I always assumed SAP was application software connecting to a database. And I found this:
"An estimated 60% of SAP customers use Oracle database to run their applications." But correct me if this is inaccurate.
Like accessing a database otherwise: you'd need permission for FM access, you'd need the proper driver, you'd need to know that direct access to the database is not so overly complex as to be unuseful to FM, you'd need to know so many things.
Have you researched for API that possibly would allow access to the data?
As Beverly wrote: IT is most probably Oracle, but could be one of the other leading SQL databases. But the answer is much more complicated than that.
A SAP solution is a very very complex setup with a large programmed base delivered by SAP and then a choice of database to run the "standard" tables behind SAP.
Do you need read only access to get to some of the data of SAP to work with?
If this is the case, ask the SAP consultants (yes the plural is on purpose) supporting the solution, which tables should you read from, and what is the schema behind them. Which fields should you use etc. etc.
It is also very likely that they will suggest setting up an export routine giving you the data set you need when you need it in a format you can work with. Text tables, Oracle/MySQL or MS SQL tables or maybe writing directly to tables in our FileMaker server set up for this.
Or do you need to write to SAP?
In this case you will probably not want to get access to write directly to the tables from FileMaker. You do indeed need a very deep understanding of SAP and the specific SAP implementation to do so.
Depending on what you want to achieve and whether it is something everybody else also want to do there may be a well defined and documented API that is ready for your purpose. If not you should ask the SAP consultants to work with you. Adding new records to or editing data on existing records may wreak havoc to the foreign solution. And I do not want to imagine what the result would be if you changed anything to the foreign database schema or table/field formats.
Just as if somebody start editing or adding data to a FileMaker solution from the outside without knowing all the conditions and other changes that may have to be considered when adding/changing data. You may have triggers that should have been trigged or formats which should have been validated etc. etc.
So please if possible write a little bit about what it is you want t achieve.
Adding: When we integrate with other comlex solutions, be it AX, SAP, Navision or a foreign large FileMaker solution and if there is not an API or a reliable web service, we will in many case set up a neutral SQL database. Here we will have tables to write to/read from from FileMaker and from the foreign system. And we will agree to the rules, data formats, dependencies etc. etc. before starting. A broker is in our opinion the best way to move forward if you need integration without to much trouble.
Yes! SAP is kind of a 'solution' with a database behind. In our cases, it was Oracle. The most important thing is the SAP consultantS.. Depending on Your needs, they can define the access for You, etc.
Hi Beverly, Carsten, Markus
Thank you very much for sharing your experience! Carsten asked what the motivation for the question was: An increasing number of medium-sized companies (at least in the DACH region) are moving to SAP solutions. The large companies have all it. FM-based solutions come in as a complement, as handling of complex data can be done faster and more efficient in FM than in SAP. Once SAP is there, the argument against other solutions is "we do all in SAP". Only if it can be shown that an FM solution is faster and cheaper to implement and can do the job more efficiently, they may consider it. Here comes in the question about getting and transferring data from SAP. So the cost of establishing such a connection is an important part of the equation and can be a decisive.
Reading you, I conclude that the approach depends on what has to be achieved:
- Life Read-only access to SAP: Through ODBC connector, if a certified connector is available for the SAP implementations' underlying DB. Consultants in charge of the SAP side can tell how to connect and what data can be retrieved (tables, fields)
- Life Read-write access to SAP: Through SAP's 3rd party interface (NetWeaver), as recommended by SAP. This is a complex task and someone with NetWeaver expertise is required in order to get this up and running
Considering the complexity and assorted cost of such a live connection, a wise step would be to assess if a life connection is a must for the particular case. Maybe a batch process (XML, CSV, Excel etc.) would suffice for the task and be less complex to implement.
A follow-up question arises though: The cost of implementing a custom-made life read-write FileMaker-SAP connection for each project is high. Would a standardised FileMaker-(NetWeaver)-SAP connector be a solution to that challenge?
Thanks again, Torsten
A friend on mine who has been a corporate accountant for many years says that short of buying a helicopter for the CEO, SAP is the quickest way to burn through money he has seen in the corporate world...
Well, such a behemoth makes sense for some larger corporations. For smaller corporations the equations often solves in a different way and they are footing a hefty bill, much larger than expected. But its there and we have to deal with it.
I think most of the answers were posted above about needing to know which database you are connecting to and getting permission for FileMaker to talk to them and the connection info and schema understanding.
Apple uses SAP and makes FileMaker, as a subsidiary, also use it. They use it for things that sure would seem simple in FileMaker, but are done in SAP to be consistent across all the Apple business units. I bet there is someone at FM who makes FM connections to the Apple SAP system regularly and it would be fun if they piped into this discussion. SAP does all the FM invoicing and PO generation, etc.
Good idea, would have been great. If you go to DevCon please ask that question if you happen to get hold of an FMI staffer.