Monday, October 28, 2013

NetWeaver Gateway Productivity Accelerator for Microsoft

SAP data direct in Microsoft Office clients
Flagship of the Duet Enterprise / Gateway product team is Duet Enterprise for Microsoft SharePoint and SAP. Customers are very satisfied with the functionality and capabilities provided by this integration product, and the demonstrated product stability. A frequently asked question is to provide this level of exposing SAP data + processes also for use in Microsoft applications beyond SharePoint. The product team has responded to this market demand. Last week at SAP TechEd 2013 in Las Vegas, SAP NetWeaver Gateway Productivity Accelerator for Microsoft has been launched, shortly referred to as GWPAM.
As participant in the Duet Enterprise Customer Engagement Initiative (CEI) program, I was involved from the early development stage of GWPAM (under the internal codename BoxX). On request of the Duet Enterprise product team I performed so-called Takt-Testing, and reported my technical and functional thoughts + findings. Good to see that aspects of my feedback - predominantly influenced by my own technical background as an .Net architect/developer - have actually made it within the final product.
Like it’s big brother, GWPAM is in essence an end-product for the IT organization. It is an integration framework that internal IT departments and SAP + Microsoft partners (the ecosystem) can utilize, to build their own scenarios in which SAP / Microsoft integration is an important architectural element. GWPAM provides a Microsoft Visual Studio AddIn that .Net developers can use to directly in their familiair integrated development environment, lookup SAP Gateway OData services. And generate proxies to the Gateway OData services with standard .Net code.
The first foreseen scenarios are Microsoft Office Add-In’s, to expose and integrate the SAP business data in the everyday used Microsoft Office clients. For example, SAP CRM customer data in the form of Outlook contacts, invoice approval requests as Outlook tasks, functional data management of SAP masterdata through Excel, BW report data rendered in PowerPoint, and submit SAP CATS timetracking directly from your Outlook Calendar ...
Like Duet Enterprise for SharePoint, GWPAM provides support for the typical and recurring plumping aspects of SAP/Microsoft integration: Connectivity, Single Sign-on, End-2-End monitoring, .Net development tooling, integration with SAP Solution Manager. GWPAM offers a complete SAP / Microsoft integration package.
As with Duet Enterprise, the two suppliers have their collective strength and market presence behind this new product offering. This is also a major distinction compared to the various proprietary connectors of smaller parties.
As SAP / Microsoft interoperability expert, I am enthousiast about the addition of GWPAM to the SAP / Microsoft integration spectrum. GWPAM enables to build a new category of functional scenarios for end-customers. Now also for organizations that do not have SharePoint in their application landscape, but do have Microsoft Office installed on the desktops. And want to utilize that familiar employee environment for user intuitive operation of SAP data and business processes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

