In this competitive business era, companies look to improve themselves constantly. This is important for gaining an edge over their competitors. Along with the improvement in business operations, companies also look forward to developing business applications. One of the most popular programming languages for business app development is ABAP. This is a high-level programming language created by SAP.
Over the years, ABAP has helped many companies develop apps to enhance their business operations. These apps have helped in software development, financial accounting, data analysis, HR management, and asset management operations. Due to all these functionalities, there has been a constant need for ABAP developers in the market.
In this post, we will know all about SAP ABAP – its features, functionalities, and components.
SAP ABAP stands for Advanced Business Application Programming. ABAP is a 4th generation high-level programming language. This is used by the SAP system to run apps on the NetWeaver ABAP platform. Professionals use ABAP to modify the application functionalities. All the programs written in ABAP are stored in SAP’s database. Apps can be created and run on the SAP NetWeaver ABAP platform.
ABAP is one of SAP’s most popular software products. Developers have often considered it a simple programming language, hence its popularity. A great feature that it offers programmers the option of choosing between procedural and object-oriented programming. Developers use ABAP for creating reports, interfaces, forms, and module pool programming.
An important feature to point out is that ABAP is feature-driven. This means that the execution of an app will be affected by system events and user actions.
In the 1980s, SAP ABAP was used by developers for creating reports for other SAP products. For SAP R/3, ABAP played an important role as the extension and implementation language. Later on, the language evolved with new features such as object-oriented concepts and database access methods. By 2010, a lot of new syntaxes were launched.
With the ABAP 7.4 release, SAP decided to optimize the platform for the SAP HANA platform, its in-memory database. Along with this, they introduced the ABAP code data services for data modeling and data access. Then, SAP Gateway became an important part of SAP ABAP with the 7.4 release. The Business Object Processing Framework also became a part of the ABA 7.5 release.
At present, ABAP is used for creating programs for SAP R/3 client-server system. With the development of technology since 1992, ABAP has been used for applications for the SAP system. NetWeaver also offers support for ABAP. All these years, SAP has produced a huge amount of code for ABAP. There are thousands of programmers working on ABAP and creating apps for various companies.
To offer a system for managing the lifecycle of ABAP code, SAP launched SAP Solution Manager, also called SolMan. Now, ABAP can be used for developing various types of HANA-optimized applications. These include analytical, search, and transactional applications.
The best part of ABAP’s evolution is that it enables the simple onboarding of developers without messing their heads with tons of documentation.
Some notable facts of SAP ABAP’s history:
All ABAP programs run within the ABAP Runtime environment. This is a part of the SAP kernel. The runtime environment is used for processing statements in ABAP. It is also used in handling events and the flow logic of screens.
Let us see how the runtime works. First of all, the ABAP code is stored in the SAP database. Here, the code exists in 2 forms – source code and generated code. You can edit the source code via the ABAP workbench. The generated code is the source code represented in binary. Thus, the source and generated code of a program are stored in the database.
When your program is executed from the frontend, the program buffer is checked to see whether it exists or not. If the program is not found, then a call to the database is made from the runtime environment to fetch it. All the statement processing and user events are handled by the runtime. The database interface converts ABAP statements (Open SQL) into native SQL statements.
The ABAP programs can communicate with the relational database through the database interface.
There are two possible ways to develop in ABAP. The availability depends on the release of the ABAP system.
1) ABAP Workbench
2) ABAP Development Tools
The ABAP Workbench is basically a set of tools and programs. These tools help you to develop, execute and test ABAP programs. These tools also help you to develop enterprise resource planning applications. These applications run in the R/3 subsystem. You can use the workbench tools to modify the existing ABAP programs. Along with all this, you can also write report programs, function modules and module pools.
Some of the salient features of ABAP workbench are as follows:
Uses of ABAP Workbench:
The important workbench tools include:
The data dictionary holds all the data for business applications. The different definitions of metadata are maintained by the data dictionary. You can refer to the dictionary objects anywhere throughout the SAP system.
The ABAP editor is where you write the code for your programs. You can also edit reports and screens. This editor helps the users to use complicated functions easily. This is possible by grouping the functions together. Moreover, it helps you to create, delete and edit entries in the templates given. You can also change the template layouts.
The SAP GUI is designed and maintained using the Painter.
The ABAP platform is a scalable programming environment. This is used for developing applications in ABAP. This platform is very useful in maintaining the lifecycle of all your applications. This makes your life easier when you are using SAP HANA. Furthermore, you can build Fiori applications.
These are applications that address tasks such as looking up information and approving workflows.
The ABAP Development Tools is the standard IDE (Integrated Development Environment) used for ABAP application development. This IDE is based on Eclipse that is user-friendly and flexible. The ABAP platform provides you with powerful functionalities such as:
All these features combined with the powerful UI of Eclipse. This makes the platform very efficient. The platform focuses on these three areas:
Each ABAP program has a program type which must be determined in the program attributes when the program is created.
As in other programming languages, an ABAP program is either an executable unit or a library, which provides reusable code to other programs and is not independently executable.
Reports follow a relatively simple programming model whereby a user optionally enters a set of parameters (e.g., a selection over a subSET of data) and the program then uses the input parameters to produce a report in the form of an interactive list. The reason why these programs are called reports is the "list-oriented" nature of the output they produce.
Module pools define more complex patterns of user interaction using a collection of screens. The term “screen” refers to the actual, physical image that the user sees. Each screen also has a "flow logic", which refers to the ABAP code implicitly invoked by the screens, which is divided into a "PBO" (Process Before Output) and "PAI" (Process After Input) section.
