|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
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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or at email@example.com.