In a recent cooperative project between the Nordakademie, cimt AG and itemis AG we explored the possibilities of model-driven approaches in combination with domain-specific languages in the field of enterprise software (read: SAP). A group of nine students used Xtext and other Eclipse modeling components to express bid estimates of ocean carriers to derive and deploy database tables, Dynpros and ABAP code with a one-click solution.
My work as the “technical facilitator” was mainly enjoying the progress and providing alternatives during the sprint review and planning meetings (yes, the group decided to go with Scrum). Without excessive help the students were able to develop a DSL that is able to
- make simple and complex existing data types of the SAP system available to the editor,
- express business formulas based on variables of these types,
- provide a comfortable editor that checks many constraints and guides the expert, and
- describe layout of the UI based on these values.
From this input some Xpand templates generate
- a testbed for these formulas that allows domain experts to capture their expectations within a spread sheet application,
- database table descriptions to store estimates for reference,
- a dynpro frontend including search masks to fill in the needed dimensions and displaying results in real-time, and
- the needed ABAP code to perform the calculations as well as glue code for the SAP system.
Prof. Frank Zimmermann published a short description of this project in the in-house magazine Capusforum of the Nordakademie (German). There will be more material on these results soon: The students are preparing a publication addressing MDSD for Enterprise systems in a larger German magazine. The cimt AG and itemis will use this project to demonstrate the possibilities as well.
For me, this research project is just a proof of concept. I am sure the vast majority of SAP projects can benefit from MDSD principles. Thanks again to Prof. Zimmermann from the Nordakademie, Michael Neuenstadt, Michael Flemming as well as Dr. Kuhlmann from cimt AG and last not least the students. It was a pleasure to work with you!
If you have detailed questions -technical or commercial- don’t hesitate to contact me or the responsible sales representative, Asaf Ikram.