SAP users gathered in Auckland and Wellington last week to learn how to tie their back end systems to a web front end.
Florida-based Backsoft demonstrated how its development tool <b>talk generates components and ready-to-run web pages allowing a web application server to communicate with SAP R/3.
More than 40 people representing 20 SAP sites attended, including Wella’s Linda Jackson, who wanted ideas on web-enabling the company’s SAP R/3 system, and Peter Idoine, of systems integrator RHE & Associates, who was interested in Backsoft’s ability to tie SAP to a Java front end. Knut Erbs of utility company Vector, who also went, wanted to find a simple way to make SAP more user-friendly.
Backsoft chief Bert Kastel, once an SAP employee, said there are two approaches to web enablement of R/3. The first, ITS (internet transaction server), uses SAP’s internal development language Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) to change the R/3 application server and presents it to the outside world. Kastel describes this as an “inside-out approach” in that it looks at the SAP system first and then goes out to the internet.
“ITS is a quick win and initially cheap but the limitations are ongoing cost, scalability and flexiblity. Because you are working in the SAP system you need a second SAP server which has to be maintained. The web developer has to learn ABAP and the web user sees the same thing as you see inside the SAP system. If it’s not to their liking it’s not easy to change,” he says.
The second “outside-in approach” looks at the web first, allows you to do what you want on the web application server and then integrate it with your SAP backend, ” says Kastel.
It uses <b>talk to convert business APIs and RFCs from SAP’s business object repository to web pages. Once these are created the web developer can place them on the web site, add graphics and change them in any way they like. <b>talk works with Java, ColdFusion, XML and COM web application servers. Kastel says most Backsoft customers are developing e-business applications in Java and ColdFusion and only one is working in Microsoft’s COM.
“My approach would be to look at what you want to do on the web. Look at what type of user experience you want.
“The second step should be to say, ‘Some of this information is in the SAP system so let’s get it'.”
Backsoft will be distributed and supported by Drury-based Design Build Systems, a company which was formed by former members of Zespri International’s in-house development team which built the supply chain component of the its SAP implementation.
Design Build Systems director Angus Scott-Knight says the company’s aim is to help SAP customers get at the untapped value they have in SAP. “The resources in R/3 are often greatly under-utilised. We found that in particular people wanted web solutions for e-commerce using SAP as the backend.”
After researching the problem DBS discovered Backsoft and approached the company about coming to New Zealand. BDS is now designing a Backsoft prototype for an unnamed SAP site in New Zealand and also plans to take Backsoft to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.