What are ABAP and SAP?

What are ABAP and SAP?

I have worked with SAP since 1998. SAP is a type of software called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) that large companies use to manage their day to day affairs. On the macro, the software can be split into two categories: Technical and Functional

Lets go Technical first, as it answers the What is ABAP part of your question.

Technical

There are two technical stacks within the SAP software, the first is the ABAP stack which is inclusive of all the original technology that SAP was. ABAP is the proprietary coding language for SAP to develop RICEFW objects (Reports, Interfaces, Conversions, Extensions, Forms and Workflows) within the ABAP stack.

The ABAP stack is traditionally navigated via Transaction Codes (T-Codes) to take you to different screens within the SAP Environment. From a technical perspective, you will do all of your performance and tuning of the WORK PROCESSES in the SAP system here, as well as configuring all of the system RFCs, building user profiles and also doing the necessary interfacing between the OS (usually Windows or HPUX) and the Oracle Database (currently Enterprise 11g).

The JAVA stack controls the Netweaver aspect of SAP which encapsulates SAPs ability to be accessed via the Internet via SAP Portal and its ability to interface with other SAP and non-SAP legacy systems via Process Integration (PI).

SAP also has extensive capabilities in the Business Intelligence Field (BI) by accessing information stored within the Business Warehouse (BW). Currently, there is a new technology called HANA 1.0 that compresses the time to run reports against these repositories.

There are two primarily technologists that run ALL of these functions, they are called SAP Basis (Netweaver) Administrators and ABAP Developers.

Functional

SAP has specific pre-populated functional packages for different business areas. For example, Exxon runs the IS Oil & Gas package while Bank of America runs the Banking package, while further still Lockheed Martin runs the Aerospace & Defense package. These packages were developed over time by the amalgamation of intelligent functional customizations that could be intelligently ported to the system via inclusion in dot releases.

However, there are some vanilla functional modules that almost all entities run, regardless of their specific industry:

  • HR: Human Resources
  • PM: Project Management
  • FI: Financial
  • CO: Controllers
  • MM: Materials Management
  • SD: Sales and Distribution
  • PP: Production Planning

and finally the biggie:

  • MDM: Master Data Management which encapsulates the data for customer/vendor/material etc.

SAP is a company and offers a full Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, business platform, and the associated modules (financials, general ledger, &c).

ABAP is the primary programming language used to write SAP software and customizations. It would do it injustice to think of it as COBOL and SQL on steroids, but that gives you an idea. ABAP runs within the SAP system.

SAP and ABAP abstract the DB and run atop various underlying DBMSs.

SAP produces other things as well and even publicly says they dabble in Java and even produce a J2EE container, but tried-and-true SAP is ABAP through-and-through.

What are ABAP and SAP?

Attempt to provide simplified explanation:

SAP

  • Firstly it is a product.
  • Owner company, derives its name with the product name SAP
  • It is a management system (i.e. referred as ERP). Which means, this is a tool used for managing the system (domain specific – finance etc.).

Now, that SAP has created an environment around SAP. In order to operate in SAP environment (i.e. for customisations etc.), language-abstraction was required. Here comes ABAP.

ABAP

  • It is a language (high level), which is used in the SAP environment for customisations or new feature implementations.
  • It is high-level, because, it is known only in SAP environment.

Therefore, any customisation on the basic version of SAP given to some customer of SAP would require ABAP usage, otherwise, just delivered SAP is good enough for usage (i.e. no ABAP required).

Now is another term HANA.

HANA

  • This is an in-memory RDBMS.
  • Another tool/product by SAP, you would say, and its prime focus is to facilitate analytics.
  • The way, this is designed, gives high compression (column-wise storage) and hence is majorly used for READ operations, which is why it is associated with analysis.

SAP and HANA together abstracts the underlying complexity of database-access queries and UI (developed in java), together, to make the user experience good for the management system (used majorly in analytics, and so that the main focus stays in analytics). This very specific tool/product, is said as technology, as it has an environment of its own (terminologies etc.). ABAP facilitates further development of the SAP-ERP.

The underlying development is in C, C++ (and ABAP) for SAP.

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