While SAP Netweaver Gateway is a product not often discussed at keynotes, events and in the media, it is a integral part of the innovative products being launched at SAP and is core component of SAP Fiori. If you are interested in taking advantage of some of the new free Fiori applications to drive value with your ERP investment, understanding SAP Netweaver Gateway is not optional, but rather a requirement.
In a summary, Netweaver Gateway is a ABAP developed add-on powering applications like SAP Fiori, SAP Mobility Platform (SMP), and even Duet Enterprise. This small, but very important component gives your company the ability to turn your monolithic, big and heavy backend systems into lightweight, simple, consumable web services.
Why did SAP develop Gateway?
In the past SAP has always provided a variety of methods for integrating with its technologies from Middleware applications like SAP Process Integration (PI), Enterprise Service Workplace or development technologies, like Sap .NET Connector (Using RFC’s), JCo or the extremely robust ALE based IDoc’s. While these technologies provided a solid foundation for developers to connect, consume and interact with your various SAP systems, the technology learning curve was steep, it was very specific to the SAP ecosystem and knowledge of the backend system was required.
SAP Netweaver Gateway has bridged the gap of these shortfalls, along with many others by providing a product which is …
1.) Open: Provide SAP backend connectivity with Any Device, Any Experience (Web, Desktop, Mobile) and on any platform.
2.) People Centric – Versus being a technology to provide System to System connectivity (Which products like PI are good at), Gateway is positioned to provide a optimized experience for user based interaction scenarios.
3.) Timeless – The goal was to position Gateway as a middleware layer to any SAP business suite product, ERP, CRM, SRM, PLM, etc.
4.) Standards Based – REST and OData/ATOM. This implies that just about any device which can make a HTTP call, can utilize Gateway for pushing and pulling data into or out, of SAP systems.
5.) Developers – Simple APIs, no SAP knowledge required, thanks to the ability of OData to provide a descriptive Metadata
In my opinion there was 3 main reason why SAP developed this product:
1.) They needed to simplify access to various backend systems through a single point of contact.
2.) Mobile access to backend systems was needed to provide an alternative over the cumbersome, heavy payload XML based products of the past.
3.) There was a big push at a TechEd event by Vishal Sikka to “reach the next 1 billion users”. If you consider that companies like Facebook, Apple, MySpace and Twitter were able to grow exponentially by providing an extensible open platform, SAP realized this, and the opportunity it was missing out on.
Gateway is a ABAP based Add-on and can be installed in 3 configurations making it very flexible to adopt and implement. Since the core Netweaver team understand the importance that Gateway has been, and will continue to play within the enterprise, it was bundled with the Netweaver Application Server as of version 7.4, thus taking adoption from a small project to more of a enablement task. The skills required to develop new, or modify existing web services is primarily ABAP centric, although thanks to some useful tools like the SAP Netweaver Gateway Workbench, developers with some basic ABAP skills can expose data and transactions to a variety of devices very quickly and easily.
Consuming these exposed web services is as equally easy as developing them, while web and mobile developers will find this trivial due to their experience making AJAX and network calls to web services frequently. SAPUI5, which is SAP’s framework for developing web applications, also includes support for OData, making it very easy to integrate your web based applications with your Gateway web services. More traditional desktop and backend developers should also have little problem integration their applications. To make matters simpler, SAP have also provided Developer tools for IDE’s like Xcode, Eclipse and Visual Studio which make getting started with OData based web services extremely simple.
Netweaver Gateway security is handled using existing system user authorizations, and provisions have been built into the product for SSO (Single sign-on), CSRF (Cross script Request Forgery) and HTTPS.
One of the caveats to the Gateway product is that there are essentially no “pre-built” web services included out of the box. This implies that once gateway has been implemented, you still need to pick and choose which pieces of data and processes you would like to expose as web services. I believe there would be an opportunity for SAP to provide a set of “generic” gateway web services for core modules with the product. This would further reduce the barrier to entry for developers and companies and make adoption just that much quicker.
If you look into some of the more innovative products that SAP, and its partners, have developed over the last few years, you don’t have to look far to uncover that Gateway was likely to have been involved. SAP Fiori, the new UX experience for the enterprise has a technology requirement of Gateway. The majority of the mobile apps that SAP, and partners, have developed over the last 2 or 3 years, also, require Gateway. At Sapphire 2014 in Orlando, Quantilius had a very popular session on how they were using Gateway in collaboration with Google Glass to provide users with augmented reality and machine vision solutions.
If not, now …
The reason Gateway is a innovation driver, is that just as intended by the core principles, it opens up your SAP data and provides developers with a secure, simple and manageable way to interact with data and processes. If you have not implemented or considered Netweaver Gateway as a foundation for your SAP IT solutions, I would highly recommend considering it.