SAP Fiori deployment in our landscape

A longer and bumpy road, but eventually with a satisfying end-result.
At The Next View we have an own sandbox landscape in which we a.o. evaluate latest software products from SAP and Microsoft. We have for instance SAP NetWeaver Gateway installed upto the latest service pack sp7, and Duet Enterprise for the interoperability between SharePoint and SAP business suites. The arrival of SAP Fiori means another standard SAP application that we want to include in our landscape.
So I set out to achieve this. At first I checked out information written elsewhere on SAP Fiori deployment. The SCN postings “Architecting an SAP Fiori deployment” and “ “SAP Fiori Style Application Architecture Options” are recommendent readings. Next I studied the SAP Fiori Installation and Configuration guide, and determined what installation steps where needed in our landscape. The Fiori architecture namely imposes several prerequisites on your landscape, the most important ones being the presence of SAP ECC, SAP NetWeaver Gateway, and SAPUI5. The first 2 where already present in our landscape, SAPUI5 not. As SAPUI5 sets out to be a predominant part of the future of new SAP developments, this on itself is a welcome addition to our landscape.
In addition, also a multitude of SAP Notes must be applied, both in SAP ECC as in the Gateway system. Note that it is possible to install Gateway on same SAP system as ECC. In our landscape we have conformed to the SAP recommended infra architecture, and deployed Gateway on a dedicated application server isolated from the business applications.
The installation of the SAP notes, although time-consuming, went relatively straightforward. The real challenge (or rather problem, but lets keep up a positive attitude) was with installing SAPUI5. The challenge is not related to the software package itself, but to the installation approach that SAP mandates for it. Effectively it requires you to have Solution Manager present in your landscape. And let this be something that we currently not have yet in our sandbox landscape. The deployment of SAPUI5 requires Solution Manager for 2 aspects:
  1. One is to be able to get your hands on the software package. SAPUI5 cannot be directly downloaded from SAP Support Portal / Download Center, but needs to be downloaded via Solution Manager. However, as SAP is not living under a rock, SAP does recognize that not all of their customers and prospects have Solution Manager available. As a gesture it is possible to request approval of software downloads, through issuing an OSS Message on component SV-SMG-MAI-APR. It merely only costs you some extra elapse time, but unless requested in the weekend (…), you typically get the approval consent within a few hours.
  2. The second aspect gave me much more headache. When I tried to install the SAPUI5 packages in transaction SAINT, I was confronted with the message that a 'stack.xml' is required to install the SAPUI5 packages. A 'stack.xml'? Well, this in concept is a structural receipt for installing a certain SAP software package (here SAPUI5) in your own specific landscape. And such a software plus environment specific stack.xml is generated specific for your own landscape through…. Solution Manager. So I appeared stuck, as I had no clue how to make up such a stack.xml (manually) without the availability of Solution Manager. But when in trouble, you become the most creative ☺ As it turned out, a colleague had just installed SAPUI5 in another landscape, and he was kindly enough to share their stack.xml with me. Next I modified that stack.xml – replaced the SAP system id with ours, host name with ours, outcommenting parts that reported errors – until finally SAINT was willing to accept and process it. Mind you, this costed me 'some' spare time.
With SAPUI5 installed in our landscape, finally the installation of SAP Fiori Apps could start. In my opinion, SAP has made this unnecessary complex. It is not possible to install the SAP Fiori Suite at once, but you need to install it per App. And to make it even more time-consuming, each App consists of a data provider part on the business application, and a UI part on the SAPUI5 system. And lastly, per App there are already multiple support packages released; and the recommendation is to upgrade per Fiori App upto the latest support package. In general, the deployment of the SAP Fiori Apps, although thus time-consuming, goes smooth. However, when installing the upgrades / support packages, I found myself in a blocking issue within transaction SPAM: Field Z_PRS_BILL_FLAG in table SRA002_S_TIMEENTRYDF is specified twice. I posted the issue on forum ‘SAP for Mobile’, but before receiving valuable help, together with a colleague found a way myself to get out of the halted situation in SPAM.
To conclude, following are prerequisites for a successful Fiori installation:
  • SAP business suite in your landscape with standard processes (in a sandbox environment, standard IDES will suffice)
  • SAP_ALL authorization
  • SAP developer key
  • Authorization to register SAP objects, this is required for multiple of the required SAP Notes
  • Strongly preferred: Solution Manager
  • But if not available: creativity and minimal a template stack.xml
  • Perseverance
  • Time and patience; the amount is strongly determined by the initial state of your landscape. It makes a lot of differences whether or not you have already SAP NetWeaver Gateway and SAPUI5 installed. Only in case both are present, you can achieve a Fiori deployment within a day; if not it will typically cost you some additional days.
And learned lesson: The installation manual is not always clear, and at places even incorrect. In particular: don’t loose time to get your hands on the so-called component JSON-IWFND. We could not find it, so I consulted guru Andre Fischer. He responded that the sentence as written in the installation guide was misleading and thus erroneous: there is no such component.
But all-in-all, it’s the endresult that counts. And I’m very satisfied + proud that we now have SAP Fiori Apps available and operational in our own landscape.