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How does the converison agent fit in with SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure?

Recently I posted a weblog at SDN about the new SAP Conversion Agent by Itemfield (actually, it was a month ago…it seems like last week!  Where is the time going? Or, as my friend Danny says, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies…”).  Anyway, I received the following question from Sanjay Kumar: “Perhaps I missed something, but why do we need this tool? I thought XI with its vast array of Adapters would do the job of mapping and transformation. In the ERP environment, we have LSMW that allows us to do the same thing.”  So I think it makes sense to answer that question here, as one person asking usually means a lot of other people have the same question but aren’t asking it.

The product is called the “Conversion Agent” because that’s what it is (does); it is used for converting formats.  So, for instance, I can take a purchase order in .pdf format (the example I used in my last blog) and convert it with the conversion agent to XML (any arbitrary schema; for instance, an ORDERS IDOC).  So the Conversion Agent should be seen as an addition to the family of mapping technologies that SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure provides – Graphical Mapping Tool (generated Java), XSLT (Java), XSLT (ABAP), pure Java, ABAP Objects, and now the conversion agent. 

I should say also that the conversion agent does a lot more than just pdf conversion; there is an extensive list of supported formats at the Itemfield site at the service marketplace (, then navigate to “SAP XI in Detail &#8211&#8250 Connectivity &#8211&#8250 Connectivity SAP XI 3.0 &#8211&#8250 Itemfield

Of course, Sanjay might very well ask, “OK, so why do we need the conversion agent if we already have so many mapping technologies?”  Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned.  There is nothing wrong with letting people use a wide variety of technologies to perform the task at hand; certain tools are better for certain tasks.  Second, there are some tasks that can only be done with great difficulty using the current (that is, pre-conversion agent) toolset.  For instance, trying to work with complex COBOL copybooks in SAP NetWeaver XI is difficult at best.  In the configuration of a communication channel based on the file adapter you can specify rules for parsing the flat file; but that is not very easy with complex documents, and not so easy to debug.  Once you have imported the file, you still need to develop a map in the GMT (or other mapping technology).

With the conversion agent, however, you get a graphical interface for mapping the file (and by the way, we really need to record a demo of the tool and post it to SDN – in the works – because the capabilities are very impressive); you map it to any arbitrary schema, so you may not need to do any further mapping; and then you simply configure the file adapter to pick up the file and call the conversion agent.  It is much simpler overall.

What I hope is clear is that the conversion agent is NOT a substitute for the adapters or the adpater framework.  It can be used with any of the JCA-based technical adapters from SAP.  Conversions are called from an AF module in the communication channel; but it does not replace or supplant any of the existing adapters, either from SAP or the partner ecosystem.  I really hope that a lot of people adopt and use the conversion agent, becasue I think it is a fantastic product that will solve a lot of customer problems.  We (Ronen Schwartz of Itemfield and myself) did a presentation and demonstration of the product at the recent ASUG Northwest Chapter quarterly meeting in Tacoma, and I think it is fair to say that the audience was very impressed with the capabilities.  When you see it, I think you will also be impressed.

So thank you, Sanjay, for your question.  I would welcome all of you to comment on what you think of the capability (in the abstract of course, since you haven’t yet seen it – or have you?), and let’s hear especially form those of you who would like to download the agent and give it a try.

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  1. Hi Paul,

    We have downloaded the Conversion Agent at our end and tried a sample scenario. I mean we have been able to run from the conversion from studio only as of now and it is pure magic. We couldnt imagine such complex transformation before this tool. We did an excel to XML mapping and also folks from Itemfield have been more than generous in extending their help.

    What i understand is as of now Conversion Agent libraries are only available for some platforms and only to select few customers. Is is true?

    When will it be available generally and are there any licensing issues involved? Please let us all know something about this too.


    1. Michal Krawczyk
      don’t get me wrong the tool’s features are impressive and I understand how it could help me but the will we(developers) be able to use it?
      will our clients buy it?


      1. Former Member

        See my client is using Gentarn as their EDI Conversion tool,Now want to replce with Seeburger ,So what i want to know is is the conversion agent is fair enough use over Seeburger or Gentran.

        Clarify me.


        1. Former Member Post author
          Hello Madhu –

          Thanks for the inquiry.  The Conversion Agent cannot replace Seeburger or Gentran per se; it has some very useful features for EDI users but does not provide connectivity.  You would need adapters (for instance AS2) to connect and then you could use the CA for mapping the EDI into XML.  You would still need to provide mappings to the IDOC on the back end, but this is usual anyway.

          If you were doing, say, FTP with all your EDI partners then yes, you could use the CA for trnasformation.  But this is not likely to be the case.  Rather, if you use the Sebburger adapter and also have CA, then you could use it to maintain transforms for all of your multiple EDI partners.

      1. Michal Krawczyk
        Hi Sravya ๐Ÿ™‚

        but in the presentation on
        about this product there’s a separate licencing
        described… so it might be a part of XI SP15
        (in terms of using it inside the communication channel) but not licencing I believe…

        But I wish I was wrong:)


    2. Former Member
      well, i was trying to understand new features in procesing unstructured documents, stumbled on this blog and after chking the note 894815 felt a bit disappointed cos there is seperate licencing for this feature ๐Ÿ™ .
      How naive of me , since i have initiated and pushed for an upgrade for the XI servers of our customer, since we have new requirements to process unstructured docs(xls). Now we have to look at other ways of doing this, well nothing new, now we kind of got used to working with workarounds after workarounds, instead of a solution in XI.


      1. Former Member Post author
        Hello Saravana –

        Several posts to this blog commented (with disappointment) that the tool was not free.  However, this is a new product from a partner for which we have to pay, and which was not calculated into the purchase price of XI.  Perhaps in future we will include it in the product so there won’t be an additional fee – but then, of course, the cost of XI would be higher (because it costs us more to include the conversion agent).  Is it fair to make everyone who uses XI pay for the conversion agent, even if they don’t use it?  This is the same model we have with adapters – pay for only those that you need.

        One poster did note that if the cost was spread to every customer, it could be very low, since many would be paying rather than few.  Don’t know if that argument has resonance with the people who set the prices, and believe me, that’s not me!

        Still, you can use the conversion agent for unlimited dev and testing purposes, and up to 20 MB of xml volume per month with no additional charge.  While that is not enough to support a volume production environment, there are still some good use cases – such as automatically generating schema from COBOL copybooks.

        I recommend that you play with the conversion agent some more.  It’s a fantastic tool with some great capabilities.  The bottom line is that if paying, say, 90K Euros for software can save you 150K Euros in development and maintenance costs, then it’s a bargain, not a burden.

        – Paul

  2. Hi Paul,

    Recently we evaluated this product for one of our clients. We are impressed with all  the excellent conversion features available. Infact, Ronen’s exclusive webinar presentation for us was outstanding.

    I agree with Michal. Our Client felt exactly how Michal had commented about Licensing.


  3. Former Member
    Hi Paul,

    It was an impressive presentation you made in ASUG.
    I saw a potential requirement from the customers to have the SAPScript format conversion to TIFF for getting the Fax output .
    Does the Conversion Agent supports OTF to TIFF.


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