SAP glues together e-business elements with XML

A year after announcing its Internet Business Framework initiative, SAP is piecing together its e-business efforts, focusing largely on XML.

In an effort to help users sift through the growing maze of semantics and schemas that are the result of a variety of XML protocol efforts, SAP will be offering a repository for XML-based interfaces by the end of next month.

With SAP embracing XML as the front- to back-end integration key for mySAP.com e-business efforts, a repository was needed to make the use of XML easier for mySAP.com participants, said Peter Barth, SAP's director of corporate marketing for Web Technology.

"You have to be able to understand the semantics behind XML," Barth said.

"We want to make sure customers can participate in the collaborative e-business process."

The XML-based interface repository will hold interface definitions to help users standardise their infrastructures and assist in XML integration efforts. SAP will host the repository of more than 2000 mySAP.com interfaces and data types as XML schemas, SAP officials said.

The repository can be accessed by SAP customers and third parties who will be able to download the schemas. SAP is also encouraging customers to build and host their own, industry- and company-specific repositories, particularly for individual descriptions of third-party and home-grown system interfaces.

SAP rolled out its Business

Connector for XML-based Web messaging as part of its Internet-Business Framework last August, and about 1000 customers have downloaded the free software. The SAP Advanced Planner and Optimizer (SAP APO), the supply-chain management portion of mySAP.com, is also part of the framework.

SAP will also kick off an online forum for supplemental business applications for the mySAP.com Workplace, called MiniApps. The mySAP.com Workplace offering helps employees, business partners, and other mySAP.com portal users carry out a variety of business tasks.

The new online MiniApps forum, www.sap.com/miniapps, has been designed for the distribution of applications developed by customers, partners, and SAP for the mySAP.com Workplace. The effort is intended to create an online meeting place for sharing best business practices and downloading MiniApps contributed by SAP, its customers, and business partners.

With MiniApps, users can have links to Web-based information sources, aplications and services, Barth said. "This includes non-SAP components," he said. SAP is only providing the conduit and has no intention of overseeing activities. "We want to make sure that partners and customers can create their own MiniApps," he said.

Users of mySAP.com will be able to choose from applications that display company news, travel expense accounting, competitive data, e-mail messages, and related functions.

This channel was the result of user demands, and the hope is that companies will be able to find and tailor MiniApps, including home-grown ones, that can be used in conjunction with the nearly 300 predefined roles by SAP or with customer-specific roles, Barth said. Whether or not there's a charge for these mini-applications depends on the business partner participants, he said.

To provide security for these mySAP.com efforts, SAP has inaugurated a Trust Centre Service of Web browser-based digital certificates for mySAP.com electronic marketplaces, workplaces, and e-business applications.

The mySAP.com Passport, based on the X.509 certificate standard, will provide authentication for user and company information as well as enable data to be encrypted for intranet and Internet traffic. The mySAP.com Passport also supports the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and the PKCS (Public Key Cryptography Standards) standards.

The Passport service can also be applied to smart cards.

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