With the release of Gateway 2.0 as addition to the SAP NetWeaver stack, the question is justifiable whether this on itself is sufficient for SAP / Microsoft interoperability. Stated otherwise: ‘Do you need Duet Enterprise?’ The answer on that depends on your requirements, IT strategy, plans and situation. On level of desired application(s) functionalities as well as the Enterprise Architecture strategy, policy and plans in your company.
Is Duet Enterprise required for SAP / Microsoft interoperability?
An answer to that question is: No, Duet Enterprise is not per se required, but it might be the wise decision. To make that decision, multiple aspects must be considered.
a) The extras Duet Enterprise brings to the table (compared to Gateway alone)
b) Your SAP / Microsoft roadmap and plans; multiple applications and a future-robust strategy, or just now for a single project?
c) Enterprise Architecture guidelines
d) Functional requirements
e) Limitations and implications of Duet Enterprise
Duet Enterprise extras to SAP Gateway for SAP / Microsoft interoperability
The extras fall into different categories.
- Standard SharePoint rendering of the imported SAP data through SharePoint Business Data webparts
- Standard CRUD+Q UI-process pattern on SAP data; for bidirectional data handling
- Support / hook into SharePoint Enterprise Search
- Collaboration workspace around SAP data entity: Customer, Product, Quote
- Integration of SAP workflow into SharePoint context
- Same for reporting: schedule + review SAP BW reports from SharePoint front-end
- Single Sign-On from SharePoint into SAP
- Propagation of SAP user authorizations into SharePoint roles + permissions
- Propagation of SAP data authorizations to SharePoint Search context, via construction of ACL’s on the External Data entities
- Transparant SharePoint (consumer) – SAP (provider) runtime connectivity via SharePoint BCS
Operations and lifecycle management
- End-2-end monitoring; starting from SharePoint, via SCL, upto SAP backend
- Audit trail per use case
- Design tool for generation of BCS Model on basis of Gateway Model (itself generated via Gateway generation tools)
- Integration with SharePoint; Gateway is strict to provide standards-based access to SAP data, Duet Enterprise is also a first-class SharePoint-aware user.
Roadmap + ecosystem
- SAP and Microsoft have a roadmap outlined for Duet Enterprise
- Base functionality provided by Duet Enterprise product is augmented via the partner ecosystem (via Unite program)
The decision for Duet Enterprise implementation is not made in isolement. It must be considered and fit in the greater area of enterprise architecture. It is evident that Duet Enterprise only makes sense if your IT landscape contains both SAP and Microsoft. But that alone is not sufficient to justify the purchase and implementation of the product Duet Enterprise. Does EA mandate usage of standards: interoperability protocols, products? And for common-of-the-shelf products, prefer strategic suppliers Microsoft and SAP above third-party suppliers? These are just 2 examples of questions on which EA should make a thoughtful decision and statement, resulting in EA guidelines.
The often required rationale for Duet Enterprise is actually a negativisme of the SAP (G)UI. So it is not so much that the decision is made forMicrosoft / SharePoint, but more that it is decided against the ‘detested’ SAP user interface. But if the only motivation is to get rid of the SAP user interface and replace it by another, there are other possibilities. Build a custom user interface in SAP WebDynpro for instance.
Duet Enterprise starts to shine when you combine the powers of the SharePoint platform with the functionality of the SAP processing. Not merely rebuild the SAP user interface, but design and architect an improved user experience by integrating it within context of the information worker.
Limitations and implications of Duet Enterprise
Duet Enterprise is not a silver bullet for all SAP / Microsoft interoperability occassions. It has limitations, intended or as consequence of architectural desicisions. Also, implementation of Duet Enterprise has its costs.
Limitations of Duet Enterprise
- No support of REST protocol
- Limited to data-oriented, CRUD+Q service signatures
- Design-time tooling support only for inside-out approach; not for outside-in
- Full design-time tooling support only for flattened SAP data-structures
- Standard SharePoint rendering only for flattened data structures. This is actually a limitation of the standard SharePoint BCS UI controls. Rendering of complex data structures can be done via custom build SharePoint UI-controls (example: Working with complex SAP business entities in Duet Enterprise).
Costs of Duet Enterprise
The costs fall apart in different categories:
- Recurring license costs
- One-time deployment and installation effort
- Training of IT operations, architects and developers (for all: SAP and Microsoft)
- Optional (but recommended for any except a simple SAP landscape): dedicated SAP Gateway application server
- Duet Enterprise design time requires presence of SAP Enterprise Service Repository (ESR)
The decision for the implementation of Duet Enterprise must be made in perspective of the business requirements and middle-term enterprise architecture. If SAP / SharePoint policy is a fundamental part of the [future] business application and IT landscape, Duet Enterprise might very well be the sensible decision. Better as realizing + maintaining an own SAP / Microsoft interop layer (no matter how smart your IT people are, they will on longer term never win it from the sheer combination of SAP + Microsoft product team). And also better as purchasing + implementing third party products. That will result in more shattering in your IT landscape, while you must assure yourself of the continuity of the product and its supplier. Again here the combination SAP + Microsoft gives on the longer run more trust as that of smaller although dedicated suppliers.