I often get asked by organizations how they can leverage their SAP "data" investment against the Microsoft Business Intelligence suite of tools.  The set of questions usually falls into one of these four categories:

  • Ability to extract data directly from SAP R/3 modules for later reporting and analysis.
  • Ability to extract data directly from SAP NetWeaver® BI (SAP BW) for later reporting and analysis.
  • Ability to report directly off SAP NetWeaver® BI (SAP BW) data with Microsoft BI tools.
  • Ability to leverage Excel directly against SAP NetWeaver® BI 7.0 without BEx.

Well, the stock answer usually goes something like this:

Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) provides easy-to-use, certified access to SAP data to help you make better, more informed decisions. With Microsoft BI, you can use the familiar tools in Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and the 2007 Microsoft Office system environment to create, analyze, and share your own reports and BI dashboards from all sources.

Using Microsoft SQL Server and Office SharePoint Server 2007, teams across your organization can collaborate on information coming from both the SAP and Microsoft environments to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to analyzing results and making critical business decisions.

Finally, our strategic relationship with SAP has gone commercial with the launch of Duet, our jointly developed product that allows you to easily and quickly interact with your SAP and Microsoft Office environments. For more information on Duet, visit the Duet for Microsoft Office and SAP page (http://www.microsoft.com/isv/sap/technology/duet.aspx).

Ok...but what does that translate into in terms of architecture and implementation choices?  Glad you asked. :-)

Here's the high level architecture on how Microsoft interacts with SAP data (at least as of today, July 8th 2008).

Microsoft BI SAP Interop

Implementation of data extracts from SAP R/3
SQL Server 2005 includes support for accessing SAP data by using the Microsoft .NET Data Provider for mySAP Business Suite (see this link for more details: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc185434.aspx). This provider lets you create a package that can connect to a mySAP Business Suite solution and then execute commands on the server. You can also create Reporting Services reports against a SAP server. The Microsoft .NET Data Provider for mySAP Business Suite is tested on SAP R/3 versions 4.6C and higher. Earlier versions of SAP R/3 are not supported.

You can use the Microsoft .NET Data Provider for mySAP Business Suite in the SQL Server Import and Export Wizard, the Script task, the DataReader source, and the Script transformation that Integration Services provides, as well as the data processing extensions in Reporting Services.

You must provide a select query to specify data to be imported. The query must confirm to the semantics supported by the Data Provider for SAP. For more information about the grammar for a SELECT query for the Data Provider for SAP, see Syntax for a SELECT Statement.

Once data is extracted out of SAP R/3, the destination of that data could be any relational database (such as SQL Server), and then reports (from SSRS) and multi-dimensional cubes (from SSAS) can be created from that database data.  The resulting SQL Server reports/cubes could then be used within the Microsoft Business Intelligence delivery mechanisms, such as through Excel, SharePoint, PerformancePoint, etc.

Implementation of data extracts from SAP NetWeaver® BI (SAP BW) using Open Hub and SQL Server 2005 Integration Services
The SAP Open Hub service enables you to distribute data from an SAP BI/BW system into external data marts, analytical applications, and other applications. With this, you can ensure controlled distribution using several systems. The central object for the export of data is the InfoSpoke. Using this, you can define the object from which the data comes and into which target it is transferred, leveraging SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) as the transfer/transform mechanism. 

SAP BI objects such as InfoCubes, ODS objects, or InfoObjects can act as open hub data sources. You can select database tables or flat files as open hub destinations, and then use those destinations as actual sources within SSIS.  To automate the extraction using SAP’s Open Hub Service, you’ll need to setup a process chain. Note that both a full and delta modes are also available as the extraction mode.

As stated already with direct extraction from SAP R/3, once data is extracted out of SAP NetWeaver® BI (SAP BW), the destination of that data could be any relational database (such as SQL Server), and then reports (from SSRS) and multi-dimensional cubes (from SSAS) can be created from that database data.  The resulting SQL Server reports/cubes could then be used within the Microsoft Business Intelligence delivery mechanisms, such as through Excel, SharePoint, PerformancePoint, etc.

Note that SQL Server 2008 Integration Services will include direct support for the NW BI 7.0 OHS - http://download.microsoft.com/download/1/7/5/175af735-edab-41db-b762-1b259ec5b362/Microsoft%20BI%20and%20SAP%20NetWeaver%20-%20SSIS.pdf.

Implementation for reporting against SAP NetWeaver® BI (SAP BW) data
Through a rich extensibility model, the report authoring and report deployment features of Microsoft® SQL Server™ Reporting Services 2005 can integrate with any number of business intelligence data sources. To answer the strong need for a rich reporting tool for SAP NetWeaver® Business Intelligence (SAP BW) and to bridge the gap between these two powerful business intelligence platforms, Microsoft has developed a new .NET Framework data provider and query designer for SAP NetWeaver® Business Intelligence.

