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SharePoint BCS vs. Duet Enterprise

Microsoft and SAP teamed up for a do-over on Duet. In my experience, I’ve never seen a customer implement Duet 1.0 or 1.5 with the Microsoft Office integration. Maybe it wasn’t the right use case? Maybe it wasn’t easy enough to customize? In any case, the focus for the next version of Duet, Duet Enterprise has turned away from Microsoft Office applications and onto Microsoft SharePoint which is a terrific direction.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is generally well accepted, and becoming much more prevalent as the corporate Portal. Knowledge workers collaborating in this product is a simple and pleasant experience. Why not integrate some SAP data into this space?

The question will likely come down to the technical architecture. Duet Enterprise is not yet available, but will offer a number of accelerators, including Single Sign-On, monitoring, and “flattening” of services. I attended a terrific webinar this week reviewing this solution: http://webinars.sapinsideronline.com/. However, one of the advantages of SharePoint BCS (Business Connectivity Services, or SharePoint’s simple method for connecting to external data sources) and SAP’s Enterprise Services is that they are both standards that should work together without any special 3rd party components. Shouldn’t the goal be to simplify this solution? Is the added cost and complexity of Duet Enterprise worth the acceleration that it is offering? I will be digging into these questions over the next few weeks.

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  • The big surprise for non-SAP developers trying to connect to SAP is the complexity and inconsistency of BAPI/RFC services. 

    Every attempt to deal with this outside the ABAP stack, whether it is a SAP integration server or a .Net wrapper, or a third party product like Sitrion or ERPLink or BizTalk, adds another layer of complexity and things that can go wrong. Which it does whenever the data dictionary changes.

    The big news for me around Duet Enterprise is the underlying integration approach – Project Gateway.  SAP got some veteran developers (like Andre Fischer) together to solve the problem at it’s root cause, and expose services that are simple, consistent and predictable.

    They will be compatible with the tools everyone outside the NetWeaver stack is using to build user experiences, not just SharePoint, but android, iPhone, Air, etc etc. 

    Gateway services also look easy to build, including a screen-scraping option.  They have standard methods – POST = create, GET = read, PUT = change and DELETE = delete. 

    Now I just want to find out what happens to a Gateway service when the SAP data dictionary changes… 

    • Peter,

      I completely agree with the difficulties of BAPI / RFC services. That is the constant complaint I hear from developers and integration folks.

      I’ve heard a lot about Project Gateway, but often contradicting predictions. Do you have any link for a final architecture or implementation? If Project Gateway is another name for the service consumption layer (SCL) of Duet Enterprise, that may be a little scary. Reviewing the steps required to create an interface for a new business object looks extremely complex.

      I would love if this were the RESTful interfaces as you’ve described! Though, I don’t want to get my hopes up.