Subroutine pool Function groups are libraries of self-contained function modules (enclosed by FUNCTION/ENDFUNCTION and invoked with CALL FUNCTION).
ii) An INCLUDE module gets included at generation time into the calling unit; it is often used to subdivide large programs.
iii) Subroutine pools contain ABAP subroutines (blocks of code enclosed by FORM/ENDFORM statements and invoked with PERFORM).
iv) Object classes and interfaces are similar to Java classes and interfaces; the first define a set of methods and attributes, the second contain "empty" method definitions, for which any class implementing the interface must provide explicit code.
v) Class type pools define collections of data types and constants.
Prior to Release 4.6, you had to specify the internal one-character ID to select a program type. Now the program type is chosen based on the full name. The program type defines the basic technical attributes of a program, that is, which processing blocks a program may contain, how the program is handled and executed by the ABAP runtime environment, and whether it can work with its own screens.
SAP ABAP program is a collection of statements, each statement begins with a keyword and ends with a period.The first line of statement start with a word PROGRAM or REPORT and followed by the name.
The syntax is
Write 'Hello World'.
This example contains two statements: PROGRAM and WRITE. The program displays a list on the screen. In this case, the list consists of the single line "Hello World". The PROGRAM statement indicates that this program is a module pool. This program could be a report after replacing the PROGRAM statement with REPORT .
Below an example of ABAP syntax of report statement type.
Write 'Hello World'.
ABAP Statement is a combination of keywords, operators, data types, constants, etc.
The ABAP statement starts with a keyword and that determines the meaning of ABAP statement. The different types of keywords are
Comments are descriptive text between the lines of ABAP program. Comments are not executed during run time or execution. Symbol (*) is used in first column of sentence. The different types of comments that are used in ABAP programming are
* Compilation of ZP001......
Message class are user defined messages, so we can create our own messages to display on the screen. We can create up to 1000 messages in a single message class and message ID numbers are ranges from 0 to 999. The created messages can be called from program using statement “MESSAGE”.
MESSAGE <type_of_message> <message_id> (message_class).
ABAP program consists the following structure
Header section provides the detailed information about the development and which is the standard template for all custom ABAP developments. The first statement of ABAP program starts with a word PROGRAM or REPORT. It is not mandatory to mention the program name, but for documentation purpose correct name of ABAP program should be used.
When the user creates a program, by default system inserts the first ABAP statement
Global declaration declares all the global variables
Processing logic block is used to implement the business logic and it is written for declaration.
You can define reusable components once and you can call components wherever they are need for business logic.
If you are a newbie to the world of SAP ABAP, here are the key concepts to know.
Modern ABAP development is based on technologies such as OData, Core Data Services (CDS) and Business Object Processing Framework (BOPF). With this approach, you can build applications that are ready to be launched to the cloud. These applications will be optimized for SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA.
The modern development environment is based on Eclipse. This gives you the ability to work with CDS views and the ABAP RESTful Programming Model. Moreover, using Eclipse you can access the front-end and back-end together easily.
SAP provides users with a Platform as a service (PaaS) called SAP cloud platform. This allows you to develop and run your ABAP applications in the cloud. You can either run standalone applications or as an extension of the SAP software.
The SAP Cloud Platform ABAP Environment will facilitate developers to use their Agile and DevOps methodologies. This way the applications are developed and delivered faster. The classic waterfall model of development is not used here. This modern approach leads to continuous integration of the services. Moreover, as a developer, you do not have to worry about the infrastructure and runtime environment. You can focus on the development of the application.
The ABAP platform provides you with a comprehensive toolset for application development. This includes advanced quality assurance tools. This comes with the support for conversion to SAP HANA. This also comes with the following features:
Many of the professionals are looking to switch to real-time strategies. This is to enhance business functions. So, the business responds to industry changes and customer demands in real-time. This enables the company to deliver personalized services that are efficient.
Real-time applications respond within milliseconds to the user actions. This way a lot of data is processed very quickly. ABAP enables real-time processing with In-memory technology. ABAP channels allow the development of interactive scenarios for users.
Industrial IoT allows the communication of sensors and industrial machinery. These are connected to the IT systems. SAP NetWeaver implements these IoT scenarios using TCP/ IP protocols. This is based on ABAP Push Channel and ABAP Messaging Channel infrastructure. The IoT devices are connected directly with the ABAP server. Therefore, the entire system is simplified.
You can use the SAP Business Suite and SAP S/4HANA to enhance your business applications. This allows you to adapt standard business tools according to your business requirements. The following concepts are involved:
Extensibility can be divided into two parts:
ABAP supports custom code migration to the SAP Cloud Platform and SAP S4/ HANA. This is made possible through two features. They are ABAP Development Tools in Eclipse (ADT) and Remote ABAP Test Cockpit (ATC). The ATC is a toolset that allows you to run unit tests and static check on your ABAP code. It is compatible with ABAP Code Inspector for enabling smooth code migration.
HANA is the relational database management system offered by SAP. It is an in-memory database that can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud. HANA is a combination of software and hardware. It includes:
When ABAP is used on HANA, the productivity of the system is enhanced. This is because of the Code-To-Data Paradigm of HANA. This allows you to push the code to the database layer. You can do all the necessary operations and calculations there. Then you can fetch only the necessary records for the presentation server.
There are other features you can enjoy while working on HANA with ABAP. They are as follows:
A SAP ABAP Consultant develops business application using ABAP. They play an important role while implementing SAP software for an organization. The different roles and responsibilities are:
Nowadays, all modern companies use ERP programs for their business activities. So, SAP systems are inevitable. So, learning ABAP will help you in understanding the core technicalities of the system. It will help in developing many new enterprise applications. Updating the existing ones will be easier. ABAP offers great features such as module pool programming, inter-system communication, batch input processing and sequential dataset processing.
This is why many companies now provide SAP ABAP training to their employees. With ABAP skills under their belt, they can build business applications to improve their business.