Because mySAP ERP and mySAP Business Suite are based upon SAP NetWeaver, many SAP customers are investigating how to use the platform in their current IT environment – in SAP systems, such as SAP R/3, mySAP CRM, and mySAP PLM, and with legacy systems from non-SAP vendors. Such investigation raises lots of questions. How will SAP NetWeaver work with current legacy solutions? How can SAP NetWeaver be used to extend existing and future SAP solutions with custom components? How can customers use new, more flexible technologies like Web services to connect older SAP R/3 systems and different third-party systems? Can customers use backend systems as is in the short term but build new user interfaces in front of them?
SAP NetWeaver is a comprehensive technology platform designed to work with SAP and non-SAP solutions alike – not just the most recent SAP releases. Of course, with mySAP ERP and mySAP Business Suite, SAP NetWeaver integration is built right in. The integration platform is designed to complement, not replace, an enterprise’s solutions. Customers should investigate SAP NetWeaver as a starting point to enhance their existing systems. They can even use new features and functions within the current components of their system landscape.
Incremental implementation in three steps
SAP NetWeaver is designed for incremental implementation, so that customers can start by incorporating enhancements that bring high return in terms of design, development, and use. This article details a step-by-step, three-stage, and incremental implementation path to extend an enterprise’s current solutions.
First, create portal-based user interfaces to extend current, underlying SAP applications and functions to a broader audience with Web technology. Second, create custom applications that combine data from multiple sources and allow users to interact with the applications in a coherent and user-friendly manner. SAP Web Application Server (SAP Web AS) allows you to recombine existing SAP R/3 functionality into new forms accessible through J2EE, ABAP components, and Web services. Finally, deploy applications that can easily use a variety of applications and technologies: role-based user interfaces, SAP NetWeaver integration tools, Web services, components from mySAP Business Suite, legacy applications, and applications from other vendors. The resulting applications, which SAP terms “composite applications,” are the foundation for a high degree of interoperability, reuse, and adaptability in an enterprise’s business processes.
Step one: portal access
SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) provides role-specific, Web-based, and secure access to all kinds of relevant information, applications, and services. The user needs only a desktop and a Web browser. All applications that can be called by an URL and that employees, partners, and customers need constantly are excellent candidates for portal access. SAP EP allows extension of underlying SAP solutions, including SAP R/3, and third-party applications based upon UI technologies like HTML, BSP, HTMLB, and Web Dynpro. All these applications or transactions are visualized as iViews: executable units or applications within the portal.
Consider the following example. To enter an order, a customer service employee must check the order and customer credit limit, verify materials and product availability, confirm delivery, and so on. The tasks might require financial and materials management systems and perhaps other solutions acting as back-end systems. Rather than requiring users to be familiar with all these systems and transaction names, SAP EP allows the application developer to design iViews especially for this role, so that a user can access all information from a single desktop. The order is represented in one iView based on the CRM system, and the credit limit check occurs in another iView connected to the financial system. Users no longer have to toggle back and forth between interfaces or copy and paste data. SAP EP helps all members of the supply chain – employees, partners, and suppliers –access the functionality of their current systems better.
By applying predefined or custom portal themes delivered with SAP EP, users can easily adjust colors and logos without having to code or modify the applications. Users might want to combine the data of different processes into one application, or a customer service team might get information from an SAP R/3 system but require related information from a CRM system as well. SAP EP provides all this information, and SAP NetWeaver lets users create an interface that combines data from multiple sources and allows them to interact with the sources coherently.
Step two: SAP Web AS tools for custom design
SAP Web AS helps customers recombine existing SAP R/3 functionality in new components based upon ABAP (RFCs and BAPIs), J2EE, and Web services technology. All these components are supported by SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio, an integrated development environment that includes Web Dynpro. With Web Dynpro, customers can use model-driven and graphical tools to customize and Web-enable applications with traditional and new leading-edge UI elements like Roadmap, Office Integration, Adobe Forms Integration, and DateNavigator. Visual tools help users build the user interface and connections to multiple backend components and data sources.
What’s more, with Web Dynpro, two independent iViews based upon Web Dynpro can talk to each other. For example, the “Order Inbox” (connected to the CRM system) and “Credit Limit Check” (connected to the financial system) iViews can use client-side eventing. If a user selects an order, the partner ID information for the appropriate customer will automatically appear in “Credit Limit Check.” There is no more drag and drop or copy and paste. And the application developer does not even have to write a single line of code. All adaptations for client-side eventing can be performed with wizards and templates. But the code is always and easily accessible at all levels of application development. With SAP EP up and running and SAP NetWeaver development tools in place, customers can use both ready-made content from SAP and custom-built applications to support business requirements.
Step three: building and running composite applications
The next step converts the applications described above into full, services-based applications, making it easy to extend and adapt current solutions. This step involves SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI), Composite Application Framework (CAF), and services from SAP R/3 to build entirely new applications that achieve a high degree of interoperability across systems and applications. It extends existing and legacy solutions to support and optimize new business processes designed to minimize the cost of adaptation and change.
SAP XI provides sophisticated process integration and messaging. The component delivers the key integration-broker technology of the SAP NetWeaver technology platform and provides a range of adapters to integrate SAP solution, non-SAP solutions, and Web services interfaces. Forward-looking companies are already creating architectures based upon Web services to allow rapid evolution of business processes and get the most out of existing IT investments and technologies such as SOAP, XML, and HTTP. SAP NetWeaver helps manage a heterogeneous landscape by leveraging the development of services-based applications and supporting many Web services-based scenarios, either with the Web service capabilities of SAP Web AS or the value-added functionalities of SAP XI.
The CAF of SAP NetWeaver includes a model-driven development tool, the Composite Application Modeler, designed specifically for creating applications from Web services. CAF brings various services from SAP NetWeaver, mySAP Business Suite, and homegrown or third-party services into a development environment. With the help of CAF, composite applications can be rapidly reused, extended, and enhanced. This capability allows the core SAP functionality to inform and help automate future applications.
Ready for future upgrades
A three-step, incremental implementation not only meets the short-term goal of enhancing current applications, but also prepares the technology base of an enterprise for future development and change. An open and extensible platform for the management of current SAP R/3 systems, SAP R/3 extensions, and custom-designed applications best meets the demands of a complex organization and reduces the TCO of the IT landscape – even for future upgrades.
Source: SAP Insider