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Unification Using SAP BW Within the SAP Enterprise Portal for Cross-System Business Data Directly from SAP BW Reports

by Scott Braker | SAPinsider

July 1, 2003

Take advantage of the Unification possibilities SAP offers with SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) and SAP BW -- providing faster, more efficient access to the reports users need, no matter what systems they might be located in.
 

When developers and administrators seek “better” ways for end-users to access business intelligence, it’s usually not that the reports and data aren’t already there — they’re actually looking for easier access to information that already exists. They may talk of better “content management” or “knowledge management,” but it simply boils down to providing faster, more efficient access to the reports users need — no matter what systems they might be located in.

For scenarios like these, take advantage of the Unification possibilities SAP offers with SAP Enterprise Portal (SAP EP) and SAP Business Information Warehouse (SAP BW).1 “Unification” is SAP’s term for the exchange of data between various applications and information sources through the portal interface. It essentially enables user-directed, context-based navigation across multiple applications. Unification is driven by the Unification platform — technology provided by SAP Enterprise Portal — and features Drag&Relate functionality, designed to help users access information more efficiently.

This article provides a brief overview of how you can bring Drag&Relate and cross-system information access to SAP BW reports.

When Users Drag&Relate, the Unification Platform Is At Work Behind the Scenes

SAP Enterprise Portal offers users a single point of access for various backend systems. Users gain easy-to-use integration via a collection of toolbars and Web components, requests, and queries set up by the portal administrator in the Enterprise Portal iPanel (see Figure 1), along with Drag&Relate features.

Figure 1 Portal Interface Displaying BW Report with Drag&Relate Capabilities

Drag&Relate involves dragging and dropping an icon from one report (source) into another (target) query or application, for context-specific access to information within either a single application or across systems and platforms. With Drag&Relate, users can bring up data “on the fly” — they do not have to open multiple programs and run separate queries to get the needed results. And all this occurs through the portal front end.

We’ll explore some of the technical requirements and processes for enabling a cross-system Drag&Relate scenario — one that takes data from a BW report to access related customer information from R/3.

In our example, a user viewing a BW report within the Portal shown in Figure 1 would like to view the customer master record, which is located in a remote SAP R/3 backend system.

Once the source link in the SAP BW report and the target in the SAP R/3 system are set up, the user can simply drag the source link next to the customer listed and drop it onto theicon for the Display Customer R/3 transaction query, listed in her iView. The resulting Display Customer screen is shown in Figure 2 — which appears without a separate login or a separate search for the customer’s master data.

Figure 2 Drag&Relate Example

How the Unification Platform Supports Drag&Relate

In our example, the source link is provided by the SAP BW system within the BW report. Once the user drags the BW link onto the R/3 link in the iView, a source link URL is generated. This URL is re-routed from the portal to the Unification Server, and then into the BW Unifier,2 where it is resolved to the correct backend system (in this case, R/3). The correct Unifier is identified within the portal by the logical system name provided in the source link URL:

http://iwdf1622.wdf.sapag.de:1080/sap/bw/dr?~object_type=0SOLD
_TO&~object_ key=0000001175&~logical_system=B3TCLNT800

This all works seamlessly because during the mapping, the InfoObject name (e.g., ØSOLD_TO) and the logical system name (B3TCLNT800) from BW are automatically replaced by, respectively, the BOR name and logical system name from the R/3 system. In this process, the Unification Server translates the Drag&Relate request for the DQP Server. The DQP Server then translates the SQL query to the R/3 system language, which in turn makes a Remote Function Call (RFC) to the R/3 system.3

The R/3 system runs the query it was sent and returns the result data back to the DQP Server via ITS.4 The DQP Server takes the returned data and passes it along to the Unification Server, which in turn forwards the data to the end user as formatted data.

 

Consider these good starting points for adding cross-system Drag&Relate to your SAP BW reports:

  • To display what a specific customer has ordered: Drag a customer from R/3 onto a sales order in a BW query.

  • To see what a colleague has published lately: Drag an employee from a BW HR web application onto “Author search” on the Internet.

  • To find out if an order has reached its destination: Drag a sales order from a BW Query onto delivery status in R/3.

Make Sure All the Elements Are in Place: Prerequisites

Currently, this scenario works with SAP BW 3.0B/3.1 (with SAP EP 5.0) and higher. In the BW system, you must first install the Enterprise Portal Plug-in5, and enable Drag&Relate for BW queries. This will allow the BW queries and Web templates to be launched from BW via Drag&Relate.

Figure 3 Components Required in the Unification Architecture

The platform that supports this kind of seamless access is shown in Figure 3. It includes the portal client, remote and local backend application servers (here, R/3 and BW), a DQP Server6 (a third-party server whose function is to send queries to applications and databases), and the Enterprise Portal’s Unification Platform, which includes:

  • Unification Server: The engine driving unification of databases, legacy systems, and enterprise applications in SAP Enterprise Portal.

