(XML + mySAP.com) - Spin = Status Quo

  • Written By: A. Turner
  • Published: May 16 2000

(XML + mySAP.com) - Spin = Status Quo
A. Turner - May 16, 2000

Event Summary

In mid-April, SAP announced broad support for Internet content standards. To enable business-to-business collaboration, SAP provides an XML (Extensible Markup Language) based architecture that helps companies to work together. According to SAP's press release, it supports open XML schemas, actively participates in industry wide standardization, and certifies partners on XML-based interfaces for mySAP.com. These efforts allow customers of SAP to participate in collaborative business scenarios and marketplaces.

The underlying messaging and Web collaboration technology driving mySAP.com is SAP's Internet-business Framework, which embraces XML. Within the Internet-Business Framework, XML-based Web messaging is handled through the SAP Business Connector, which has been available to customers of SAP since August 1999. The SAP Business Connector enables SAP's BAPI's (Business Application Programming Interfaces) and ALE's (Application Link Enabling capabilities) to understand XML.

To date, close to one thousand customers have downloaded the SAP Business Connector. Customers are leveraging the XML-based Internet-Business Framework for collaborative business-to-business scenarios such as transmitting catalog information, managing purchase orders and availability-to-promise checks, acknowledging purchase orders, handling invoices, and for collaborative planning scenarios with the SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer (SAP APO) - the mySAP.com element for supply chain management.

XML-Based Interface Repository

SAP also offers an XML-based interface repository designed to help customers manage the wealth of available XML interfaces. Within the XML-based interface repository, interface definitions are centrally organized and made accessible, allowing companies to standardize their infrastructure and ease the integration of additional components.

SAP's hosted interface repository, includes "predefined content of over 2,000 mySAP.com interfaces and data types as XML schemas." SAP customers and third parties have public access to the repository and can download the relevant XML schema for business communication. By conforming to the schema, other components can then seamlessly integrate with components of mySAP.com. Customers of SAP also have the option to build and host their company-specific interface repository, including individual descriptions of third party and homegrown system interfaces.

Strong Contributor to Industrywide Standards

SAP has helped to move semantics and technology forward by making contributions to standardization bodies. They are actively involved with BizTalk, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and others. These efforts have enabled SAP customers to retrieve information from other Web sites and integrate the data with business applications - automatically and in real time.

SAP itself is using XML to purchase equipment, including computer hardware procurement through the mySAP.com Marketplace, and a RosettaNet Partner Interface with Fujitsu Siemens Computers, as well as with Hewlett-Packard Co.

Partner Certification

SAP embraces XML for certifying complementary third-party software components. The partner program provides more than 900 certified interfaces with a wide range of products and services.

Market Impact

XML is emerging as a widely embraced technology standard for describing and sharing commonly understood business information between entities. While designed to be legible to both humans and machines, the language is enjoying strong acceptance. Because of its sheer extensibility, (the power to describe virtually any item) the language is attractive.

However, sharing and exchanging data requires a standard method of describing items or services. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is used today to describe various financial transactions. It too encountered significant challenges while attempting to create an accepted set of standards.

Because XML enables companies to describe their own transactions, or business processes, the challenge is to produce a standard (or a set) that can be applied and used by companies all over the globe.

Today many companies and organizations such as SAP, Microsoft, Ariba, Commerce One, WebMethods, Visa, OASIS, OBI, RosettaNet and others, have created XML standards to help describe business transactions. A single, unified XML standard has not, and possibly never will be identified. Instead, multiple smaller applicable standards will evolve. To that end, companies large and small will continue to embrace XML and offer schemas designed to improve electronic transactions.

User Recommendations

If you own a SAP license and/or are interested in connecting with SAP's Marketplace via XML, their "repository" may be worth looking at. Some general questions to consider are:

  • How applicable are the transactions/elements they describe to your business transaction schema?

  • How much mapping is involved?

  • Who controls the data found in the repository?

  • How often is the material updated?

One item of interest is SAP's use of the phrase "By conforming to the schema, other components can then seamlessly integrate with components of mySAP.com." Potential users should consider how much "conforming" must be done to support on going connectivity. An additional consideration is what occurs when SAP changes to a different version of its Business Connector?

XML will continue to evolve. Tapping SAP's resources may provide users a worthwhile library for XML/SAP related connectivity solutions.

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