Bluefin Solutions recently did some work for a customer which involved connecting the Sybase Unwired Platform to an SAP HANA database. We thought it was an interesting piece of work so wanted to share it. I was interviewed by Jim Cook (Head of CRM, Bluefin Solutions) and here is the Q&A.
Jim Cook: So you casually told me the other day that you had succeeded in connecting SUP to SAP HANA. I thought it was incredible that you achieved this so quickly, of course you just wonder what the fuss is about. So why did you do this? What was it all about?
Vinodman Nair: A powerful Database with the ability to filter through billions of records in few sec and made available to you on your mobile device for you to make the next decision on your business or day to-day task, so Why not!?
A client of ours had an interesting requirement where it required their account managers to respond to events or customer behaviour almost immediately. It was also a requirement to gather all customer actions, analyse them and initiate offers to them via the account manager's mobile device.
Jim Cook: I know others have written about the overall project but I'm interested in the SUP/HANA bit - was it any different than connecting to any other database?
Vinodman Nair: SUP and SAP HANA integration had not been done before at least not in the APAC region. SUP is a platform by Sybase that has the ability to connect with heterogeneous data sources, but SAP HANA is a database with a new technology and required a slightly different approach to get them connected.
There was a need to have a JDBC driver written specifically for SAP HANA Connectivity. Initially we had some challenges in using the JDBC driver for SAP HANA as SUP's default DB template did not have SAP HANA's parameter structure. After a few days of trial and error and discussions with experts in Sybase, we managed to complete the integration.
I think it was an important integration piece, with this we unlock the potential of complex analysed data and make it available on mobile devices anywhere anytime.
Jim Cook: You're going too fast for me. Let's just talk about the different elements for a minute and get everyone up to speed. SUP - briefly what is it, what does it do and what's so good about it?
Vinodman Nair: What is SUP? Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) is an Enterprise Application Platform designed and built for Mobile devices.
Why SUP for Mobile Application development? SUP simplifies development, deployment and application management of mobile applications. It addresses significant challenges faced in today's world of Enterprise Mobile Application Development, they are:
Heterogeneous data source connectivity
It's almost irrelevant what, where and how the data source is. E.g Database, Web services
Back office integration.
Secure access for mobile devices into the organisation IT landscape
Reliable Push and Pull Data/Application Synchronization
Multiple device support capability.
With all the above coming prebuilt in the platform for you, we can have more time identifying business process pain-points at our customers and designing a proper application/solution to address these problems. The platform handles the messy bits.
Jim Cook: Ok but why is it irrelevant what the data source is? How does SUP help with this integration?
Vinodman Nair: SUP has prebuilt commonly used backend integration functionality.
Some of the integration the platform comes with are Database (Sybase, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft), Enterprise Apps (SAP, Remedy, etc) and Web service, REST.
Besides the above, the Eclipse IDE and Sybase Control Centre are so well integrated that any new database configuration needs to be done once in Sybase Control Centre and it's available in the Eclipse IDE during development.
Before you ask, the Sybase Control Centre is a web console interface to a set of management and configuration functionality for SUP. It allows you to access and manage server logs, package deployment, subscriptions, roles and users. Most of the time it's only configured once, and the setting are bi-directional from the Eclipse IDE and SCC.
Jim Cook: You've gone techy on me - what's the Eclipse IDE - in 2 sentences?
Vinodman Nair: Eclipse Integrated Development Environment (or Sybase Unwired Workspace). It is used during the development phase to assist developers, expediting through mobile application development, testing and deployment process.
It's a workspace where you define the data source, data structures and operations for the mobile application followed by processes either online or offline support. Anymore and I'll have to be more techy!
Jim Cook: Ok I get it, but back to the main point - so SUP provides you tools to allow you to integrate so some of the leading databases but the SAP HANA integration is not standard yet. So what's JDBC and why use this?
Vinodman Nair: JDBC is Java Database Connector it's a generic medium to connect to a database. SAP has created a JDBC for SAP HANA and has made it available via the SAP HANA Studio.
We created a new template in SUP and used the JDBC file SAP provided and made the connection to SAP HANA. With this connection we are able to access all tables in the SAP HANA database.
In the future a DOE such as SAP Netweaver Gateway would have the functionality to do the data extraction and manipulation for us.
Jim Cook: You just made so it sound easy. But no-one had done it before and you said there were challenges - what were the problems?
Vinodman Nair: Well there's no documentation yet as we were the first to attempt it and the SAP and Sybase product team hadn't tried it yet. Creating the template in SCC and then importing it into Eclipse IDE, finding the right parameters for the JDBC connection and then importing the table data into SUP, this was all trial and error.
Eclipse IDE was able to view the table but unable to generate a package when the data modelling was done. We had to use the JDBC from HANA Studio and the correct parameters in SCC and later import it into Eclipse IDE. This fixed the problems and we were able to push the application to mobile device and HANA. It was an interesting challenge but we got there.
Jim Cook: So if there is one message you would like everyone to take away from this, what is it?
Vinodman Nair: It took slightly over a decade for the world to move from desktop based applications to web based applications. It will take no more than half that transitioning to mobile application for work, leisure and fun. So the solutions waited for the technology to catch up, today the technology has advanced and seems to be waiting for the solutions. With SUP and SAP HANA integration technically a reality - a fast database connected to a serious mobile platform, there must be infinite possibilities...
...but now it's my turn to ask you a question. Now that I have given you a good overview of SUP and HANA, and we proved the integration; do you see why customers should be excited?
Jim Cook: My last blog 'Is it the technology that's holding us back, or just our imaginations?' talked about a particular use case in the hospitality industry and sees this whole scenario as revolutionary. We also know that SAP is working hard at converting all their applications to HANA including the business suite starting with ECC. This will have dramatic impact, however it's the applications that are unique to a particular scenario or industry that I think will be the most interesting and compelling.
Thinking about the mix of mobile and in-memory computing points you to industries that have thousands of mobile workers and managers, have massive data volumes and where there locations are geographically spread. Of course it's not restricted to these because it depends on the individual use case but I immediately think of Utilities and Oil and Gas.
Should customers be excited? Yes I think so because it allows you to think differently and maybe find solutions that create a shift in the way you do business or solve problems that have seemed impossible to grasp.