Saturday, June 30, 2007

Muy Importonto con Chili

OK Little children, the ground is beginning to shake.

Wade may be able to keep quiet but Microsoft's competition will make the old girl sing like a saw. Microsoft Office (Business Office, that is) has suddenly sprang forth interoperable. to what degree the interoperation extends to third parties remains to be seen from here but this is a roll out for Denver next month.

Microsoft Trumpets Virtues of Office Business Apps
By Kevin McLaughlin, CRN 6:21 PM EDT Fri. Jun. 29, 2007

Microsoft is gearing up to show its partners how Office Business Applications (OBAs) can help organizations squeeze extra productivity out of their line-of-business apps.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Friday published three reference application packs (RAPs), which include whitepapers and Virtual PC images that illustrate how OBAs can be used to boost efficiencies health care, manufacturing and the public sector.

Microsoft is positioning OBAs as a way to bridge Office front ends with backend CRM and ERP applications, allowing organizations to give access to these traditionally underused apps to a broader range of employees, said Daz Wilkin, program manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy group.

Microsoft is using OBAs as the prime example of its Software + Services strategy and plans to barrage its partners with information on OBAs next month at its worldwide partner conference in Denver.

ISVs and enterprises are expected to be the key drivers for innovation around deployment of OBAs on the Office platform.

Microsoft and SAP last year teamed up to develop Duet, an OBA that links Office apps with SAP's back end ERP apps. Duet makes it possible to peer into an SAP application, take an invoice and analyze it, and reinsert it into the SAP workflow, all without impacting performance.

(I would say Duet is most probably similar to emPath - see the Duet Architecture below.)

In manufacturing, OBAs can be used to organize mountains of business intelligence (BI) data emanating from plant floor operations and deliver it to a foreman's mobile device or a CEO's PC screen. "Usually BI is aimed at senior executives and sales, but OBAs allow this data to be used in different scenarios," said Wilkin.

In health care, companies could set up a Sharepoint portal for employees to navigate corporate medical programs and get information on quitting smoking or joining a gym, with OBAs triggering backend workflows, Wilkin said.

OBAs can be sophisticated data warehousing and workflow management tools within the walls of Microsoft products, but companies that don't have all Microsoft infrastructure may not find them as useful, says David White, vice president of client strategy and enablement at Beacon Technologies, Madison, Wis.

"Microsoft is notorious for not wanting its products to be called out through APIs, so they are building a complete cosmos of their own systems," said White.

(Now, read this and tell me if this agent setup doesn't sound familiar.)

Duet Architecture Overview

The basic architecture consists of the following major components:

•(1) A client add-on module (aka distributed agent) for the Microsoft Office environment
•(2) An SAP add-on (aka distributed agent) for the back-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
•(3) The Duet software server, which facilitates deployment and communication between the twoDuet is designed to take advantage of the open, Web services–based enterprise services architecture of the SAP NetWeaver platform.
(This is what I believe emPath does. The Collaborative Agents (1) (2) (n) are the VCSY patent technology in USPTO 7,076,521 . (3) is the operating framework the agents work in.)

The services-based architecture of Duet allows direct calls from the client to the Web services. Microsoft Exchange Server is used as an asynchronous message router, which eliminates the possibility of Exchange Server becoming a system bottleneck.

Moreover, no installations or modifications to Exchange Server are required because of the use of a services-based architecture.

(1) • The Client Add-On

This module (The Client Add-On) houses several important components to support integration with the Microsoft Office suite, including the following:

• A runtime engine
• A secure cache storage for data, query assembly, and metadata
• An output queue

The runtime engine serves several purposes.
It interprets user-interface metadata, using that metadata to represent the Duet software components – toolbars and task panes – on the user’s action pane in Office.

The secure cache stores metadata and application data. This way, frequently used application data, such as drop-down list values, remain local.

A persistence feature permits the cache to be used as offline storage and automatically triggers updates via the output queue when the user comes back online.

The client add-on is installed as a typical “plug-in” with standard remote installation tools, such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Once installed, the applications, such as leave management, time management, and so forth, are automatically delivered to each client, based on the user role. Also, any subsequent application modifications will be propagated in the same way and become automatically available on the client desktops.

(2) • The SAP Software Add-On

The SAP add-on encompasses the following:
• An engine for bundling service requests to SAP™ Business Suite applications
• Configuration tools and metadata repository

The add-on consists of functions that are consistent with the enterprise SOA framework of SAP NetWeaver. These functions include a Web-services adapter for connecting to underlying SAP applications, a service-bundling component for handling service calls directly from the client, application metadata storage, and several others.

The service-bundling component is designed principally to support asynchronous service calls. Web Services are exposed through this interface, which serves the client calls sent by the client message queue. The component bundles several services as needed.
The SAP add-on architecture is designed to leverage the metadata storage in all Duet components to ensure that Duet delivers not only the user’s query response but also the SAP-resident process logic, business rules, and configuration parameters.

This ensures that there is no adverse impact on the underlying SAP applications and no need to recreate the upper-level process logic. The metadata repository provides tools to configure the metadata of the SAP Duet software and map them to Web services, as well as to the existing configuration tables of the underlying SAP software components that Duet relies on.

(3) • The Duet Software Server

This software serves as the deployment and communication facilitator for the client and the SAP applications (As enabled by the attending agent add-ons).

The server contains the following:
• A runtime metadata repository
• A module for formatting and routing information to Microsoft Exchange Server
• A deployment module for propagating updates to client systems

The runtime metadata repository contains the metadata that describes the application user interface, configuration, and routing information for each Duet role. This component enhances scalability for growing numbers of users, since it off-loads the processing load that would otherwise go to Microsoft Exchange Server.

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