goodness you are short sighted. Any good programmer out there should be able to code in js (server side or browser), and should have a grasp of at least 2 other languages. If you can only deal with one, you’re not a programmer, you’re a liability for the people you work with. Having multiple skills is important, and it’s also important to know when to use them. Enlighten yourselves people, there is a whole world full of cool shite out there, go and have a look. If my post infuriates you because you believe that ABAP is the best thing ever, awesome, both for you and for me, because you have passion, go and use it, and me because it means I actually got some people who don’t agree with me to read this.

Java is boring, and safe, and commodity. And that is exactly what businesses love. You want something that is reliable, has been proven, does the job. Moreover, you want bucket loads of libraries that other people have built and tested that can do the things you want to do. Whilst I built an implementation of TFA that was compatible with Google’s TFA Authenticator app in ABAP, it was a pain in the arse, and hasn’t been updated since I wrote it and then worried about releasing it as open source because you weren’t allowed to do that with ABAP. There’s a standard lib for Java. Standard boring languages are the bedrock of good enterprise builds. I do like to play with server side js, (aka Node) but i’m still a sucker for strongly typed languages.

But if you don’t like Java, then awesome, choose something else. Indeed it should not matter what you choose, because any PaaS you build on should be language agnostic when it comes to providing services to you to consume. If you’re not consuming any services from your PaaS then you missed the memo about cloud development, please go back to your application server. A PaaS offers micro-services that should be able to be consumed by any application running on that platform. This inherently makes those services consumable in a fashion that is hard to use for ABAP and pretty standard for every other language. I’m sure that SAP could wrap their services into a consumable layer that would be easier to use in the Cloud based ABAP. But this then means we start losing one of the best bits of the PaaS, that it shouldn’t favour any runtime. We’ll see how this story plays out…

Which kinda segues into my next worry/rant/observation. How did we get here that a language that really isn’t suited to cloud extension ends up as an officially supported run time in SAP’s CF PaaS? This goes back to my original tweet.

I believe that it is clearly SAP’s strategy to move to the largest part of their revenue coming from public cloud based SaaS solutions (including ERP). Btw, I think this is a sound strategic vision, because if they don’t pivot to get there, someone else will take that space. The on-prem model will not make as much money in the future, todays small companies are tomorrows giants, and with SaaS solutions they don’t need to migrate/upscale, they will keep the solution they buy today. SAP needs to be in that space, and they need credibility that comes from large customers being there too.

To this end I envisage SAP have been discussing moving some very influential customers to the public cloud. Those customer, I would guess, have responded that they don’t want to loose their current people or custom build investments.

The obvious solution from SAP is to put together an ABAP cloud runtime. I cannot be cheap to do this though. The effort to make ABAP into a secure and lightweight containerizable solution will not be something that a team will do in a week or two. There must be some sound and solid business reasons to do this. For all the reasons I have previously mentioned I believe that if companies want to extend SAP SaaS solutions, they should think about using other languages, not ABAP. But I fear this is not about making a better solution, it is about making a marketable one. If customers believe that they can extend the value of their existing investments and also benefit from moving to SaaS based solution, that is a great sales pitch. It’s having your cake and eating it.

This vision (even if it doesn’t work out to be the reality) of a simple gateway to moving to SaaS ERP is what I believe we are now being sold. This isn’t a story for developers, this is a story for the high level execs that sign the S/4HANA subscriptions.

I hope that a cloud based ABAP will be the gateway that enables some organisations to get off the on-premise mode and head to the cloud. What I fully expect is that once they are there, they will realise that there are better and more supportable ways to extend. That would be great. In the meantime I fear that we start bringing non-cloudy ways of working into the cloud landscape, this will likely cause failed/cost overrun projects. We run the risk of preferring Cloud ABAP as a way to interact with S/4HANA cloud, that would be disastrous.