  • Unifiers: Applications that provide for advanced integration of a particular environment into SAP Enterprise Portal. In our example, the BW Unifier is mandatory, but the R/3 Unifier (or any other third-party or database Unifiers) is optional.

  • Unifier Repository: Metadata from the backend systems are stored here. In our example, InfoCubes are extracted from SAP BW when the source links are set up. This eliminates the need for any backend modification during the Drag&Relate event.

Once the BW Unifier is installed and requirements are in place, the administrator creates the source link in the BW report by creating a “BW Unifier project,” the interface displaying the Drag&Relate-enabled report. Each BW Unifier project represents a different role within the SAP BW and SAP EP system.

NOTE!
If the project is a remote BW or R/3 Unifier project (that is, not on the same machine as the local machine) then a linked server must be defined. Although a linked server is created automatically when you create a Unifier project, the different machines will not be able to see the linked server that belongs to a remote project. A new linked server must be created on the local machine for the new remote project.

Create the Interface and Source Link: Unifier Project
Step-by-step instructions for creating a Unifier Project are covered in the documentation (see references at the end of the article), and wizards and tools in SAP EP administration tools will guide you through the creation of your BW Unifier project.

Once you’ve activated your project, it appears in the iPanel. From there, users can Drag&Relate an object from a remote or local component onto a local component. To take your Unifier project to the next level — where users can Drag&Relate from a local component (in our example, SAP BW) to a remote component (SAP R/3) — requires correlation.

Overview of Technical Requirements
Requirements for implementing Unification include:

SAP BW 3.0B with Enterprise Portal Plug-in
SAP Enterprise Portal 5.0 SP05 and higher
MS SQL (Structured Query Language) Server 2000 SP2
DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) Version 4.6D and higher
DQP Server

Add the Cross-System Functionality: Correlation

SAP BW and SAP R/3 objects are great candidates for cross-system Drag&Relate functionality, simply because, in most cases, a BW InfoObject (like “Sold-to party”) already has an equivalent in the R/3 BOR7 (like “Customer”). Because much of your SAP BW data is downloaded from SAP R/3, if you want to access an R/3 Unifier project, there is a good possibility that some components from the two projects match up. Objects like these form the “bridge” between different Unifier projects.

Once you’ve created your BW Unifier project, you can correlate the project with any other SAP or non-SAP Unifier project. (Again, tools and wizards guide you through this.) Within each Unifier, you must activate the Correlator tool, and then define the bridge between the correlated information sources. Once projects are correlated, you define bridges between local projects and remote projects. (The BW Unifier even supports multiple bridges within correlated projects.) Then, from the iPanel, the user can potentially Drag&Relate between any — remote or local — Unifiers available via the portal.

After correlation is complete, the administrator can return to the administration tools and add more connections using the project’s relationship editor.8 The Unifier always searches for the shortest path between the projects. By correlating Unifier projects, you can provide your users with a wealth of options for using Drag&Relate.

Conclusion

Unification and Drag&Relate allow the user to enter and maintain data in various backend sources with ease. Users will no longer have to bounce back and forth from various GUI applications.

In fact, Drag&Relate nicely complements traditional BW report-to-report interfacing. With report-to-report interfacing, users could select key figures like a ledger balance on a report, and drill down to a predetermined set of information. Now, users have access to context-specific, master-data driven, ad hoc queries where InfoObjects are mapped to potentially any number of business objects in SAP or non-SAP sources. A single BW query might lead to any number of related information requests, fulfilled via the portal interface. With Unification in place, you now have a convenient way to provide users access to the business intelligence that is ready and waiting within your system landscape.

For more information on the SAP Unification Platform, see the “Unification Guides” for SAP Enterprise Portal 5.09 at http://help.sap.com.


1 While this article focusses on the integaration possibilities of SAP BW and SAP EP, there are also unification scenarios for third-party and SAP R/3 backened systems as well.

2 Via the ISAPI (Internet Service Application Programming Intergace) filter.

3 This requires the Portal Plug-In in R/3.

4 Internet Transaction Server

5 WP-PI 5.00. See SAP Note 440447.

6 Distributed Query Processing Server — most commonly this is an SQL Server.

7 Business Object Repository.

8 If the BW project is on another machine from another correlated project, you may have to make some changes within the Data Access tool after correlation is achieved.

9http://help.sap.com/saphelp_ep50sp5/helpdata/en/94/76bd3b6e74d708
e10000000a11402f/frameset.htm


Scott Braker comes from a traditional coding background, which he began in 1985 at HBO in New York. Scott entered into the e-commerce arena in 1995 by working on one of the first online stores available to the consumer market (Speigel.com). In 1996, he was asked to build a real-time e-commerce store for the country’s largest privately owned computer wholesale/reseller (Comark, Inc., now Insight). Scott spent 1996 through late 2000 building a team and a state-of-the-art real-time Web-to-R/3 environment for Comark. He joined SAP in 2001, where he is now a Senior Technical Consultant for the Portals/BW Regional Implementation Group (RIG).

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