Enabling complex data transformation within SAP NetWeaver
If you already know how to work with flat files and other input or output structures in SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure, then there is a good chance you have encountered difficulties when trying to work with very complex file structures (such as COBOL copybooks); forget about working with .pdf files, or Microsoft Word™ documents, or other semi- or non-structured data – that requires custom coding. But what if you could use a graphical interface to import these, and many other structures, at design time, plus map them to the target schema, and then use any of the SAP or partner JCA-compliant adapters for transport of those structures at runtime?
SAP has partnered with Itemfield, the leader in complex data transformation technology to develop the Itemfield Conversion Agent for SAP NetWeaver. Using this technology, customers can efficiently incorporate and transform semi-structured data (HL7, HIPAA, EDI-X.12, EDIFact, COBOL copybooks, etc.), unstructured data (ASCII, EBCDIC , PDF, HTML, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint®, etc.), and messages based on Industry Standards (SAP IDocs, ACORD XML, ACORD AL3, IFX, FIXML, OFX, LegalXML, cXML, ebXML, RosettaNet, HL7 etc.) into SAP NetWeaver.
The solution includes the Itemfield ContentMaster Studio, a plug-in to the Eclipse development environment that allows you to implement or generate conversion procedures (“parsers”) to bring the data into NetWeaver in the desired format. For instance, suppose we have a requirement to accept a purchase order that is delivered as a PDF document, and we want to automate processing of these. Suppose, also, that we want to map the PO Data to an Orders IDOC. In the ContentMaster Studio, we would point to a sample instance of the PDF; We would open the IDOC-XML schema as our target schema; and we would specify or generate the rules for importing the PDF data into the IDOC structure. Of course there are wizards to assist in the task (for instance, to define the repetitive structures that contain the PO Line Items and map them to the appropriate IDOC segments and fields); and a function library (user-extensible) for inline transformations; and many nice features to the interface:
The solution will include (as of SPS15) a J2EE library that can be plugged into the NetWeaver environment, and this library can be called from a module that plugs into any of the JCA-compliant adapters (from SAP or the partner ecosystem) for SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure. So having defined our transformation rules as above, we could use the file adapter to pull the PDF PO file into the environment; and the Itemfield runtime J2EE library would bring the data into SAP NetWeaver XI in the IDOC format as we defined. Thus no further mapping would be required!
The solution works bi-directionally; that is, you can also define the transformation from XML to (semi-) (non-) structured data (via “serializers”). And Exchange Infrastructure is not the only NetWeaver component that can use the Itemfield Conversion Agent. For instance, you could use the solution to do screen-scraping of an HTML page and use it in an iView for SAP NetWeaver Portal.
I’m sure that, with a little thought, you can probably imagine many scenarios where this functionality can improve your life, make your work easier, and expand the capabilities of your SAP NetWeaver environment. You can find more information about the Itemfield Conversion Agent for SAP NetWeaver by going to the “XI” quicklink in the SAP Service Marketplace (http://service.sap.com/xi), and then navigating to “SAP XI in Detail –› Connectivity –› Connectivity SAP XI 3.0 –› Itemfield“
I will be writing more blogs about the Itemfield Conversion Agent for SAP NetWeaver, including some customer examples, in the months ahead. In the meantime, if you would like to use this functionality in your implementation, look at the site in the Service Marketplace, and by all means send me an email!