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SAP NetWeaver Gateway Extends the Reach of SAP Business Applications

by Adi Kavaler | SAPinsider

July 1, 2011

Imagine a world where SAP customers, partners, and the broader developer community can deliver innovative applications that connect to SAP software through interactive web experiences and social environments, as well as through mobile and tablet devices. The new SAP NetWeaver Gateway technology makes that world a reality. This article provides an overview of the architecture, explores what it means for developers, and explains how early adopters are benefiting from it.
 

We are experiencing a dramatic shift in the way people use digital assets in both the consumer and enterprise worlds. Employees, customers, suppliers, and consumers have become accustomed to highly interactive social, mobile, and digital experiences in their personal lives, and they expect the same in their business environments. To enable broad enterprise adoption of these trends, SAP has launched SAP NetWeaver Gateway, a technology that introduces a new way for people to interact with business applications.

With SAP NetWeaver Gateway, customers, partners, and the broader developer community can deliver innovative applications that connect to SAP software through interactive web experiences and social environments (see Figure 1), as well as through mobile and tablet devices. Development and deployment processes are designed to be quick, easy, and non-disruptive to customers’ IT landscapes without compromising the security, integrity, and management of a company’s core SAP systems.

Figure 1 Customers, partners, and developers can deliver applications that connect to SAP software through interactive web experiences and social environments

The Architecture: Industry Standards and an Abstraction Layer Make It Work

SAP NetWeaver Gateway is an add-on to the ABAP technology platform that connects to SAP Business Suite. It provides a development framework to quickly create applications that run in a variety of environments and consume data and processes from SAP software. It also enables developers without SAP knowledge to create applications on top of SAP Business Suite using SAP NetWeaver Gateway APIs.

To expose SAP functionality within user-facing applications and enable data transformation to and from SAP Business Suite entities, SAP NetWeaver Gateway uses REST-based services1 and the Open Data Protocol (OData). By leveraging these industry standards, developers have the flexibility to use the development environment of their choice to consume the REST-based services that aggregate, filter, and adapt SAP functionality. Aggregation of data is possible for a variety of SAP data sources, such as remote function calls (RFCs), the BAPI programming interface, business objects in the Business Object Repository (BOR), and Dynpro screens.

Figure 2 presents an overview of the SAP NetWeaver Gateway architecture. The technology provides a flexible landscape through an abstraction layer that separates the life cycles of the existing SAP Business Suite implementation and the client application environment. This abstraction layer removes the dependency between systems so that upgrades, updates, and deployments have no cross impact.

SAP NetWeaver Gateway can be deployed quickly and in a variety of forms, making it applicable to most SAP Business Suite customers. It can be deployed to serve a single SAP instance on the same server on which the application is installed, and it can also be deployed on a standalone server connecting to multiple SAP applications, regardless of their version (SAP R/3 4.6C and above).

Figure 2 The SAP NetWeaver Gateway architecture provides an abstraction layer between SAP Business Suite and the client application environment, removing dependencies and enabling flexibility

What Does It Mean for Developers?

With SAP NetWeaver Gateway, SAP opens the door for developers without SAP knowledge to create highly innovative applications connecting to SAP software. The REST-based architecture of SAP NetWeaver Gateway abstracts the back-end complexity of the SAP system, enabling the development of lightweight consumption applications within short development cycles. To handle data objects, the technology uses the standard HTTP request types — GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE — that all browsers use and with which developers are familiar. Plus, SAP NetWeaver Gateway supports object navigation, so developers don’t need to have knowledge of SAP data structures.

To accelerate development, SAP NetWeaver Gateway offers content generators that require no coding. The generators let SAP developers reuse existing business objects and screens to create models — within a few minutes — for external consumption. Data coming from multiple objects can be aggregated, filtered, and adapted based on the client application requirements. The generated structures can then be enhanced for custom logic using standard ABAP programming tools.

Any tool or language (including a significant number of open source frameworks) that supports REST/OData APIs can be used to connect to the SAP NetWeaver Gateway models and consume content; Figure 3 shows SAP NetWeaver Gateway application development using Microsoft Visual Studio.. SAP is also releasing three integrated development environment (IDE) plug-ins supporting Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse, and the Xcode development suite, to further simplify development for those using these tools. These optional plug-ins, which are available on SAP Developer Network (SDN), support REST-based services and the OData protocol, including some additional SAP annotations.

Figure 3 Using Microsoft Visual Studio to develop an application that connects to SAP NetWeaver Gateway

Figure 4 provides an overview of SAP NetWeaver Gateway features and functionality. Let’s look at how a developer can build an application that takes advantage of these capabilities.

