knowing SAP(Part4) History of SAP R/3

History of SAP R/3


The first version of SAP’s flagship enterprise software was a financial Accounting system named R/1. (The “R” was for “Real-time data processing”). The pronunciation is often mistakenly referred to as “sap”, as in tree sap. The correct naming is the individual letters S-A-P. This was replaced by R/2 at the end of the 1970s. SAP R/2 was a mainframe based business application software suite that was very successful in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was particularly popular with large multinational European companies who required soft-real-time business applications, with multi-currency and multi-language capabilities built in. With the advent of distributed client-server computing SAP AG brought out a client-server version of the software called SAP R/3 that was manageable on multiple platforms and operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows or UNIX since 1999, which opened up SAP to a whole new customer base. SAP R/3 was officially launched on 6 July 1992. SAP came to dominate the large business applications market over the next 10 years.

SAP R/3 is arranged into distinct functional modules, covering the typical functions in place in an organization. The most widely used modules are Financials and Controlling (FICO), Human Resources (HR), Materials Management (MM), Sales & Distribution (SD), and Production Planning (PP). Those modules, as well as the additional components of SAP R/3, are detailed in the next section.Each module handles specific business tasks on its own, but is linked to the others where applicable. For instance, an invoice from the Billing transaction of Sales & Distribution will pass through to accounting, where it will appear in accounts receivable and cost of goods sold.SAP has typically focused on best practice methodologies for driving its software processes, but has more recently expanded into vertical markets. In these situations, SAP produces specialized modules (referred to as IS or Industry Specific) geared toward a particular market segment, such as utilities or retail.Using SAP often requires the payment of hefty license fees, as the customers have effectively outsourced various business software development tasks to SAP. By specializing in software development, SAP hopes to provide a better value to corporations than they could if they attempted to develop and maintain their own applications.
Technology SAP R/3 is a client/server based application, utilizing a 3-tiered model. A presentation layer, or client, interfaces with the user. The application layer houses all the business-specific logic, and the database layer records and stores all the information about the system, including transactional and configuration data.SAP R/3 functionality is structured using its own proprietary language called ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming). ABAP, or ABAP/4 is a fourth generation language (4GL), geared towards the creation of simple, yet powerful programs. R/3 also offers a complete development environment where developers can either modify existing SAP code to modify existing functionality or develop their own functions, whether reports or complete transactional systems within the SAP framework.ABAP’s main interaction with the database system is via Open SQL statements. These statements allow a developer to query, update, or delete information from the database. Advanced topics include GUI development and advanced integration with other systems. With the introduction of ABAP Objects, ABAP provides the opportunity to develop applications with object-oriented programming.The most difficult part of SAP R/3 is its implementation, since SAP R/3 is never used the same way in any two places. For instance, Atlas Copco can have a different implementation of SAP R/3 from Procter & Gamble. Two primary issues are the root of the complexity and of the differences:Customization configuration - Within R/3, there are tens of thousands of database tables that may be used to control how the application behaves. For instance, each company will have its own accounting “Chart of Accounts” which reflects how its transactions flow together to represent its activity. That will be specific to a given company. In general, the behavior (and appearance) of virtually every screen and transaction is controlled by configuration tables. This gives the implementor great power to make the application behave differently for different environments. With that power comes considerable complexity.Extensions, Bolt-Ons - In any company, there will be a need to develop interface programs to communicate with other corporate information systems. This generally involves developing ABAP/4 code, and considerable “systems integration” effort to either determine what data is to be drawn out of R/3 or to interface into R/3 to load data into the system.Due to the complexity of implementation, these companies recruit highly skilled SAP consultants to do the job. The implementation must consider the company’s needs and resources. Some companies implement only a few modules of SAP while others may want numerous modules.SAP has several layers. The Basis System (BC) includes the ABAP programming language, and is the heart (i.e. the base) of operations and should not be visible to higher level or managerial users. Other customizing and implementation tools exist also. The heart of the system (from a manager’s viewpoint) are the application modules.

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