27 August, 2009

The new Duet architecture

Duet is a solution jointly developed by SAP and Microsoft. The solution allows information workers to interact with common SAP business processes through the Microsoft Office environment, leveraging the best of both worlds.

The uptake has not been impressive so far, but with a complete overhaul of the architecture, we can have high expectations for the future 3.0 release. Duet 3.0 will be the next major release after the current Duet 1.0/1.5 (there will be no Duet 2.0).

Not many details about the Duet roadmap have been released, but the latest I have gathered from various conference presentations is that we can expect Duet 3.0 around 3-6 months after the Office 2010 release, in other words probably towards the end of 2010.

The two major concerns about the current version of Duet is the relative complexity of the architecture and the lack of an SDK. Both of these concerns will be addressed in Duet 3.0. There will be a comprehensive Duet SDK alongside a complete toolset which will enable Duet extensions and customisations.

Duet 3.0 will also have a revamped architecture. There will no longer be a specialised Duet Server in the mix. Instead the communication between Microsoft Office and SAP will be facilitated by the SharePoint Business Connectivity Services (BCS), which is the evolution of the Business Data Catalog (BDC) in SharePoint 2010.

DuetArchitecture

The new architecture will lower the barrier of entry as many organisations already have a SharePoint environment and the associated capabilities which can be utilised in a Duet deployment. Hence, it will become quicker and cheaper to get that initial pilot deployed.

By relying on SharePoint infrastructure rather than a specialised Duet Server, there is also potential for significantly lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO) of Duet solutions. How much easier will it be to find SharePoint resources to implement and manage the solution infrastructure compared to Duet Server resources?

09 August, 2009

Enterprise mashup slide deck from SharePoint Saturday Sydney

This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking about enterprise mashups at SharePoint Saturday Sydney. Thanks to Brian Farnhill and Ben Walters for putting in an enormous effort as organisers. For a community-driven event, it was run very professionally. The bar has been set high for SharePoint Saturday’s further foray around Australia.

My session was about leveraging SharePoint as a platform for enterprise mashups, first of all focusing on bringing LOB system data closer to the casual user. Thanks to all of you who came to my presentation. I am yet to create screencasts of the demos but the slide deck is available here:

As promised on Saturday, here is a list of resources that will be helpful if you want to create mashups similar to the ones in my demos:

  • AE Google Map Web Part
    I used this free web part for the Office Directory. There are also quite a few commercial ones out there with slightly more functionality.
  • Business Data Catalog Resource Center
    The BDC is the cornerstone component when bringing business data into SharePoint. There is a dedicated resource centre on MSDN.
  • White paper on using the SharePoint BDC to access SAP data
    If you are interested in accessing SAP in particular, then this white paper is a good place to start.
  • Customize the Search Result (using XSLT)
    The rendering of the search results was customised using SharePoint Designer as described in this blog post.
  • Binary Free SharePoint Twitter Search Web Part
    The Twitter web part in the Single View of Customer demo was created using the data view web part following the approach in this post.
  • SharePoint Reviews
    The eco-system of partners and products around SharePoint is constantly growing. This site has a broad directory of web parts you can potentially include in your mashups.
  • ProgrammableWeb
    This comprehensive directory of public APIs and mashups is a good place to look for value-adds and other functionality you can bring into your mashups. It is also a great source of inspiration.
  • Accessing business data with SharePoint 2010
    We briefly discussed the evolution of the SharePoint BDC into Business Connectivity Services (BCS) in SharePoint 2010. In this post, I elaborate a bit more on that.

As I have a particular focus on the integration with SAP, I am more than happy to hear from you if you have any questions in that regards.

04 August, 2009

Book review: Microsoft .NET and SAP

Not long ago, a second book entirely dedicated to SAP/Microsoft interoperability was released. I previously promised that I would share my thoughts on the book when I had had a chance to go through it, so here they are. The book is authored by the guys over at the SAP Global Alliance Technology Team at Microsoft. Not many people have as much knowledge about SAP/Microsoft interoperability as these guys do, so they certainly have the in-depth understanding of both technology stacks required to write a book like this.

The first couple of chapters provide a broad overview of the technologies and tools in both stacks that are relevant in the context of interoperability. It also includes a historic outline of joint initiatives between SAP and Microsoft, from the early days of bringing SAP to the Windows platform up to recent developments such as the Portal Development Kit for .NET and the looming Duet product. This is quite an interesting read providing a nice 10,000-foot perspective before diving in deep.

The book then moves on to detailed walkthroughs, starting with exploring the different architectures for obtaining connectivity between .NET and SAP. You will learn about the SAP Connector for .NET, SAP Enterprise Services and the various incarnations of the BizTalk and WCF Adapters. This is arguably the most important chapter as it gives you the basic understanding of the technical architectures that underpin any SAP/Microsoft interoperability solution.

The five following chapters specialise in five different main areas: Business intelligence, SharePoint/NetWeaver integration, SharePoint Business Data Catalog (BDC), Office Business Applications (OBAs) and custom development. Each chapter provides detailed walkthroughs of how you get started with each individual style of solution. A lot of the content in these chapters is somewhat similar to what has already been published in various white papers, but the book is more thorough and includes lots of screenshots. Note, that depending on the versions your are running of the different products the screenshots in the book could vary quite a bit from what you have in your environment, but there is enough information in there for you to easily work it out anyway.


The last chapter is dedicated to security and identity management which is quite an important topic in this context. Given that obtaining the appropriate security architecture is a critical success factor and the relative complexity of the subject, you could probably have wished for a bit more content in this area. But then again, you could easily write a whole book on security if you wanted to cover it on a practical level. The security chapter in this book gives you a helpful introduction to the key components in play.

In summary, this book meets the expectations in terms of providing a comprehensive guide to SAP/Microsoft interoperability with enough depth in key areas to assist you with prototyping some solutions. Not only does this book give you some great tutorials if you are just getting started with interoperability, but it is also a useful reference you will regularly come back to down the track.