     

Feature

  

Description 

     

People-centric object modeling

 

The SAP NetWeaver Gateway data models enable the creation of objects that aggregate data from multiple business objects — even across different SAP systems — and deliver them as a REST-based service to the target client application. The framework provides a model repository to store and access the models.

     

Alerts and notifications

 

A channel distributes business events and notifications to the client applications and creates pull events for message inbox integration. The channel supports a variety of different event types, such as business object events, programming events, and workflow events.

     

Content generators

 

These tools allow the reuse of existing models in the creation of consumption models used by target clients without coding. There are two generation tools offered, one based on an existing business object and one based on an existing screen.

     

Industry standards support

 

SAP NetWeaver Gateway exposes SAP functionality as REST-based services and OData 2.0 as the protocol for data transformation to and from SAP Business Suite.

     

Abstraction layer separating client from SAP back end

 

An abstraction layer between SAP Business Suite and the client application environment removes dependency between those systems.

     

Runtime services

 

The framework offers support for key areas of integration, like security, monitoring, administration, and supportability.

     

Flexible landscape

 

SAP NetWeaver Gateway can be deployed to serve a single SAP application or as a standalone service to serve multiple SAP applications.

     

Plug-ins to third-party integrated development environments (optional)

 

Three integrated development environment plug-ins, supporting Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse, and the Xcode development suite, are available to simplify solution development. The optional plug-ins can be downloaded from SAP Developer Network.

     
Figure 4 An overview of SAP NetWeaver Gateway features and functionality

3 Steps for Creating an Application

The process for developers to create an application using SAP NetWeaver Gateway is simple:

  1. In the SAP developer environment, create a model in one of the following two ways: Choose an RFC, Dynpro screen, or BOR object, and create an SAP NetWeaver Gateway model, or select a Dynpro screen, BAPI, or RFC from your existing SAP application; create a data source model through the SAP NetWeaver Gateway Design Time; and create a simplified model and the adaptation logic in the SAP NetWeaver Gateway Design Time.
  2. In any IDE that supports REST-based services, create proxy classes (IDE plug-ins are optional).
  3. In the IDE, create a consumer application.

For more details, see the demo.

A New Wave of User Experiences

Early adopters are using SAP NetWeaver Gateway in a variety of creative scenarios to develop user-facing applications. For example, a consumer goods company has developed an application using SAP NetWeaver Gateway that connects SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) with the company’s Facebook page (see Figure 5). The objective is to be able to ask customers for feedback about products that are in development and to store that feedback directly in SAP CRM.

Another example is a company that uses a facial recognition application to pull up customer information and provide highly targeted offers using an easy-to-use interface. In this scenario, data is pulled from the company’s SAP CRM system, as well as other sources including social networks. The application analyzes the customer’s profile, provides a personalized offer, and creates a lead in SAP CRM for marketing and sales purposes.

Collaboration in real time, in any context, and across the business network is now easier to achieve. Developers are empowered to drive the creation of a new kind of business application that will expose SAP data to a wider community and improve the user’s experience with SAP systems.

Figure 5 With an application developed using SAP NetWeaver Gateway, a company can connect SAP CRM with its Facebook page to store customer feedback directly in SAP CRM

Reshaping How People Work with SAP Software

SAP is reshaping the way people work by simplifying how users consume data. SAP NetWeaver Gateway is already embedded in SAP products, such as Duet Enterprise, a collaborative productivity solution that connects Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and SAP applications.2

SAP NetWeaver Gateway is making it easier than ever for customers to extend the reach of their SAP systems and enable interoperability with non-SAP environments. Customers can use this technology to improve the way they communicate with their extended business network, build stronger business relationships, engage more closely with customers, and provide internal teams with more direct and intuitive ways to access data. Customers will also benefit from faster development cycles and quicker deployments at lower costs. How will you use it?

To learn more about this technology’s features and upcoming releases, and to download plug-ins, visit www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/gateway.

Adi Kavaler (a.kavaler@sap.com) is Vice President and Chief Solution Owner for SAP NetWeaver Gateway at SAP. He has been at SAP for 12 years, holding leading roles and supporting the evolution and success of critical solutions, such as portals, business analytics solutions, and Duet Enterprise. Prior to joining SAP, Adi worked at technology start-ups and at IBM. He holds a degree in computer science and technology management.

1 REST (Representational State Transfer) is a software architecture that provides a simple web-service implementation of HTTP. [back]

2 For more information, see “SAP for Business Users: Bringing SAP Applications to Microsoft SharePoint Users with Duet Enterprise” by David Brutman in the January-March 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

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