German software giant SAP made a raft of announcements at its TechEd developers conference, all aimed at making it easier to integrate its R/3 product with third-party applications. Over 3,000 developers, consultants, and business partners present at the Los Angeles conference heard SAP executives announce support for Extensible Markup Language (XML) as a format for data interchange across its SAP Business Framework. The framework is a component architecture that describes the technical R/3 architecture as well as its underlying business logic. XML provides a universal method for describing and formatting messages passed between applications, removing the need for the receiving application to have prior knowledge of the data formats for each data source in a message. For enterprise applications, XML serves as an enabling layer in the movement of data between, for instance, client and server, or over the Internet. SAP will use XML as a content format for electronic forms, such as purchase orders over the Internet, or as a data container for business documents. Products that will exploit XML include its recently announced SAP Business-to-Business Procurement product. SAP also announced with Microsoft that developers can integrate applications created with the Microsoft Visual Studio development system 6.0, due out later this week, with the SAP Business Framework. This will give Visual Studio users access to the entire library of SAP business objects. In addition the two companies said they have extended R/3's support of the Microsoft Windows NT Server operating system, with the addition of such features as single sign-on to both R/3 and NT, and easier system administration.
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