Visual Studio Tool Takes SAP to Office

ERP-Link Corp.'s iNet platform brings SAP to .NET.

In May, ERP-Link Corp. added a service component to its iNet Business Process Optimization Platform. The modular iNet platform allows enterprises to integrate back-end SAP AG Enterprise Resource Planning systems with Microsoft Office applications.

With the new iNet business process service module, dubbed iNet.BPS, developers can expose SAP information-business objects, transactional objects and documents-to create composite business apps in Microsoft .NET environments.

"In order to truly support composite applications, you have to be able to do more than just pull data out of a SAP table or call a standard API," says J. Eric Anderson, president and CEO of ERP-Link. "You need to be able to support multiple functions and objects from SAP systems in .NET, support BI not as a stand-alone function but as it's embedded in support of business processes and support document-based functions-and do that all in one platform."

The iNet Business Process Optimization Platform (BOP) consists of three core modules: iNet.DM for document-based business processes, iNet.BI for provisioning information and the new iNet.BPS, which consists of a runtime service and a Visual Studio plug-in. "And that's all you need," says Anderson. iNet.BPS supports Visual Studio 2003 and Visual Studio 2005.

The iNet.DM module creates composite business processes with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, which allows you to link SAP processes to the MOSS document framework.

Unlike Microsoft's Duet, in which some components run only on the Java middleware stack of SAP and other components run on the Microsoft stack, iNet BOP does not have platform restrictions. If you want to do it all in .NET or partially in .NET you have that flexibility, according to Anderson. The platform generates objects as .NET classes or Web Services objects. You can also "pipeline" your development from one module to the next and publish objects for reuse.

Several products support SAP and .NET interoperability, including SAP's Connector for .NET 2.0. But according to Anderson, the SAP product doesn't go beyond Visual Studio 2003. "SAP did that because they're end-of-lifeing their .NET connector," he says.

iNet BOP is designed to support SAP R/3 and mySAP Business Suite integration with the .NET Framework 2.0. ERP-Link plans to support .NET FX 3.0 this summer, including Windows Communication Foundation, says Anderson.

Users can purchase the entire iNet BOP or stand-alone modules. Pricing, which is based on server configurations, starts at $9,500 each for the iNet.BPS and iNet.BI, and $17,000 for the iNet.DM.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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