There is a lot of really powerful integration between SAP and MOSS and the awareness about this is really, for some reason, quite low. We've talked about integrating LOB data into SharePoint with the Business Data Catalog but there are some specific capabilities to SAP when brought together with SharePoint that make an enterprise solution rich, user-friendly, and seamless.
To give you a quick overview of the BDC, it's a way to bring LOB data into SharePoint without writing any code. You just define your entities with an Application Definition File (ADF – of type XML file) which you upload into the SharePoint Central Administration and then reuse throughout your portal as a shared service. You can then surface that LOB data as SharePoint lists, web parts, enterprise search, lists, user profiles and custom applications. It uses either SOAP to connect to the LOB system if it's a traditional one like SAP, or ADO.NET if it's a database system like SQL. In my previous blog post, I mentioned that the latest version of the SDK made available a tool for authoring the ADF file so that you no longer have to work with straight XML.
How does this register with the SAP web services? The ADF corresponds to the WSDL file of the SAP web service and it must also reference a Single Sign-On application that will manage the credentials of the users. The ADF is then imported into the BDC and once the application is registered, the data can be surfaced in the ways I mentioned above, displaying data from the backend SAP system.
So what's so special about SharePoint integration with SAP? First of all, SharePoint has special page redisplay so you can display SAP data inside WebParts residing in SharePoint or custom ASP pages. iViews in SAP are hosted in WSS iView WebParts.
One application here would be to show employees in their mySites a view of pending SAP expenses reports.
A few other integration options:
- You can use WSRP if you want to create a custom look and feel to your view. It's preferable to URL wrapping since it's a true web service and not simply another system's HTML.
- You can display entire BSPs in web parts. HTTP or HTTPS is used to access the application across the network so firewalls and proxy servers can be used. SAP portal is not required to execute BSPs.
- Accessing SAP data using services and bringing it into WSS or the client (e.g. through Enterprise Search, lists, in the client in a custom task pane or custom apps)
- Surfacing SAP data for analysis – this involves exporting SAP data into a warehouse and then consuming the warehouse using Excel pivotCharts, Excel Services and dashboards
If you'd like to look into a few more resources on this topic, check out the following: