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Przemek Radzikowski

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Duet & SAP: Architectural Overview

Jointly developed and supported by SAP and Microsoft, Duet enables information workers to improve decision-making, increase process compliance and decrease costs by taking full advantage of SAP business processes and business intelligence through the Microsoft Office environment. This article provides a good basis for understanding the Duet architecture and how it connects with SAP.



Architectural Overview

Duet software brings together the best of these industry leaders to provide information workers with an unprecedented level of information access. Duet brings to the desktop of every Microsoft Office user a comprehensive set of functionality from SAP applications.

The basic architecture of Duet software consists of the following major elements:

  • Duet client add-on for the Microsoft Office environment
  • Duet add-on for SAP software
  • Duet server, which facilitates deployment and communication between the two environments

The following figure provides an overview of the software architecture.

Architecture of Duet Software
Figure 1 - Architecture of Duet Software

Duet Client Add-On

The Duet client add-on is installed as a typical "plug-in" to Microsoft Office with standard remote installation tools, such as Microsoft’s Systems Management Server (SMS). Once installed, the add-on automatically gives information workers the ability to perform processes necessary for their work by propagating the corresponding components and definitions to each client based on user role. Any subsequent modifications will be similarly propagated and become automatically available on client desktops. These data flows are discussed in further detail later. The Duet client add-on houses several important modules to support integration with the Microsoft Office Suite, including:

  • Runtime engine - Interprets user interface metadata to represent the Duet software components within the user’s Microsoft Office software
  • Secure client cache - Stores metadata and data pertaining to supported end-user task sequences, where a persistence feature permits the cache to be used as offline storage
  • Output queue - Triggers updates once the client is back online

Duet Add-On for SAP Software

The architecture of the Duet add-on for SAP software leverages metadata storage in all Duet components to ensure that Duet delivers the user’s query response and the process logic, business rules, and configuration parameters resident in the SAP software. This ensures that there is no adverse impact on the underlying SAP software and no need to recreate the upper-level process logic.

The architecture of the Duet add-on for SAP software encompasses the following major elements:

  • Service-bundling engine - Assembles service requests and supports asynchronous service calls to the SAP software, with an interface that exposes Web services
  • Item handler - Receives processing results of a client request from the SAP software and converts them to a format understood by the request handler in the Duet server; also derives the mapping between the SAP software and the Microsoft Active Directory user
  • Metadata repository - Provides tools to configure metadata of the Duet software and map it to Web services provided by SAP and to the existing configuration tables of the underlying SAP software components

Duet Server

This software serves as the deployment and communication facilitator for the client and the SAP software. The server contains the following:

  • Authorization module - Maps Duet users to roles in SAP software; is based on the authorization management module 
  • Runtime metadata service and repository - Stores the metadata describing the user interface, configuration, and routing information for each user role defined in the Duet software
  • Request handler - Formats and routes information to Microsoft Office clients via Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Deployment module - Automatically propagates the latest updates of the metadata and associated binaries and data references to client systems when updates are made.

The deployment mechanism depends on how Duet defines the user’s role. The mechanism also deploys logic (Microsoft Office .NET components) and forms (Microsoft Office InfoPath forms and Windows Forms) to the client machines upon client request.

Communication Flow

Providing a Single Sign-on (SSO) experience for access to the backend SAP business processes, the Duet client is authenticated by the Duet Server using Windows authentication mechanisms (e.g. Active Directory, Kerberos, etc.) Once authenticated, the Duet Server uses the SAP NetWeaver infrastructure to provide the Duet client with a logon ticket. The Duet Client can then communicate directly with the backend SAP system, using a web service call to the Service Bundle, fulfilling the client request (e.g. submit a leave request).

When data needs to be transferred to the client, the backend SAP system communicates with the Exchange Server using the Request Handler on the Duet Server (e.g. manager receives an approve / reject email for employee’s leave request).

SSO Logic & Communication Flow
Figure-2: SSO Logic & Communication Flow

Deployment of Duet

Implementing Duet takes an understanding of the various components involved and advance project preparation. Knowing what to avoid is sometimes as important as knowing what to do.

From the experiences of early Duet implementations, best practices have been developed and delivered to customers to ensure ease of deployment. These best practices assist customers in moving from the implementation phase to quickly enjoying the Duet experience. Microsoft and SAP continue to jointly develop, deliver and support best-practices for global deployments of Duet.

When implementing Duet in a Production environment, reliability and scalability are key concerns. The Duet architecture provides the flexibility to separate Microsoft and SAP components, allowing customers to scale each independently based on required workload. Based on best practices, it is recommended that the individual deployment of these components on separate platforms for production implementations.

As an example, the Duet Microsoft components can be deployed into an existing IIS environment, using an existing SQL Server database to store the Duet Metadata. In addition, SAP’s Duet J2EE components can be installed onto a NetWeaver Java Web Application Server without affecting the backend ERP ABAP system.

Because Duet employs a service-based architecture, no software installations or modifications are required on Microsoft Exchange Server.  Similarly, Active Directory requires only that an account be created to facilitate a trusted sender from the Duet framework; in turn, this account must be configured using the SETSPN utility.

No Active Directory schema changes need to occur, nor is there a need to change the OU structure.


Duet Implementation Best Practices

Duet Solution Brief

Learn how the SAP and Microsoft strategic partnership helps you bridge your Microsoft and SAP platforms and applications with Duet, and other interoperable, integrated solutions

Report by IDC on the future of the enterprise workplace

SAP and Microsoft European Competency Center Benefits and Customer Endorsements

Technical Brief on Duet Software

Whitepaper on business benefits of Duet software, written by both SAP and Microsoft

Duet Implementation Best Practices


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