Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Duet (formerly know as a Mendocino)

In past decades companies turned out investments in large scale computer systems which were best-of-breed software in their particular areas available on the market at that point of time. Now they have heterogeneous systems and the necessity of integration of such a different platforms is popping up more and more importantly. The systems have to be extended in the exiting infrastructure which is quite a complex task. For many years there is a term interoperability became popular. It would be nice to have systems which are able to exchange information between each other across company’s IT systems.

SAP has made contribution to interoperability in several fields. Integration with office software – MS Office started back in 90s while 4.6 version of SAP R/3 has been introduced. It was/is possible to download report’s outputs into MS Excel/Word (RTF)/HTML/SAP Maps formats. It used OLE2 interface to connect any application run on MS Windows which supports OLE2. This is very common functionality of SAP GUI and it is available almost in every SAP transaction. Based on ALV (SAP List Viewer) technology this integration has been widespread. Via ActiveX technology SAP put MS Excel’s graphs/MS Project’s timelines in SAP transaction and so on.

Now in the century of web services the story continues. It is called Duet. It is jointly Microsoft-SAP developed product based on MS .NET framework and SAP NetWeaver platform as a foundation for SAP’s ESA (Enterprise Services Architecture). The aim is a seamless data exchange between users’s desktop and SAP enterprise applications. Duet uncovers selected business processes and information from mySAP ERP Suite.


Time management – scheduling and billing process according Outlook’s calendar into SAP ERP.

Leave management – employee can request leave (vacation, sickness ...) via Outlook and via SAP’s workflow request is transferred to responsible person who can approve/deny it.

Organizational management – access to HR data via Outlook’s contacts interface.

Budget monitoring – viewing of SAP BW reports in Outlook’s inbox.

to MS Office Professional 2003. Through ESA features functionality of mySAP ERP 2004 is available as a web (enterprise) service and thus is available using MS Office environment. According SAP such an approach is groundbreaking in collaboration point of view and because Duet brings together the worlds of business productivity applications and enterprise applications it should revolutionize the way how Information Workers interact with enterprise applications.

Duet architecture

There are 3 mayor basic components within architecture:

  • Duet Client – add-on to MS Office environment, it resides components to support integration with MS Office:
    • Runtime engine – interprets UI metadata and user’s actions
    • Secure cache – stores application data, query assembly, metadata. Frequently used data remains local
    • Output queue – queue between secure cache while user goes online from offline mode
  • Duet Server - it facilitates communication between client and SAP application, components:
    • Runtime metadata repository – holds application and solution metadata
    • Routing module – receive notification from SAP application and routes then to MS Office client via MS Exchange
    • Deployment module – propagates updates to metadata… to client system
    • Service mapper module – helps deployment in production environment
    • Authorization module – built based on MS Windows Authorization Manager maps Duet’s users roles to SAP roles.
  • mySAP ERP Suite - as an backend with SAP Software Add-On in a front of backend.

Runtime metadata in Duet Server stores the metadata to portray application user interface, configuration and routing information for each user role. There is a possibility to go around Duet server and connect SAP ERP backed directly in order to reduce workload on the corporate intranet.

Another possibility is that client application can download data and its updates asynchronously. In this case Duet server as itself doesn’t become performance bottleneck. Server supports deployment in a high availability clustered environment with multiple MS Exchange systems and several SAP backend systems. There‘s a deployment module which propagates automatically metadata, forms, documents from server to clients according user role. Deployment logic is encapsulated in .NET components.

Last component of Duet’s architecture is SAP Software Add-On there are 2 following components:

· Service Bundling Engine – handling service requests to mySAP ERP Suite

· Metadata Repository and configuration tools

Add-On serves as ESA component of SAP NetWeaver. It does include web services adapter for connecting SAP applications, service bundling component for handling service calls directly from the client and application metadata storage. Add-on was indented to metadata storage to enable deliver user’s responses, SAP process logic, business rules and customizing parameters. In this manner there is no impact to SAP application under and no intervention to SAP is needed.

It seems that Duet may become very useful tool and let see how it will be flourish in another similar initiatives (IBM’s Project Harmony for simplify SAP and Lotus Notes integration). My personal feeling integration with popular MS products is good for enterprises which are addicted to Microsoft very faithfully. But I would appreciate more to have such software running on more open platforms. I would say Duet is another step to integration of SAP data to desktop which will lead to integration to web browser in future.

Basically – to access SAP without SAP (GUI) - this is what Duet is about

In order to prepare this article I borrowed some of the words from following materials:

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