The ABAP language, which appeared with the creation of SAP, is used to execute SAP transactions, and to manage corporate data, does it really have a future within the SAP ecosystem?

28/06/2022

THE GENESIS OF SAP ABAP

6 minutes read

What Is ABAP ?

Standardized and outdated, SAP interfaces are often criticized about being complex and not well adapted for their uses. 

This is where ABAP, the programming language conceived by SAP, comes into the equation. ABAP is used for the development and customization of platforms according to the needs of IT or even the end users. 

It is the long-standing solid foundation of the SAP solution portfolio and was one of the first languages to include the concept of logical databases (otherwise known as the “logical data model”), which supports all platforms, languages and units.

ABAP is the underlying innovation of the traditional SAP Business Suite. 

It is also the technology supported on the SAP NetWeaver ABAP application server platform and the applications that run on it, like SAP ECC, S/4HANA, and other upcoming innovative solutions such as the SAP BW/4HANA next generation data warehouse.  

ABAP technology is continuously extended to serve new business scenarios and innovative applications development. 

The ABAP Story

ABAP, for Advanced Business Application Programming, was born in 1980. It is the 4th generation (4GL) proprietary language of SAP R/2 at that time; thus, it is almost entirely written in ABAP. 

It is important to specify that programs written with ABAP can run on different programs such as Java, or more particularly SAPUI5. 

To give some context, several updates have been introduced over the years, in order to improve its use and allow SAP developers and architects to play with new features. 

For instance, version 4.6C was introduced in 2000, resulting in an object-oriented SAP. This can be called object-oriented programming (OOP), ensuring more complex programs and therefore more complete. 

After releasing version 7.0 in 2006 to provide a switching framework function, the 2010s were marked by the implementation of versions 7.4 and 7.5, which exempted programmers from considerable efforts in terms of code quantity. 

As you can imagine, codes with the same function have been reduced by half, making the programs easier to handle. 

It is in 2012 that the table expression functionality appears, followed in 2015 by the birth of version 7.5, supporting OPEN SQL expressions. 

This upgrade is considered as a real step forward and precedes version 7.52 which will allow a sorting of table functionalities. 

To take advantage of these new features, it is essential to upgrade ABAP application servers, otherwise the programs will not run on outdated SAP systems. 

The ABAP and Its Features

In addition to Open SQL, which has similarities with Microsoft’sLanguage Integrated Query” concept, the ABAP infrastructure provides access to many useful features: 

Internal tables are also fundamental attributes. They contain collections of objects that can be reached by using special language keywords or even Open SQL. To better understand this, one could assimilate this concept with the one of typed tables as in Java or C++. 

An indicator of the qualitative contribution of ABAB is its data dictionary. Indeed, a universal dictionary of data structure definitions is freely available to all ABAP programs in a system. 

Change and Transport System (called CTS) is a specific element of ABAP: it tracks changes made to development objects and manages their promotion in the quality assurance and production environments. 

It is hard to talk about ABAP without mentioning the shared development system. Basically, ABAP differs from most recent languages in that development takes place mainly on a shared system. Thus, all developers work on the same set of development objects at the same time.

It was designed for distributed systems: SAP systems are one of them, they connect different databases or applications of one or several companies. This is possible thanks to remote function calls, which connect SAP and non-SAP systems. Therefore, calls establish an intermediary between the systems, which allows the transfer of data, generating flexibility to the application.

Naturally, many other tools are also available, such as the ABAP painter, the ABAP editor, the Web application generator, the ABAP debugger, as well as the class creator. 

When to Use ABAP ?

Specific cases require the use of ABAP. For instance, one can use its flexibility to read applications, tables, reports and different systems. 

In another situation where one would like to optimize and factorize the treatments, this programming language can reuse already existing programs. ABAP is also useful for the development of processes not offered by the standard SAP tools. 

There is therefore a wide range of necessary and accessible development tools, such as data sharing, exception management, data persistence, and the ability to make improvements. 

Programmers can use them when working with ABAP code. Therefore, many developers are satisfied with this language, which has many significant advantages. 

The Benefits of ABAP

As we know by now, ABAP enables the execution of ERP applications (especially SAP), but it also provides a significantly more evolutionary lifecycle management of IT landscapes for organizations of all sizes.

The arrival of object-oriented programming in ABAP and the syntax modification that came with version 7.4 unofficially mark the move to a much more modern and improved ABAP.  

Modularization methods for complex applications offer ease and manageability to developers. 

Here are some highlights of its benefits: 

  • It is a simple and easy to learn programming language 
  • It allows a choice between procedural and object-oriented programming 
  • It also helps SAP customers improve their SAP-based applications
  • It can generate complex reports and custom interfaces, depending on the customer’s needs
  • We may also note that today, ABAP is integrated with the SAP NetWeaver security infrastructure, providing strong security. 
  •  

One of its only disadvantages is that it is not a good tool that can be used by non-programmers. 

ABAP for S/4HANA

Programmers entered the second half of the decade with a clear idea of how to use ABAP: code for SAP S/4HANA. 

These new platforms led to the creation of additional ABAP programming models. A first one is the ABAP programming model for SAP Fiori, which is used when developing SAP HANA optimized OData services for SAP Fiori applications. These are driven by the basic data service views and cover three application scenarios:  

  • Analytical 
  • Transactional  
  • Search. 

ABAP, as a result, continues to be an important part of SAP’s technology stack. 

While it has played a reduced role in many products with the advent of the HANA platform, it is still at the core of SAP’s most widely deployed products. 

It plays a critical and innovative role in SAP’s next-generation S/4HANA ERP platform and has been announced as a runtime environment for the SAP Cloud Platform. 

ABAP as a Leader

ABAP is a key module of an SAP generation, which itself continues to evolve rapidly over the years. 

Considered as the best tool for developers and programmers, ABAP is known for its simple and easy language and its ability to perform multi-tasking operations 

The model has consistently proven its reliability and robustness, making it the platform of choice for running critical core business processes. 

Whether for development, high-level programming, or customization, many applications such as SD, FICO, and MM use ABAP, giving the choice between object-oriented and procedural programming. 

With the recent introduction of S/4 HANA, it has become a much more impressive and productive language. It offers the ability to have all the tools for the entire development cycle integrated in one place and part of the HANA server for real-time. 

Today, it is important to know that ABAP is mainly used for programming in the backend while for the frontend, the new SAP FIORI and SAPUI5 technologies are preferred.  

VASPP proposes in its numerous offers a customized support programmed under ABAP, SAP UI5 and SAP FIORI. Do not hesitate to contact us for any information request. 

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