It has been suggested that Cloud ABAP will potentially be the solution that encourages adoption of the SAP Cloud Platform. I just hope it isn’t the solution that kills it. I would much rather the money being spent of putting ABAP into the cloud is used to handle some of the other issues I see with SAP CP, but clearly there is a view that it will be a return on investment.

Then again, if you’re not trying new stuff and making mistakes, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you’re falling behind. So here’s to making mistakes and learning! To steal the excellent closing lines from James’ post:

So buckle up because there’s no turning back at this point. It’s either evolve or die.

I look forward to a lively debate on this topic.

(James Wood –¬†https://blogs.sap.com/2017/10/04/abap-in-the-cloud-is-this-a-good-thing/)

James, I couldn’t say it better mate. Although I would refer to the platform as SAP CP ūüėČ

I think SAP Cloud Platform is and will be a key part of the story of SAP’s¬† and customers’ evolution to the cloud. If it takes putting an “runs ABAP” badge on it, to get people to see how useful it is, I’ll deal with it. But for sure, it would not be my recommendation to any organisation that it would be best practice. I’ll keep an open mind, perhaps it will be one day, if so I’ll adapt and evolve – because that’s what you should do.

As always, my own thoughts, not my company’s,¬† please feel free to jump onto SCN and reply to James’ post. I’ll probably read those comments as well as whatever gets posted on twitter.


I hate doco

It’s kinda a mantra that I live a reasonable part of my life to. I think the above image is a not unjustifiable representation of my feelings about documentation:

But there are many good reasons that I should be doing doco. Most of them are supposed to save the customer money in the long run. And occasionally by doing the doco, I even find some small errors in my code that I hadn’t seen before.

 InnoJam Sydney 2011

Before InnoJam had any of that fun fluffy design thinking aspect to it, we ran one in Sydney. It was good fun, and people could build whatever the heck they wanted.

In staying true to my aversion for writing doco, I came up with an idea about auto-generation UML diagrams from SAP code.

Here’s a video of the solution we came up with:

here’s a link to the Prezi that I presented in that video:


I wrote a blog post about it:


But it was long time ago and the move to a new version of SCN has kinda buggered it up.

Anyway, in short – Rui never managed to get the terms and conditions of CodeExchange changed to a level where I’m happy to support it and put code in there. I’m pretty sure he tried though. So I didn’t do anything with the code.


Fast forward 3 years

I have a whiteboard in the office covered in post-it notes. They all represent at least one development that I’ve done for the current project I’m working on. At the beginning of the project, I was very good, and did all my doco as I went along. Then the poo hit the fan, and everyone wanted everything done yesterday, and didn’t care about doco.

So I now have a whiteboard full of post-it notes that represent potentially weeks of doco hell for me. So in my “free time” in the evening I decided to see if I could recreate the solution that we’d built in Sydney, and perhaps make it a little nicer.


UML output

The first thing I decided, was that I was NOT going to try to build the graphical output myself. Having had lots of fun in Sydney trying to make Gravity do something it really wasn’t designed for I thought I’d research how else I could get my interaction diagrams created.

If in doubt Wikipedia


There were loads there, and I’d pretty much decided on UMLet when I discovered something about interaction diagrams. Basically, interaction diagrams are supposed to show interaction between objects. Bit bloody obvious really. However, the thing is, if I’m documenting my code, I’d really like to show the interaction within my objects too. I.e. if I make a call to a private method of my class, I’d really like that to show up in my diagram. Given that interaction diagrams are only supposed to show external interaction it’s not surprising that most of the tools for creating the diagrams don’t really support this idea of internal object calls.

So a bit of browsing later and I found PlantUML. It has some awesome functionality for creating sequence diagrams, actually, most UML diagrams it seems, but it was the sequence diagrams that I was interested in.

