I just finished watching a Flash movie on integration of SAP into SharePoint (my Tivo’s on the fritz so I couldn’t watch Jon Stewart as planned). I thought I’d post my notes here to save you the 20 minutes or so it would take to watch it here, although you’ll miss out on the nice British accent and spiffy Flash graphics. It matches up pretty well with my outline of Integration With SharePoint and Anything, which proposed a similar continuum of 9 integration levels (from most complex to least) as: Programmatic/API level, Database/Repository/Metadata, Execution, Web Services/SOA, Portlets/Web Parts, Single sign-on, Unified search, Screen scraping, and Linking. They reverse the continuum, but hit most of the same notes.
Here are my notes of the presentation, followed by a few comments:
- Their scenario assumes you store your content in SharePoint and then use WebDAV, web services, or a packaged .NET data provider (.NET Data Provider for mySAP Business Suite) to get at it
- You can use the Business Data Catalog (BDC) to search for SAP data from Sharepoint
- A few low-end methods are mentioned, such as linking, using framesets to embed pieces of SAP portal-displayed views inside a SharePoint page, and embedding customized portlets (not sure what kind they mean)
- WSRP: SAP acts as the WSRP producer in this scenario and SharePoint as the consumer. This is apparently a custom bit of work as you need to produce the xml-compliant templates in visual studio.
- Business Data Catalog (BDC): It doesn’t say whether there is a non-manual way to create the BDC metadata for an SAP system. While SAP systems are highly customized, there are often tools that can be run against them to do discovery of customizations and allow click-and-drag access to data objects. It doesn’t seem like that is done here
- Forms: Online forms from MOSS can be submitted to SAP
- You can develop iViews in Visual Studio. There’s a portal add-on, a portal runtime for .NET, and a Java .NET interoperability plug-in that runs in SAP
- They mention additional integration that is needed such as SSO, multiple iViews in a SharePoint page, and migrating iViews into SharePoint
A few comments from me:
WSRP portlets have been a sticky issue for SharePoint and, indeed, when listening to the slickly produced Flash movie, I can clearly detect that the part about using WSRP portlets from SAP in SharePoint was done as an overdub. The vocal quality and volume changes for that section. It could be they just needed to clarify the technical detail later, or they had to be very careful to say what they can do because one bit of wrong wording would expose some limitations with that method. Or maybe last minute decisions were made that required redubbing (like a lack of packaged WSRP portlets).
They don’t mention unified search between an SAP portal and SharePoint site. If anyone out there has gotten that to work well I’d like to hear how you went about it.
In general, this demonstrates that integration with SAP or SharePoint occurs across several dimensions and any organization looking at integration needs to consider all of them. If a vendor is asked about integration and gives a nice detailed answer about one level (such as portlets) you need to ask about all 9 levels.
As an exercise, the integration that Day Software (a content management vendor) announced today with SAP can be analyzed across these levels as well. Day’s press release says:
Day’s extended capabilities provide out-of-the-box portlets, allowing managed content that is dynamically associated with the SAP NetWeaver Portal, to be displayed through iViews. Presentation capabilities are supported through the use of iViews, themes and external facing portals. Integration into portal navigation and TREX search is also available. Day extends the value of managed content through multi-language support, inter-portlet communication, content sharing and personalization. Support for LDAP and Single Sign-On enables seamless integration into the portal framework.
While the devil is in the details, you can at least see they are touching the bases. Once you see the integration dimension pattern, it becomes easier to assess SAP or SharePoint integration.