Frequently Asked Questions

SAP Business Connector

The SAP Business Connector (SAP BC) allows the integration of different applications and technologies with SAP systems via open and non-proprietary standards. The SAP BC uses the Internet as communication platform and allows you to highly automate your business processes. Thus, the SAP BC seamlessly integrates different IT architectures with SAP systems.

XML is a universal method for describing and formatting messages. By placing information in context with markup tags, similar to HTML tags, XML enables users to access and exchange data from different applications. With XML as the foundation for business data transformation, companies are given an open standard for information exchange. This eliminated the political and technical barriers that traditional data interchange approaches such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) have faced. Consequently, SAP BC can be implemented in weeks as opposed to months or years.

A major stumbling block on the road towards a more generalized adoption of e-business solutions has been the relative absence of common standards for exchanging information which businesses could use. Before the rise of the Internet, many businesses tried to solve this basic problem by agreeing upon a data format for information exchange, the EDI format. But EDI systems have not been trivial to implement. Only the largest companies have had the resources needed to fully adopt EDI. Companies looking to adopt e-business solutions have sought a common format for businesses exchange information over the Internet. The adoption of XML by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was the first step in that direction.

SAP BC provides an interface that converts XML documents into a format readable to the SAP server. Businesses today need technologies that will enable them to leverage their ERP investments and integrate that with electronic commerce, supply-chain management, front office and data warehousing systems. This is significant, because the huge customer SAP implementation base and the accumulated business process knowledge make SAP the most important ERP solution provider in the world.

With SAP BC, SAP offers a key technology enabling businesses to deploy heterogeneous system-to-system integration solutions. This is an important step in the realization of the potential of XML technology to tighten the links between partners in the supply chain. SAP BC can be used to connect different SAP systems (with different release versions) over the Internet. In fact, the SAP proprietary RFC format is converted to XML or HTML so that no SAP software is needed on the other end of the communication line, and developing applications does not require SAP system knowledge. RFC is the communications protocol we use to talk to SAP systems.

No. SAP ITS is essentially an SAP-to-Web application server solution for deploying robust Internet applications using HTML / HTTP (dialog oriented man-machine interface). SAP BC is an XML-based integration solution for system-to-system and enterprise-to-enterprise communication (machine-to-machine interface).

See SAP Note 507813 which describes the positioning of SAP BC vs. SAP Process Orchestration (formerly SAP Exchange Infrastructure).

Suppose you are operating a plant for manufacturing auto parts, and you supply parts to auto makers throughout the world. Auto manufacturers rely on receiving your parts to make their final products. With a combination of SAP system and SAP BC, you can seamlessly integrate your logistics system with your shipping vendors and your customers. Your company will be able to significantly reduce inventory costs by electronically passing orders to various suppliers, automatically receiving delivery status reports and constantly viewing real-time inventory status on all warehouse stock. SAP BC allows your ERP system to securely communicate with your suppliers' planning systems over the Internet without understanding XML or how to interface with the suppliers' systems. Businesses can deploy SAP BC to integrate a number of business processes at many points along the supply chain, from supplier catalogs and e-commerce ordering systems to procurement and other ERP systems.

See SAP Note 619102 which describes what versions of SAP BC are supported.

Technical Benefits

SAP BC Server Extensions map the SAP Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs) to and from XML document formats. All SAP functionality accessible via BAPIs can be made available to business partners over the Internet as secure XML-based service, eliminating the need to define process pairs in advance. All required communications and security infrastructure to connect to partner applications and web sites are included. SAP BC allows native calls into and out of SAP systems without having to write BAPI Code. It also supports all RFC-enabled function modules.

In order to simplify communication with SAP applications, SAP BC uses existing standards. SAP BC offers full integration with open published SAP system interfaces. SAP BC contains extensions mapping SAP BAPIs and SAP Intermediate Documents (IDocs) to and from XML document structures. This way, SAP functionality accessible via BAPIs and IDocs can be made available to business partners over the Internet as secure XML-based services. The other applications do not need any understanding of SAP system BAPIs or internal data structures.

The SAP RFC Library is used to interface between SAP systems and SAP BC. Existing third-party applications which already have the RFC protocol implemented can now use SAP BC for remote access to SAP systems. SAP BC can call an SAP system as well as a third-party RFC server program.

SAP .NET Connector is based on Microsoft .NET. The SAP .NET Connector offers developers the possibility to expose BAPIs and remotely enabled function modules to any .NET application (inside-out). It is also possible to access .NET components from an SAP system (outside-in).

SAP BC employs standards based information exchange based on XML. Additionally, if offers high level support for IDocs.

By providing the enabling technology to transport messages over the Internet, SAP BC follows the SAP Application Link Enabling (ALE) distribution model seamlessly to support asynchronous scenarios.

IDocs are SAP data formats for encapsulating business documents. They may be translated to formats understandable by non-SAP systems via third-party software such as EDI Gateways. SAP BC can translate IDocs into XML, and send the resulting messages over the Internet rather than EDI VANs. SAP BC provides real-time, transactional interaction between SAP and other ERP and legacy systems, and web hosted data, such as supplier catalogs, and XML data sources.

In SAP BC 4.7 and higher, the SAP Java IDoc Class Library is integrated that provides an improved IDoc API and enhanced IDoc handling. For navigating, reading, filling, or modifying IDocs, it is therefore recommended to use the new IDoc API.

SAP BC appears to an SAP system as an RFC destination. To direct a BAPI call to SAP BC, you simply use this destination. To incorporate external data or services into your SAP system, you may also create function stubs, which only define the interface to the data, and call the implementation of the service via SAP BC.

The SAP BC Developer aids creation of many different types of 'Services' - the service is the smallest functional component. In SAP terms, a service would roughly equate to a function module. A service can accept input and return output data (simple and very complex data structures can be processed).

