This article is Part 2 of a five-piece series on upcoming trends in SAP software for 2016. In this segment, we will discuss changes and updates to SAP's S/4 and HANA.

Simplification of S/4HANA

New S/4HANA innovations have been delivered as part of the 1511 release, including simplifications in the data model to encompass material ledger, sales and distribution and inventory management. The elimination of aggregates and insert-only logic reduces database locks and improves performance. It's important to mention that the migration analysis tool that has been announced is based on a regularly refreshed simplification database. This simplification database contains objects with incompatible changes in S/4HANA and refers users to SAP notes for help with the required adjustments.

Many presentations at TechEd 2015 revolved around the extensibility patterns, which are different depending on whether you choose on-premises or cloud deployment. Many "musts" are optional but still recommended for on-premise deployments. Many of the recommendations will have a strong impact on custom development but would enable maximum benefits from simplification and reduced cost of operations. Some impact areas are batch input, certain workflow technologies, no dynamic programming, no code generation and access to whitelisted objects only — all allowed techniques must be application lifecycle safe. For example, read access to tables will be possible through a public CDS interface view, whereas write access via, among others, Class method API.

It is impressive when you realize that the footprint of custom ABAP code is expected to diminish.

Automatic code optimization can streamline your adoption of SAP

Another interesting set of CDS interface views are the so called compatibility views. They are there to streamline the changing data model and offer the required backward compatibility. As the name suggests, these views cannot be altered, so custom code which modifies standard tables needs to be remediated. In general, having to correct such custom code should not pose an issue, assuming one has adhered to standard coding practices. Although S/4 and HANA are fast, the compatibility views introduce a hierarchy that offers the required backward compatibility but hinders the utilization of the full performance potential. If you want to go the extra mile, you should look into tools that automatically detect code optimization possibilities and even make the required adjustments.

Even with SAP's piece-by-piece simplification of S/4HANA, which covers 21 industry solutions (four more are planned), there are industry solutions and functional systems that will not be moved into the simplification framework. Examples include apparel, footwear and human capital management. For customers depending on these solutions, the move to S/4HANA might be painful and delay adoption for certain customer groups.

Updates toANA

A lot of things are happening in the HANA platform as well. There are too many changes to even scratch the surface, but it is worth mentioning that the platform now uses core data services (CDS) for physical and logical data modeling. The intent here is to make HANA-native CDS as flexible and powerful as those offered in NetWeaver/ABAP.

Further, calculation views in HANA are the new standard flavor. They can now be used in place of attribute and analytical views, barring some corner cases. SAP will provide support in the midterm with tools that aid in the migration of attribute and analytical views to calculation views.

Starting from SPS11, you will also find support for additional runtime containers, such as Node.js and Java (Apache TomEE). This is a move on SAP's part to make HANA native development open standards-based and lure legacy applications into the fold.

For those familiar with Git, there is some good news. Git is now integrated as part of the standard native development process, either with your own repository or via GitHub.

Preparing for S/4HANA

In preparation for S/4HANA, SAP has released a tool that detects the impact of the simplification as it relates to your custom code. This tool will use a regularly updated S/4 simplification database and can be downloaded as needed to highlight the changes required for current or future S/4HANA releases. The general understanding is that this tool will only run starting with NetWeaver 7.50, while a cloud-based solution is being worked on in parallel.

If you've already made the switch to S/4HANA, how have these changes affected your workflow? If you have not yet transitioned, are you concerned about any of these updates? Let us know in the comments, and check back for Part 3 of our 2016 technology trends series