Recently, we’ve been working to provide a clever web front-end to a back-end SAP business management application using a combination of SOAP and WSDL.
Sounds exciting, but um… pardon?
Okay so that’s a few acronyms in there…
Basically, SAP is a large company that develops enterprise application software and by using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) we are able to provide a simple web interface enabling customers to interact with a complex SAP back office system – to perform such tasks as reporting issues and managing personal account information.
How it works
With SOAP we can transparently call functions (or issue commands, if you like) in the SAP back office application as if they were native functions within our web application. The available SAP functions are defined in what is known as a WSDL (Web Services Description Language) definition, which is loaded automatically by our web application so we know exactly what parameters and data the SAP application is expecting. The WSDL file also tells our application how to handle errors, allowing us to provide a robust web interface to the customer with helpful messages if something goes wrong.
Why we’re using SOAP
SOAP is very popular and is supported by a wide range of enterprise application software. This is primarily due to it being maintained as a standard by the W3C, and the fact that it can work easily over existing web infrastructure, such as firewalls and proxies, without requiring any modification.