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Integrating SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services with SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence

If you want to use Reporting Services as the front end for third-party data mining software -- specifically SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence -- here's what you'll need to know and have.

Even though many SQL Server users like to use SQL Server's own native data mining tools to drive SQL Server 2005's Reporting Services, there are plenty who would rather use Reporting Services as the front end for third-party data mining software. One of the most common third-party data packages that companies use is SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence, which is now supported by SQL Server 2005 SP1. Some decide to use that package simply because they've been running NetWeaver for a long time and it's easier to put a new face on an existing tool than to change tools -- such as SQL Server -- entirely.

If you want to use NetWeaver with Reporting Services, you'll need the following things:

  1. SQL Server Reporting Services 2005 Service Pack 1
  2. Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0
  3. SAP BW 3.0B or better, with Support Package 30 or better installed. SAP BW 3.5 with Support Package 16 or better is the recommended installation, but later versions -- specifically, SAP NetWeaver 2004s with Support Package 6 or better -- are acceptable as well.

To connect with SAP NetWeaver BI, use Microsoft .NET Data Provider, hence the .NET Framework. You should also use SSL to communicate with the SAP server whenever possible, since SAP only supports basic authentication.

One of the biggest hurdles when using SAP data cubes with Reporting Services is the terminology that SAP uses to describe its data objects. The SAP data objects exposed through the data provider are called "InfoProviders" (also called "catalogs" in SQL terms). The queries you run against those data objects are called "QueryCubes" since they're multidimensional. Note, too, that what SQL calls "measures" of a data cube, SAP calls "key figures."

Another bit of parallel terminology is how the .NET Data Provider deals with variables passed to SAP QueryCubes. This is essentially the same as parameters in Analysis Services. But variables in SAP are defined at the data source and can only be attached to QueryCubes (not to their parent, InfoProviders) through a clause passed along in the query itself. Note: A list of available values for each parameter is not automatically generated when you open a QueryCube with variables enabled on it, but you can manually define a list of possible report parameters. Be careful not to define too big a list, or the request could take a long time to travel through the connection.

Microsoft has created a detailed white paper on setting up SAP with Reporting Services. It covers the basics of creating a connection to an SAP data source, requesting parameterized data, including the data in a report, and debugging any potential problems. Another handy learning tool is a video that shows graphically how to plug Reporting Services into an SAP data source.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

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