2.1 The SAP Cloud Platform
One of the pillars of SAP’s cloud offering is the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP). As mentioned briefly in Chapter 1, it is SAP’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering. It is a versatile platform built on SAP HANA that provides you with the necessary technical tools needed to rapidly extend existing application capabilities, integrate with both on-premise and cloud SAP and other third-party systems and applications, and the tools for innovations (such as in cutting-edge areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, blockchain, etc.). SCP is the foundation of the concept of the Intelligent Enterprise. It allows enterprises to bring together all of their digital assets and unlock the intelligence in them so that the enterprise can run its business better, faster, and smarter. In other words, the enterprise becomes an Intelligent Enterprise.
SCP was first introduced to the market in October 2012. At that time, it was called the SAP NetWeaver Cloud. In May 2013, it was rebranded as the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. And finally, in February 2017, it was renamed again as the SAP Cloud Platform — a name that has endured for more than two and a half years at the time of writing this book.
To get a good big picture sense of SCP, let us look at Figure 2.2.
Figure 2.2: The central role of SCP
This picture should give you a good sense of how central SCP is to your overall IT landscape. It has a hub-and-spoke feel to it, with its connections to various on-premise and SaaS applications. It can also be viewed as a nucleus for all kinds of enhancement/extension, integration, and innovation activities.
SCP lies at the foundation of SAP’s Digital Framework, which is the hub-and-spoke nature of the Intelligent Enterprise that envisions S/4HANA as the hub (or nucleus or digital core) and spokes that support various applications and capabilities via the cloud. Figure 2.3 shows this digital framework architecture.
Figure 2.3: Digital framework architecture
As you can see, SCP plays a key role in your foundation for a digital enterprise.
2.1.1 SCP services
Capabilities in SCP are bundled as services and there is a dizzying array of these available. New services are added frequently. At the time of writing this book, there are 89 services available. Therefore, it does not make sense to list all of them but I will mention a few of the most popular ones: SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), SAP RealSpend, Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation, SAP JAM, SAP HANA, SAP Web IDE, SAP Git service, gamification, application logging, monitoring, API Management, SAP Translation Hub, API Business Hub, Internet of Things, Conversational AI, SAP Fiori Cloud, etc.
When you sign up for an SCP account and navigate to the services, you will see the services available to you, as shown in Figure 2.4 (partial screenshot).
Figure 2.4: Partial screenshot of SCP services
2.1.2 Integration with SCP
SCP functions as the control center for connected applications in your system landscape. These include both SAP on-premise and cloud applications (such as Concur, SuccessFactors, Ariba, etc.) and non-SAP applications. SCP thus acts as a hub for all these applications and in order to ensure smooth coordination, it provides the following services:
- API Management — SAP and its partners have already delivered more than a thousand APIs
- Out-of-the-box integrations — there are currently more than eleven hundred prepackaged integrations
- Integration Advisor
- API Business Hub
- Workflows and business rules
- Enterprise messaging and functions
- Open connectors for hub-based integrations
- Integration Automation
Let us now take a close look at Figure 2.5 and try to grasp how SCP facilitates all of this.
Figure 2.5: API Business Hub
The API Business Hub is the uppermost layer of the SCP integration suite and is a library of APIs that support your needs to extend standard S/4HANA Cloud functionality. The next layer consists of five key functions that I mentioned earlier. Collectively, they help you manage your integration needs. API Management is worthy of special mention. The key thing to note on this topic is that there are special applications that exclusively provide API management capabilities. With SCP, API management is included in the platform. You do not need to incur additional costs to use it.
The Enterprise Messaging hub brings up the rear. It is the glue between SCP and the applications. This hub takes care of the handshaking between SCP and each connected system and ensures that SCP is synchronized with the applications.
2.1.3 SCP as a development platform
SCP is a powerful development platform. Developers have the potential to not only extend standard S/4HANA Cloud functionality, but also integrate with third-party applications and build new applications. First, let us understand the key philosophies of SCP as a development platform:
- It takes a business-centric development approach as opposed to starting with a technology first
- Cloud services and microservices (driven primarily by APIs) can be deployed together as a scalable cloud application
- Built-in integration with the schema of some SAP applications
- There is a standard interface layer that is built on the global OData protocol
- There is a consistent UX layer enabled by Fiori
Development on SCP is a simple three-step process. It mirrors the long-lasting Model View Controller (MVC) model of programming that was popularized during the client-server era.
- Step 1: Define the business model and expose it via an API. This is the M component of MVC.
- Step 2: Build the business logic on top of the business model. This is the C component of MVC. This business logic will control the behavior of your model.
- Step 3: Build the UX layer on top of the previous two layers. This is the V component of MVC. Your users will interact via the UX layer.
Let us now take a look at the enablers of the MVC model in SCP. These are shown in Figure 2.6.
Figure 2.6: Business model-driven development
It may become apparent at first glance that SCP provides developers with a diverse set of options for designing their models and implementing the logic. Contrast this with the traditional SAP (ECC and R/3) model. Although SAP expanded its diversity of options with the introduction of HANA in 2012, prior to that, it was a predominantly ABAP-based framework. This lack of openness increased the complexity of integration with non-SAP applications as well as in developing new applications. Simply put, the concept of PaaS was lacking, and this inhibited innovation. With SCP:
- Should you decide to bring your own model, you can do that. A good example of this is models you have built on Eclipse.