With the release of SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 1 organizations can now take advantage of SQL Server’s Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities such as Reporting Services on SAP BW Data without purchasing independent and expensive reporting solutions. SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services is now certified to run reports on SAP BW.  Customers that already own or plan to purchase SQL Server 2005 SP1, will get two new components that provide support for reporting on SAP BW in the SP1 release:

• The 'Microsoft .NET Data Provider 1.0 for SAP NetWeaver® Business Intelligence’

• A new query designer to enable the creation of SAP-compatible queries for SAP BW

The new Microsoft .NET Data Provider 1.0 for SAP NetWeaver® BI is a standards based provider that uses standard internet protocols and XML for Analysis (XML/A) (an XML standard for Online Analytical Processing - OLAP) to communicate with the SAP server. The .NET provider enables users to directly access QueryCubes as well as InfoCubes and MultiProviders.  Since XML/A support is built into SAP BW, SAP BW reports can be authored and developed using SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services regardless of which relational database SAP BW data is stored in.  To significantly reduce bandwidth requirements and improve network performance, the Microsoft .NET Data Provider 1.0 for SAP NetWeaver® BI uses GZIP compression when communicating with the SAP BW server, enabling organizations to efficiently work with large XML documents.  Security is essential for data integrity; and the Microsoft .NET Data Provider 1.0 for SAP NetWeaver® BI supports and leverages internet standards such as SSL. This enables the system to safely transmit data between your SAP BW server and SQL Server 2005, providing added protection to your essential business information.

The new custom built Query Designer enables you to rapidly build reports for SAP BW. The query designer builds SAP-compatible MDX queries to base your reports on and provides insight into cubes, cube meta-data, calculated members, functions and variables.

By connecting SQL Server 2005 SP1 Reporting Services to SAP BW data, SAP BW users can quickly and easily take advantage of the flexible, yet easy-to-use reporting capabilities of SQL Reporting Services without migrating their data to another platform.  This new integrated solution makes it easy to create and manage reports on information inside any SAP BW Data Warehouse, empowering organizations to easily get important SAP business intelligence information to the people who need it. SAP BW report authoring now becomes easy-to-do, consistent and familiar using SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services. Plus, deploying and distributing reports becomes a simple one-step process that targets the Web as the reporting platform – viewing reports becomes as simple as clicking a hyperlink.

In order to use the provider, the following components must be installed:

·         Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services Service Pack 1 or later

·         Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0

The provider has been developed for and tested against SAP BW 3.5. However, the provider should also be compatible with BW 3.1 and BW 3.0B servers that have been patched to a sufficient service pack level, described below.

·         Support Package 30 for SAP BW 3.0B

·         Support Package 24 for SAP BW 3.1

·         Support Package 16 for SAP BW 3.5

·         Support Package 10 for SAP NetWeaver® 2004s (BW 7.0)

For more information on using Reporting Services directly against SAP BW, follow this link: http://download.microsoft.com/download/4/7/a/47a548b9-249e-484c-abd7-29f31282b04d/UsingRSwithSAPNetWeaver.doc.

Implementation for reporting against SAP NetWeaver® BI 7.0 Using Excel (without BEx)
Users familiar with SAP’s BW or NetWeaver BI often are interested in native Excel integration with SAP’s business intelligence data.  SAP only offered BEx Analyzer in the past…however some casual users weren’t interested in learning this Excel Add-on tool.  Now with SAP NetWeaver® BI 7.0, Excel 2007 users can tap into the full power of SAP BI data from within the comforts of the native Excel 2007 environment.

More potential for SAP NetWeaver® BI

·         SAP customers can deploy SAP NetWeaver®BI beyond the realm of classical BEx users

·         Microsoft customers can continue working with Excel to leverage data from SAP NetWeaver®BI Warehouses

SAP supports the standard

·         Microsoft Excel is a long established standard for reporting

·         The Pivot Table is a fast and intuitive way to analyze data

·         Microsoft Excel 2007 provides enhanced reporting and formatting features like “top n” analysis

Very simple prerequisites, full support

·         SAP NetWeaver®BI 7.0 natively and fully supports Microsoft Excel 2007

·         The prerequisites are described in Note 1134226

·         No BExAnalyzer or SAP NetWeaver®BI training necessary

Trusted integration

·         Microsoft Excel has been supported in the past with some known some limitations in areas like hierarchy handling or filtering

·         The new native Microsoft Excel 2007 integration provides access to SAP NetWeaver®BI data in a reliable and trusted way

To learn more about this native Excel 2007 interaction with SAP NW BI, go here: https://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs?blog=/pub/wlg/8483