In our latest ASUG Asks the Authors feature, we sit down with Smitha Banda, a senior business development manager at SAP who leads the SAP BTP practice for North America; Shibaji Chandra, a seasoned consulting architect at SAP who has in-depth knowledge and expertise in SAP BTP; and Chun Aun Gooi, an SAP BTP architect and developer. All three are the authors of “SAP Business Technology Platform: An Introduction,” from SAP Press.
In this first part of our conversation, we discuss the impetus behind this publication, the challenge of structuring its chapters, and the use cases they selected to showcase a breadth of BTP offerings.
Q: What initially led you three to write this book?
Banda: We are a part of SAP Consulting Services, and our team focuses on BTP consulting. We are the BTP experts within the consulting organization of SAP, helping customers with prototypes, strategies, and implementations. So, we had the knowledge, and Shibaji was the one who came up with the idea of actually writing the book. From there, we said, “How can we go about doing that?” Obviously, we wanted to publish it through SAP Press, so the three of us came together. Everything else is history now.
Chandra: We’d been consulting on BTP for a long time, and we realized our team had the depth of knowledge necessary to write a book that would help out many customers and partners. We were facing some common, repeated questions that we knew we could give answers to through our book.
Banda: These were fundamental questions, too: “What is BTP?” Answering that can become complex, which is why we wanted to write a book you could pick up, read, and learn enough from to have an intelligent, in-depth conversation about BTP. The book starts with the basics but extends through technical architecture, designing solutions, and more. The main idea was to familiarize people new to BTP through one book versus requiring them to go through 10 different articles to gather information.
Q. There’s so much ground to cover in writing about a unified business technology platform. What was your approach to organizing this exploration of SAP BTP?
Banda: It took us about two and a half months to finalize the table of contents. Can you imagine? [all laugh] It wasn’t easy because BTP is vast. To cover an introduction to BTP, drawing lines as to what was beyond the book’s scope and what should be included and excluded took a lot of work.
There are three parts to the book: “Getting Started,” which is basically the introduction, and then “Application Architecture and Design,” and then “Use Cases.” If, for example, you’re not interested in architecting or designing the applications, but you’re a project manager who needs to understand what BTP is, part one will serve your purpose. But if you are an architect, a development lead, or a business lead, and you need to understand how you’re going to use the technology to help your business, then you need parts two and three.
Part two is our application architecture and design, more going into the different services. There, we struggled with how to structure the book, and we basically approached it by grouping it based on the pillars of BTP.
Part three is more focused on the use cases because unless you know how you’re going to use the technology, you can’t put that technology to use. If you have IoT, for example, but don’t understand where you can use IoT, it’s not useful. Similarly, BTP has a lot of services, tools, and products under its umbrella, but if you don’t know how to put them together, they’re not going to be of any use. Our use cases give readers ideas on how to use BTP.
Chandra: My challenge was that I didn’t know where to start writing. Once I start, it’s always a flow, but where I should start was a big question. I worked on the second section as I thought it would be easier to structure; I understand architecture and its decision metrics, so I knew we could write that section by keeping a certain consulting mindset.
The real challenges involved use cases, which we needed readers to engage with and connect to, remaining both hypothetical and relevant. Chun Aun and I read metrics for each use case, determining which use cases touched best upon which kinds of technical areas so that we could cover a maximum breadth of BTP. We arranged the use cases based on that. And these use cases did not only exist on paper; we actually did the projects, and we have a GitHub repository where we have that code.
Gooi: It was definitely more challenging to write about the use cases. For people who read the book to feel connected, whatever we wrote in the use cases chapter had to be something we had already built. You need to have access to the system, you actually build it, and then you take a screenshot that is not made up. We spent most of our efforts on the use cases chapter.
Banda: Our focus was more on relatability to readers in real-world scenarios. For everything we wrote in the book, we tried to find an example. With the integration chapter, we started with an example of how a company is in a situation where they need to do X, Y, and Z and how BTP can help solve that challenge. It was the same with the use cases, user interfaces, and analytics; whichever chapter, technology, or tool we talked about in the book, we tried to make relatable to the real world.
Q. Can you elaborate on the use cases discussed in the book?
Chandra: Our primary objective was to go over a breadth of BTP offerings, through various BTP services, across different Line-of-Business (LoB) solutions. Strategically, BTP is positioned as the integration and extension platform for all LoB solutions: SAP and non-SAP, on-premise and Cloud … What we tried to do is consider all the LoB solutions we had: SAP S/4HANA, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Concur, SAP Customer Experience Management … We tried to build up the extension scenarios around those LoB solutions and touch upon certain BTP offerings. In the Ariba scenario, we tried to touch upon SAP Data Integration tools, for example.
On the one hand, we are trying to give audiences ideas for how to build extensions on top of various LoB solutions. On the other hand, we are trying to highlight different BTP services to cater to different needs. If you read a chapter on S/4HANA extensions, for example, that doesn’t mean you always have to take its specific approach of S/4HANA extensions. There is another chapter where we use Cloud Application Programming (CAP) for extensions, and you can apply that line of thinking to S/4HANA extensions as well. Each chapter gives you an idea of possible areas to look at, but you can also mix and match technology choices discussed in other chapters.
Banda: All the services, tools, and products available for customers as part of the SAP suite of products, you can mix and match those to build your solutions on BTP. Our section on use cases focuses on those combinations. It also doesn't have to be S/4HANA; a big misconception in the field is that you need to be on S/4HANA to use BTP. That’s not the case; BTP can be used whether it’s SAP or non-SAP, S/4 or ECC, or whatever. BTP is a technology platform; it provides you with tools and services, and then you mix and match those with your LoB solutions—SAP, non-SAP, Cloud, on-prem—to realize a business challenge.
Chandra: Additionally, if you look at some use cases, such as those for multi-tenant applications or scalable applications through SAP BTP Kyma—a fully managed Kubernetes runtime—these are introductions that explore ways you can scale up an application. We always tried to provide a business context. For those particular cases, there were no LoB solutions tied up to them. It’s a standalone application that customers might want to scale up, and we explain how you can scale it up by leveraging Kyma runtime. Those chapters are not related to any LoB application.
We were inspired by real customer use cases, tweaked them a little for obvious reasons, then mixed and matched their requirements with those of other customers. To ensure that our solutions were feasible, we built all these use cases on the system. You only see the tip of the iceberg in our book, but those screenshots are real. We had to build all these projects, even for multi-tenancy and Kyma runtime. We built the entire project, delivered on BTP, ensured it was working, and then wrote.
Banda: The use cases chapter gives you the art of the possible. And we want readers to know they can mix and match these use cases because you can mix and match the services and products to build your solutions. The use cases are not hardbound to what we present.