SAP Business Connector 4.8 and SAP NetWeaver PI Compared: When to Use Each

  • by Ulrich Schmidt, Senior Developer, SAP AG
  • October 20, 2009
Understand what integration platforms are and how you use them with SAP systems. Find out the similarities and differences between SAP’s two main integration platforms: SAP Business Connector and SAP NetWeaver Process Integration.
Key Concept

An integration platform is a server that facilitates data exchange between two (or more) heterogeneous systems, for example, an SAP system and an Oracle system. It offers ready-to-use tools for three kinds of tasks:

  • Receiving and sending data via various network protocols (so that the integration platform can communicate with a wide variety of different systems)

  • Transforming data from one format into another (so that the data format used by the sending system can be transformed into the data format understood by the receiving system)

  • Applying general purpose operations to the data (such as compression/decompression, encryption/decryption, and digital signatures)

Currently, SAP offers two full-blown integration platforms: SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI) and SAP Business Connector ( SAP BC). Both of them understand the SAP-specific network protocol Remote Function Call (RFC) as well as standard network protocols such as HTTP, FTP, and email. Also, both of them can process the SAP-specific data formats defined by BAPIs and IDocs as well as standard XML data formats.

In previous years, SAP NetWeaver PI had been regarded as the successor of SAP BC, while the future of SAP BC had been a bit uncertain. However, starting with SAP BC 4.8 (which was released in Q3 2008), SAP committed to a definite maintenance cycle: SAP BC 4.8 is guaranteed to be supported until December 2017. This makes SAP BC a reliable option for integration scenarios again. Investments in SAP BC solutions no longer run the risk of quickly becoming obsolete and can again be run on up-to-date operating systems in a well-supported way.

Both platforms, SAP NetWeaver PI and SAP BC, provide similar functionality (although each one has a small number of features that the other one does not support). Therefore, users are often confused as to which one they should choose in a particular situation. I will discuss the architecture and the strong and weak points of these two solutions. I will give you recommendations for which one to use in which situations or when you are better off using neither one, but a direct, low-level integration instead. Here, direct integration means integration via RFC components — such as SAP Java Connector (SAP JCo), .NET Connector, or SAP NetWeaver RFC SDK — or via the HTTP stack built into the SAP R/3 Kernel.

This article is for system administrators or solution architects who need to solve the task of integrating or synchronizing an SAP back-end system with an external data source of any kind (e.g., in-house legacy systems, a customer’s or vendor’s system, Web sites, or another SAP system outside the company’s firewall). It aims to provide definitive criteria that enable you to make a well-founded decision about which integration technology to use for your current integration task.

Ulrich Schmidt

Ulrich Schmidt joined SAP in 1998 after working in the field of computational algebra at the Department of Mathematics, University of Heidelberg. Initially, he was involved in the development of various products used for the communication between SAP R/3 systems and external components. These products include the SAP Business Connector, which translates SAP’s own communications protocol RFC into the standard Internet communications protocols HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and SMTP, as well as pure RFC-based tools, such as the SAP Java Connector and RFC SDK. Ulrich gained insight into the requirements of real-world communications scenarios by assisting in the setup and maintenance of various customer projects using the above products for RFC and IDoc communications.

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