Here’s a simple example:simple_example



See how it’s quite possible to show “internal” calls of an instance and also show the life time of those calls. This feature I didn’t find on the other free UML tools that I looked at. There are a bunch of other formatting features that can be used too. If you’re interested check out their website: http://plantuml.sourceforge.net/sequence.html


Intercepting the SAP standard UML generation

So in transaction SAT there is the possibility to generate your own JNet UML sequence diagram (this exists as standard.)

press the button


However, it does not allow you to do things like filter out standard SAP routines (as far as I know! If anyone can tell me how to do this (without needing to list every method I call, please let me know!) When I was looking at one of my examples, where I ran a program to generate a performance review document for an employee, there were over 100,000 different routines called. Only about 400 of those calls involved my code, so you can imagine generating a UML diagram for the whole 100,000 calls would be a bit of overkill (not to mention an impossible to read diagram).

In customer systems there is a function module ¬†ATRA_UML_DECIDER ¬†that has been purposely handicapped. One does have to wonder why this has been done, but nevertheless it has.¬† It allows the user to chose from a list of potential UML extraction routines. All of these routines implement the IF_ATRA_UML_TOOL interface. There are classes for extracting to JNet, Borland Together and Altova. Now, I’m sure that Borland and Altova have good products, it’s just that I don’t really want to spend money on then when there are perfectly good (for my tasks) free and open source products out there.

There is a factory class/method CL_ATRA_UML_FACTORY ¬†that creates an instance of a class implementing the interface. I overrode this method to use my particular extractor if it was me running the code. In the future, I might enhance this to check for a user role, or perhaps a user parameter, that’s trivial, the main point will be to allow others to access this logic too.

The guts of the code

Simply my implementation of the interface reads the table of data that is passed to the interface, removes all calls that aren’t to or from custom code and then builds a PlantUML representation of that code.

Here’s a very simple output that generates the diagram above.

hide footbox
participant "Instance 1 of Class\nZCL_HR_EMPLOYEE" as 1
activate 1
activate 1
create "Static Methods of Class\nCL_HRBAS_READ_INFOTYPE" as 2
1 -> 2: Call method GET_INSTANCE
activate 2
2 --> 1
deactivate 2
create "Instance 1 of Class\nCL_HRBAS_READ_INFOTYPE" as 3
1 -> 3: Call method IF_HRBAS_READ_INFOTYPE~READ_PLAIN_1001
activate 3
3 --> 1
deactivate 3
1 --> 1
deactivate 1
create "Instance 1 of Class\nZCL_HR_QUALIFICATION" as 4
1 -> 4: Create instance of class ZCL_HR_QUALIFICATION
activate 4
4 -> 4: Call method ZCL_HR_OBJECT->CONSTRUCTOR
activate 4
create "Function Group\nRHS0" as 5
activate 5
5 --> 4
deactivate 5
4 --> 4
deactivate 4
4 --> 1
deactivate 4
deactivate 1


 A slightly less trivial example

The following code does some pretty simple stuff, it finds who is my manager, and finds out what required qualifications my position/job has.

DATA: lo_emp TYPE REF TO zcl_hr_employee,
lt_managers TYPE ztthr_employee_objects,
lt_required_quals TYPE ztthr_qualifications.

lo_emp = zcl_hr_employee=>get_employee_by_user_id( sy-uname ).

lt_managers = lo_emp->get_position( )->get_managers_recursive( ).
lt_required_quals = lo_emp->get_position( )->get_required_qualifications( ).


So I thought I’d trace it:

it works out at around 200,000 different routines being called. 62 of those are my code, the rest standard.

run through 1

First of all, I need to schedule a trace for myself…

run through 2


run through 3


Need to know which session I will be recording. If I left it as “Any” it will start recording this session, not very useful!

run through 4


Session 2 it is!

run through 5

run through 6

actually run it now!

and the schedule status changes to executed.

run through 7


I now need to delete the scheduled measurement. Despite the intimidating words, this does not delete my measurement, just the scheduling of it.

run through 8


now swapping to the “Evaluate” tab in SAT I can see my measurement, and I can click to output to UML

run through 9



Clicking on the button triggers a bit of a pause whilst the system code chugs away and does loads of stuff it doesn’t need to do…



run through 10

Save the data and PlantUML starts converting it immediately:

run through 11


and the result:


Would probably have been a little bigger if my employee had a job assigned to their position, but you can see how incredibly easy this now makes documenting the functionality I’ve built.