The SAP BC Developer assists in the creation / generation of these services. Completed services are 'published' (sent) to the SAP BC server. Services are collected into 'Folders' and 'Packages' on the SAP BC server. In SAP terms, a folder would roughly equate to a function group, and a package would roughly equate to a development class.

In particular, where the vendor's system is simply a web page written in HTML, the SAP BC Developer can parse the HTML page elements. Relevant elements may then be selected and WIDL (Web Interface Definition Language - a specific type of XML) generated to provide input to HTML forms, and extract output from an HTML page. This feature is called Web Automation.

Yes. Secure transactions are a must for trade and exchange of sensitive data. Secure transactions in turn need to be guaranteed through robust, authenticated trusted communications. Here the SAP BC plays a key role.

Security features include support for HTTP authentication, ACLs, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), RSA, X.509 Digital Certificates and digital signatures permitting secure connections to web servers running SSL and protecting communications between SAP BC and application clients. More information about the security features of SAP BC can be found on the Security page.

Please see SAP Note 309834 which describes what operating platforms are supported for SAP BC.

No. SAP BC enables your trading partners to achieve graduated integration and increased ROI at their own pace. This approach accommodates different needs of different partners at different points in time - without compromising overall solutions deployment or results. A simple integration may be based on the Web Automation feature of SAP BC which can interface any web site your partner offers. The next step of integration would involve exchange of XML messages via HTTP. On top of this higher level, services like transactional integrity, data security etc. may be added depending on what is supported on the partners' side.

There are major drawbacks in terms of using HTML (the lowest rung on the ladder) as a solution. The web page from which the WIDL creates its logic must not change incompatibly, otherwise the logic will fail. The second rung above HTML is XML. CGI scripts passing predefined, non-HTML response can be viewed as a rung on the ladder, between HTML and XML. The third rung is the SAP BC communicating with another SAP BC.

When getting a document that is neither IDoc-XML nor RFC-XML nor BAPI-XML, you will have to provide mapping to a document that can be understood by the SAP system. Use SAP BC Developer to provide such mapping. Please note that XSLT mappings can be reused in an SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) context.

The non-SAP system has to have an interface with which it can handle XML documents, e.g. an HTTP gateway. It is then possible to post an XML document to this gateway's address. The gateway has to know how to process the sent document.

SAP-XML is the set of XML specifications of SAP, which can be seen as XML dialects representing SAP's communication documents like IDocs and BAPIs.

Use either a validating parser which can validate documents containing a DTD or validate the pipeline. Check the documentation for detailed procedure.

Integration and System Administration

Information about hardware and software requirements are given on the System Requirements page.

Upgrade happens by installing a new version over an older version. In general, SAP BC releases are downward compatible. To protect self-written components from upgrades, they need to be maintained in a separate package.

Any ODBC- or JDBC-compliant database is supported. This includes SAP DB.

Deployment of the SAP BC occurs in a matter of days.

Installation is painless. No additional software is required. Only if you want to add your own services, you need the appropriate compiler. Configuration is rapid and straight-forward and usually a matter of days for a trained person. Basic knowledge of HTTP is advantageous.

As for ALE, SAP BC is a transparent transport layer, so SAP BC itself does not require ALE knowledge. Of course you need to know the application you want to run via SAP BC.

For error tracking, RFC, tRFC knowledge is helpful. HTML, rarely, and XML is more useful to transfer business data.

Experience in Java is required for writing server extensions. C++, if you want to write client code in this language. You could also use JAVA or VB here.

IDocs are persisted as XML documents along with their status. Retry mechanisms (secure store and forward) are built on top of this. You can watch stdout to see the traffic going over SAP BC or you can analyze the log files (audit, error, server). ALE monitoring within SAP BC extends the IDoc tracking from SAP system to SAP BC.

Furthermore, the SAP BC CCMS Monitoring Package allows the monitoring of the most important areas of SAP BC functionality directly from an SAP system. The CCMS Monitoring Package also provides the framework for developing an own monitor driver. The SAP BC CCMS Monitoring Package collects the data of various aspects of SAP BC and reports these data into a central CCMS monitoring system.

Performance data about SAP BC can be found on the System Requirements page of SAP BC.

When a client makes a request to a server that is over-utilized, the server is not available to handle the request. In this situation, the server attempts to redirect the request to another server in the cluster. If no servers in the cluster are less utilized, the request waits for the server that originally received the request to become available.

Important Note: Please consider SAP Note 512761 before you start using the cluster functionality of SAP BC. This note explains the positioning of SAP BC for clustering.

This answer depends on the environment. If the environment consists of a single SAP BC, then system administration is straight-forward. If the environment consists of several SAP BC servers in a load-balanced, fault-tolerant environment, then the system is difficult to administer.

System administration is performed using the front-end of a web browser. Startup and shutdown are fairly simple. Backup, performances tuning and upgrading are also straight-forward.

Yes, SAP BC does provide an object distribution feature via package replication. This eases the distribution of newly created services.

Availability

Both companies may use SAP BC to connect SAP servers with SAP software or integrate with their SAP software via XML.

The license terms for SAP BC are explained on the license terms page that you can access during download of SAP BC.

The SAP BC Developer is needed if you want to provide mappings or add more functionality to the SAP BC. It contains a remote IDE, which you can add Java Services with. Furthermore, you can create web services, flow services and more. For more details check the SAP BC Developer Guide. Please note that XSLT mappings can be reused in an SAP XI context.

A corresponding compiler is required (JDK, C-Compiler, VB) for development.

The SAP BC can be downloaded from the Tools & Services page. In addition to installation files, you can also download software updates and the certificate toolkit.