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Using open standards to provide people-centric access to SAP business information

posted May 27, 2011, 12:02 AM by Sap Team   [ updated May 27, 2011, 12:11 AM ]

A Brieft of Sap Net Weaver gateway by Christ Wealey.

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway is a set of ABAP add-ons to your existing SAP ERP system that provides easy access to your business information in a simple, people-centric manner and lowers the data consumption barrier to the point that no prior knowledge of an SAP system's internal workings is required.

It seems that whichever way you turn now, there’s some new computing device on the market demanding your undivided attention because it’s lighter, faster and generally cooler than any of its rivals or predecessors. However, no matter what features the latest and greatest gadgets have, they all have one thing in common—an insatiable hunger for data!


Meeting this seemingly never-ending demand for business data can turn into a major headache for application developers if the API into each business system requires the use of proprietary protocols.

What would make life much simpler is an easy–to–use, well defined API that gives access to the rich wealth of business data and functionality in your SAP systems.

SAP NetWeaver Gateway provides an API that is designed to function in just such a manner; and it does so using Microsoft’s open and license free standard called OData.

Accessing SAP Business Data using Open Source tools

Consumption of data through the SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface requires nothing more than the ability to make an HTTP request (something any browser can do); in other words, it does not require the use of any SAP proprietary software or protocols.

Although it is perfectly legitimate to do so, the consumption of data through the SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface does not impose any requirement on the developer to be able to write software in ABAP, or even to have any understanding of the internal workings of an SAP system.

Using nothing more than commonly available development tools such as Microsoft’s .Net or Apple’s XCode, or Open Source languages such as Ruby or PHP, you can easily create user interfaces for SAP business data and functionality by consuming the OData messages coming out of SAP NetWeaver Gateway.

In order to make the OData consumption process even easier, SAP deliver a Gateway Consumption Tool. This tool currently supports either Visual Studio 2010 or XCode and can be used to generate either an OData proxy object, or a basic application that wraps the generated proxy object.


SAP Business Data Is Now Self-Describing

As can be seen from the diagram on the right, Microsoft’s OData protocol is based on the Atom Publishing Protocol which in turn, is based on the Atom Syndication Format. SAP has used the standard extensibility features found in OData to provide its own annotations.

The combination of OData’s data format and the SAP Annotations make SAP business information both self-describing and human readable.

These two factors alone lower the barrier for consuming SAP business data and functionality to the point that no specialist knowledge of an SAP system is required before such data can be incorporated into a useful business application running on some external device.

Taking REST in SAP NetWeaver Gateway

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface has been designed to conform completely to the six architectural constraints that define a RESTful software system. This makes the business data content of your SAP systems accessible as RESTful resources through a uniform, stateless interface to any software system that can communicate using HTTP and the OData protocol.

So is SAP NetWeaver Gateway Just For Mobile Devices?

It is easy to think of an “external device” as being simply some type of hand-held, mobile device; but while that idea is perfectly valid and may well be of great significance to you, it’s only one of several possibilities.

The whole focus of the SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface is the REST enablement of SAP business data and functionality, thereby making it easy for non-SAP applications to consume. These could be:

  • Any external business application. E.G. Microsoft Office applications via a .Net (or even VBA) interface
  • Desktop machines using Web-based applications running PHP or Java or Ruby or... <fill in the blank yourself>
  • Mobile devices using native applications E.G. the iPad/iPhone or Android or Blackberry.
  • Embedded devices such as manufacturing robots or route planning software in Satellite Navigation systems.
  • Any other business scenario you can think of involving some programmable device that can speak HTTP...

Supply Your SAP Business Data to Any Device (that can Speak HTTP)

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface can be used by any programmable device that can speak HTTP. In providing this capability, it hides the complexities that exists within your system landscape by making use of:

Protocol Adaptation
OData becomes the only communication protocol needed for you to supply or consume SAP Business Data to or from your SAP systems.
Service Adaptation
Different types and versions of SAP systems now appear as a single, integrated repository of business information.

Does SAP NetWeaver Gateway Replace any Existing SAP Software?

In a word — No. SAP NetWeaver Gateway is not designed to be a channel for the type of transactional applications used by Power Users, neither is it designed to replace existing middleware like SAP NetWeaver PI. In addition to this, SAP NetWeaver Gateway applications are not designed to target A2A or B2B scenarios.

Instead, SAP NetWeaver Gateway is the door through which the mass consumption of SAP business data and functionality is made possible. The target audience for SAP NetWeaver Gateway applications is a group known as Occasional Platform Users (OPU). These are people who need ad hoc access to SAP data and functionality in an easy-to-consume manner.

Calling ALL Developers (Not Just ABAP Developers)

As part of the SAP NetWeaver Gateway software, you get various Service Provisioning tools. These tools will generate the necessary source code to jump-start the development of your external business applications. These tools can be used in conjunction with widely used Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such Eclipse, Visual Studio 2010 and XCode.

And on the ABAP Side of Things...

Not wanting to leave out all the die-hard ABAPers out there, the SAP NetWeaver Gateway Add-On provides you with the OData Channel. This is a set of ABAP classes and interfaces that can be used to develop your own Gateway Model Objects within your backend SAP system. These are then registered with your SAP NetWeaver Gateway system in order to make them accessible to the outside world as RESTful services.


What Impact will the Gateway Software have on my System?

The exact configuration of your SAP NetWeaver Gateway installation will vary depending on your particular use case, but in general, there are two ways in which it can be installed. Either as:

  • An Add-On to your existing SAP system, or
  • A stand-alone Gateway instance

Either way, since the installation of SAP NetWeaver Gateway is provided through the ABAP Add-On process, it will not interfere with the functionality of your existing system.

Key Benefits

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway interface:

  • REST-enables your SAP system, thereby lowering the data consumption barrier to the point that no specialist knowledge of an SAP system is required before SAP business data can be consumed.
  • Will hide all the technical complexities of your SAP system landscape behind a single interface that is easy-to-use and non-proprietary.
  • Makes your SAP business data and functionality accessible to any external device or system that can speak HTTP and understand the OData protocol.
  • Provides Service Provisioning tools that allow the quick REST-enablement of existing ABAP functionality.
  • Provides plug-ins for well known IDEs such as Eclipse, Visual Studio 2010 and XCode.
  • Is installed as an ABAP Add-On; therefore, it will not interfere with your existing productive software.