I’m still considering how to make the code publicly available. I’m sure someone else would be happy to post it to CodeExchange, so perhaps I’ll let them.

ABAP Code Naming Conventions

Ok, you can probably guess that I’m not the most conventional person. I probably don’t fit the mould of the stereotypical developer either. I’m certainly not what one would call an introvert.

So please take this with the necessary pitch of salt. (especially if you’re one of the people who writes the code naming conventions that I have to follow from time to time ūüėČ )A pinch of salt required


Why on earth does every SAP project I go to insist on such inane naming standards for the code? The SAP editor is a wonderful IDE (caveat¬†I did not say it was the best IDE) that allows you to see the definition of any variable with a simple double click – so why on earth are you so worried that I should prefix all my local variable definitions with an ‘l’? What on earth potential benefit can this have on the code readability? Perhaps it helps if you’re still one of my nemesis developers who are passing all your variables between methods through the use of global variables and/or singletons. Perhaps one needs to look at a piece of code, see lots of l’s and that gives satisfaction? The use of¬†Hungarian Notation¬†in ABAP code seems to be universal, although never it seems implemented in the same way.

Then when I define a structure, I must prefix it with a “S” just so you can be sure that it isn’t actually a table or a single field, or so help me, a¬†woolly¬†mammoth. When I look in the IDE view of the package I am developing, all of these different things are arranged in a tree so you can easily tell one from the other. Again a single double-click can bring me to the definition if it is ever referred to in a piece of code. Perhaps it might save some time looking at a variable definition to see if it is a table, a structure, object reference or a variable – but if I’m in the code, it should be pretty damn obvious! If I’m appending or inserting into it, it’s a table. If I’m referencing a sub-field of it, it’s a structure. If I’m assigning a value to it it’s a variable, if I’m creating an instance of it, it better be an object reference. There again may be cases of my¬†nemeses developers still using tables with header lines and confusing the heck out of me. But I’m hoping that the code inspector might weed at least that out.

Searching outside of the SAP world the use of¬†Hungarian Notation¬†within code is not universally disliked, but with such a clear list of¬†disadvantages¬†and such luminaries as¬†Uncle “Bob” Martin and Linus Torvalds¬†against it, you’d have to proclaim yourself a pretty die-hard supporter of “doing it the old way” not to¬†just¬†think a little – “is this really useful? Or is it even potentially bad?”.

Then there comes the requirement that every object should reference the area of use it is intended for. Thus the forth and fifth characters of the object name must be “HR” or “PA” or “XX” or whatever. The use of¬†Positional Notation¬†for implicit metadata about a component is, however not something I’ve seen outside of SAP projects except for the COBOL example given in the linked Wikipedia page.¬†At this point when reading the naming convention guide, I casually check if there is any mention of packages and package¬†hierarchies and hope upon hope, package interfaces. When there isn’t, I sigh again and just bite my tongue again. Because SAP has provided a wonderful way of helping us see what use a component is put to – as every component must belong to a package, and that package can (and should) have an application component defined. And to give even more clarity, the package can have a super-package, thus grouping all like component together, whatever types they are and where ever in their object names they have a ridiculous two character code. The package interface can even tell you if the object is safe for use outside of the package. What a great concept!

So instead of spending time thinking about whether the components we are building are truly reusable, and what the scope of that reuse is. We spend hours checking if we have the first n characters of our our objects correct according to the development standard book.


One day someone will be silly enough to let me do it my way, I’ll confuse the bejeebers out of all the guys who’ve only been coding ABAP badly for the last 10 year and the project will potentially fail because I’ll spend my entire time looking for enough of a development team that can understand that following a rigid way of doing things isn’t always the best way to do it…. <sigh>