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