SAP stands for Software Applications and Products (translated word to word from a German Systeme, Anwendungen, Produkte). This is the company most known for its ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products quite popular in many big companies, such as Bosch, Shell, Philips, Siemens, T-Mobile, and many others.
My company decided to implement SAP ERP and move away from its legacy system. Here is my not so pleasant experience (YMMV) as a database engineer trying to extract data from S/4HANA to do reporting using my favorite SQL Server tools, SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services) and SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services). Granted, I was still able to accomplish my goal, but there is absolutely no reason in 2018 why it should be so difficult.
To interface with SAP from SQL Server or .NET, you either need to acquire a third-party solution or rely on SAP to provide you with a driver (because your company paid for the SAP ERP already, right?). While I can’t talk about the third-party solution, I can share my experience with the driver – you are in for a surprise. The driver is behind an SAP paywall and can only be downloaded with an account in SAP system that has permissions to download from an SAP web site. Yes, getting a driver is a process.
Perhaps I’m spoiled by Microsoft bundling drivers for free. Why does it have to be so difficult? Companies implementing SAP ERP are already shelling out big bucks (according to the Velosio, we are talking about more than $2 million) for the software and since SAP trial-period software is very short (14-day for the cloud and 30-day for the on-premise), so you would only need a driver to get something out of an SAP database that your organization has already paid for.
The web site
Ok, so you have an SAP account with rights to acquire the tools? Not so fast! While I’ve seen convoluted web sites before where navigation menus didn’t follow any obvious standards, I’ve never seen it from a global software company such as SAP. Welcome to the SAP Support Portal website.
Whose idea was it, that downloading would require adding an item to a shopping cart, a shopping cart that doesn’t have a dedicated download button? You have to right-click each item and select Save As. I had to download SAP S/4HANA Client (installs the driver), SAP S/4HANA Studio (a tool similar to a SQL Server Management Studio), and finally the SAR (see next section). It took me a while to adjust to downloading the SAP way.
So now you have downloaded the files and are ready to install? Not so fast! Get ready for SAR files. SAPCAR is SAP proprietary cab utility (similar to zip) that you would need to use to extract SAR files into usable files of the software that you previously downloaded. Of course, SAPCAR is just an executable with no interface and you would need to use a command line.
Why, in 2018, is SAP still using its own utility? Why not use self-executables? Why does it have to be so painful? If you think this is a case of old software that SAP doesn’t bother to update, look again. S/4HANA is the last and greatest that SAP is pitching to its clients to replace database solutions from Oracle and Microsoft.
The Software installation
You finally unSARed the files, found the executables and now ready to install. Click on the executable and you’re greeted with Windows UAC window, telling you that this software comes from an unknown publisher.
Yes, your company is paying SAP for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few years, but SAP decided to save peanuts on a certificate? Yep!
The grand finale is the biggest annoyance. Once you finally get an account, find what you need to download, extract the needed software, and install it, you are in for the biggest surprise: super unfriendly object names. Everything is overly efficient beyond readability. The names of tables and columns are completely opaque. This likely explains the prevalence of SAP consulting firms.
Take a look at this cryptic naming convention. Apparently, this is a special table that provides all the descriptions.
The following article that was super helpful to me – https://www.stechies.com/install-sap-hana-studio-hana-client-windows-system/ written by Nitesh Singh. Without his screenshots and very detailed instructions, my SAP exercise would have failed miserably.
In conclusion, based on my experience (remember, I’m not an SAP ERP user, I’m just a guy that is querying the database) I would like to give SAP acronym a slightly different meaning, SAP should stand for Silly Annoying and extremely Painful.