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Connector News

by Thomas G. Schuessler | SAPinsider

October 1, 2003

by Thomas G. Schuessler, ARAsoft SAPinsider - 2003 (Volume 4), October (Issue 4)
 

why deal with unpleasantness today when you could get hit by a bus tomorrow? And if you procrastinate long enough, maybe the issue will go away.
—Janet Evanovich, Four to Score

SAP provides several connector products to facilitate the communication between SAP and external components. Recently, SAP released some new products and updated others. This article presents what I view as the most important news.1 Depending on your integration requirements, some of this might make your life a lot easier.

SAP Java Connector (JCo)

The current release (at the time of this writing) of JCo is 2.1.0. In the unlikely event that you are still running JDK 1.1.x, you need to use JCo 1.1.04, though. But be aware that support for JCo 1.1 will be discontinued at the end of 2003, so it is probably a good idea to move to Java 2 (JDK 1.3 or later) and JCo 2.1.0 pretty soon.

The biggest change in JCo 2.1.0 is that the code page conversion is now based on the SAP code pages, which fixes some rare issues for customers using multi-byte languages. The previous release, JCo 2.0.8, had added support for user aliases, by offering a new logon property called jco.client.alias_user. Of course, JCo 2.0.8 and JCo 2.1.0 also contain several bug fixes, so I really recommend that you upgrade to JCo 2.1.0.

The final reason for moving to 2.1.0 is that it is the prerequisite for using the...

SAP Java IDoc Class Library

Dealing with SAP Intermediate Documents (IDocs) in your own programs without resorting to tools like the SAP Business Connector or SAP XI used to require a lot of knowledge and a massive programming effort. The recently released SAP Java IDoc Class Library provides a big relief in this area. The library is an add-on to JCo and allows developers to create/send and receive/process IDocs in the easiest fashion imaginable. The library is separated into two packages:

  • The SAP Java Base IDoc Class Library, which provides implementation-independent interfaces and base classes.

  • The SAP Java Connector IDoc Class Library, which contains the JCo-specific implementation.

Sample programs and complete documentation are provided to help you get started. For an excellent tutorial on IDocs and the SAP Java IDoc Class Library complete with ample source code, please see Robert Chu’s article in the September/October 2003 issue of SAP Professional Journal (www.SAPpro.com).

The first “customer” of the new library was the...

SAP Business Connector

The main purpose of the Business Connector (BC) is to allow XML communication between two SAP systems or between an SAP system and an external application, usually using the Internet or an intranet as the transport layer. SAP has just released a new version of the Business Connector, 4.7. This is also the final functional release, since the SAP Web Application Server provides native XML capabilities and the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) also supports XML. If necessary, SAP will provide maintenance releases of 4.7 as well as 4.6 to provide bug fixes for a long time to come.

Business Connector 4.7 takes advantage of the new SAP Java IDoc Class Library for its manipulation of IDocs, which makes the processing of IDoc packages (multiple IDocs sent in one call) a lot easier than before.

The BC 4.7 release contains many more improvements. The biggest change in the developer environment, known as the SAP BC Developer, is that many important development functions, for which you previously needed to be an administrator of the Business Connector server, can now be run from within SAP BC Developer without administrator privileges.

If one of your projects calls for the XML-enabling of an R/3 release up to 4.6 (remember that the next release, R/3 Enterprise, is based on SAP Web Application Server 6.20 and therefore speaks XML natively), I suggest that you give the Business Connector a try.

SAP .NET Connector

Finally, let us look at a new SAP product for the Windows platform, the SAP .NET Connector, now available in version 1.0.1.

Previously, you had four alternatives for writing an SAP-enabled component for the Windows platform, each with its particular benefits and drawbacks:

  • Use the RFC native library (LIBRFC32.DLL) directly. This is usually done in C or C++ and requires an in-depth understanding of the RFC protocol.

  • Use the SAP RFC ActiveX controls. They provide an encapsulation of LIBRFC32.DLL, but are unsuitable for use within, for instance, IIS.

  • Use the SAP DCOM Connector. This product does not support some of the latest features of RFC, and support for the SAP DCOM Connector will cease at the end of 2004.

  • Use the SAP Java Connector (JCo). This allows you to write platform-independent code, but provides no integration with the Microsoft technologies.

Now SAP has given us the perfect solution: the SAP .NET Connector takes advantage of the Microsoft .NET platform and provides full integration with Visual Studio .NET. SAP has written quite a few sample programs to get you started. Additionally, the product documentation can be downloaded as a PDF file, and there is even a tutorial for use with the SAPTutor player.2 My own experiences with the SAP .NET Connector are very positive, and I can recommend it for projects where platform-independence is not important, but you need good integration with the Microsoft platform. If you are interested in my own introduction to the SAP .NET Connector, please take a look at the July/August 2003 issue of SAP Professional Journal.3

Conclusion

Again, SAP has shown how committed they are to openness. Anybody involved in integration projects should take a closer look at one or more of the products mentioned in this article.4


1 I will not discuss the SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) in this article. This product has a tremendous scope and deserves a detailed analysis.

2 An SAP program for accessing documentation and tutorials, available for download from http://service.sap.com/SAPTutor.

3 In addition, the May/June 2003 issue of SAP Professional Journal contains an introduction to C# (if you ask me, the best .NET-compliant programming language from Microsoft) for Java programmers, which should speed up your initiation if you plan to expand your skill set in the Microsoft direction.

4 To download any of the products mentioned in this article, visit http://service.sap.com/connectors.


Thomas G. Schuessler is the founder of ARAsoft (www.arasoft.de), a company offering products, consulting, custom development, and training to a worldwide base of customers. The company specializes in integration between SAP and non-SAP components and applications. ARAsoft offers various products for BAPI-enabled programs on the Windows and Java platforms. These products facilitate the development of desktop and Internet applications that communicate with R/3. Thomas is the author of SAP’s BIT525 “Developing BAPI-enabled Web Applications with Visual Basic” and BIT526 “Developing BAPI-enabled Web Applications with Java” classes, which he teaches in Germany and in English-speaking countries. Thomas is a regularly featured speaker at SAP TechEd and SAPPHIRE conferences. Prior to founding ARAsoft in 1993, he worked with SAP AG and SAP America for seven years. Thomas can be contacted at thomas.schuessler@sap.com or at tgs@arasoft.de.

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