- If you want to adhere to a framework, SAP provides you with the SAP Cloud Application Programming Model. Additionally, if you have never done ABAP development work or are not very familiar with ABAP, you can leverage the SAP Application Studio. The Cloud Application Programming Model is highly recommended for application development in SCP for the following reasons:
- Follows an open standards paradigm
- Supports full-stack development
- Simplifies and accelerates your development
- Minimizes complexity of model and code
- Security is incorporated
- If your skill sets are more aligned with the ABAP framework, you can continue using these with the ABAP RESTful programming model. The enablers for this model are the SAP Web IDE and the Eclipse ABAP programming model.
- If you want to pursue the low-code option, you have two to choose from:
- Web IDE extensions in multiple areas including workflow, mobility, mobile cards, and Leonardo IoT
- A rapid application development (RAD) model using Mendix
The Web IDE has a very user-friendly interface and for those that are new to it, provides useful accelerators for using it productively. The landing page is shown in Figure 2.7.
Figure 2.7: Landing page of Web IDE
It is easy to get started with Web IDE. The Learning Center has the relevant educational material. By visiting the links listed under Helpful Links, you can get comprehensive information on the IDE that not only gets you up and running but also serves as a handy reference.
So, to summarize, when you use SCP as a development platform, you are reaping multiple benefits:
- It helps organizations focus on their business scenarios. Business users document their business logic and then you let the development framework help you manage auditing, authorizations, configurations, etc., thus creating a more comprehensive and concise code, increasing application adaptability, and reducing maintenance efforts.
- Organizations can significantly increase the pace of development and therefore innovation. With Web IDE, you have access to dedicated templates and tools. With Core Data Services (CDS), you can quickly create data models and services that are ready to run. These act as development accelerators.
- You are not stuck with a particular technology, and even better, you are not stuck with having to use any proprietary technology. The application programming model offers a recommended set of tools and technologies. However, as a flexible and open framework, it allows you to choose your preferred data source, environment, front-end technology, and toolset.
- Enterprises can build high-quality SaaS applications. This is possible via the standard support for authorization, audit logging, configuration, tenant isolation, and additional required features for cloud and enterprise applications.
- It is unlikely that any of this work is going to be throwaway. The technologies that are available to you are fully supported by SAP and will continue to receive support.
2.1.4 SaaS extensions powered by SCP
Currently, there are three SaaS applications that are designed as extensions of SCP. These are SAP Financial Statement Insights, SAP RealSpend, and SAP Cloud for Real Estate. Let us take a brief look at each of these applications.
SAP Financial Statement Insights
This application allows users to analyze their income statement (or profit and loss statement) in real time. The ecosystem in which it operates in shown in Figure 2.8.
Figure 2.8: SAP Financial Statement Insights enablement framework
As you can see in this diagram, SAP Financial Statement Insights extends out of SCP and reads financial data from an S/4HANA system.
It allows finance professionals to explore the income statement and analyze profitability in a personalized ad-hoc way, via a self-service cloud environment. It has been designed with a focus on the needs of finance professionals, including analysts and controllers of large and medium-sized enterprises in all industries running S/4HANA Finance. SAP Financial Statement Insights enables organizations to respond instantly to unforeseen trends and needs for analysis driving strategic business decisions. These needs can arise from internal drivers such as organizational changes or ad-hoc management inquiries, as well as external challenges including volatile market conditions or the need for digitalization. SAP Financial Statement Insights is optimized and natively integrated with S/4HANA Finance to ensure that decisions are taken and business change is supported based on up-to-date, real-time information.
This cloud application extracts data from a variety of financial systems and provides real-time insights into your budgets and spending. Prior to this application, there was no out-of-the-box capability in SAP to analyze spending. Figure 2.9 shows the overall environment that SAP RealSpend operates in. As I have stated previously, this application is an extension of SCP. The various financial systems that it gets its data from include S/4HANA, BPC, SAC, Ariba, Fieldglass, Concur, etc.
Figure 2.9: SAP RealSpend ecosystem
SAP RealSpend has been designed as essentially a self-service tool for cost center managers and project managers for budgetary/spending analysis. In the absence of this tool, such personnel have to rely on controllers to perform this kind of analysis. The benefits that enterprises can realize with this application include:
- Gaining a comprehensive view of your enterprise’s spending in real time
- Making informed decisions on planned, committed, and actual spending based on the information and insights gleaned
- Setting up sub-budgets and enabling adjustments to these to ensure compliance
- Dynamic prioritization and structuring of cost objects
- Detecting instances of potential fraud using embedded machine learning (ML) functionality
SAP Cloud for Real Estate
SAP Cloud for Real Estate gives corporate real estate managers and CFOs the insights they need to expertly manage their specific operations, utilizing the latest visualization technology to create a digital representation of a building. In other words, it provides a digital twin for your building. It also supports new workspace business models such as desk sharing and co-working, while digitally connecting users with the building.
Figure 2.10 shows how this application benefits customers.
Figure 2.10: Value propositions of SAP Cloud for Real Estate
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