ALE has three prime entities,
which participate in the message exchange process:
SAP R/3 system
ALE converter (inclusive of its sub-components)
External non SAP R/3 system
The following diagram
describes how these three work together in an ALE scenario.
Figure 2: ALE FUNCTIONALITY
2.1 Concept of Logical Systems (LS):
Logical Systems represent R/3
or external systems in the SAP R/3 environment for the distribution of data.
The existence of LS is mandatory for the corresponding R/3 client (which
uses ALE or EDI). This LS acts as the “sender” for outbound messages and a
“receiver” for inbound messages.
In addition to the base LS,
another LS must be present within that R/3 system for each R/3 or external
system used for ALE interfaces. In an inbound ALE interface, second LS
represent the sender (another R/3 or external system) with respect to the
base LS (receiver). In an outbound ALE interface, this second LS is the
receiver on behalf of the R/3 or external system with respect to the base LS
2.2 Message Type:
Message types (required for
sending the data across participating systems) relate to the structure of
the data called an IDOC (Intermediate Document). Message types provide the
format of the data, which can be exchanged between SAP and non-SAP systems.
ALE supports over 200 message types in R/3.
Documents) are the crux of ALE. These are the documents with the help of
which data is exchanged between SAP R/3 and non-R/3 systems. As the name
suggests, these documents act as intermediate storage of information, which
can be sent bi-directionally. Message types are responsible for creation of
Data on Internet is exchanged
using data formats like IPV6 – and SAP uses a similar approach. Idocs are a
well-structured medium through which data transfer takes place. Figure 3
explains the structure of Idocs.
Figure 3: IDoc
An IDoc is made up of the
Control Record: This section contains control
information regarding the Idoc. Its constituents are Sender’s name,
Receiver name, Message type and Idoc type (illustrated in figure 3).
The format of the control record is similar for all IDoc types.
Data Segment: It consists of a header that
contains the identity of the Idoc. Its constituents include, a
sequential segment number, a segment type description and field
containing the actual data of the segment.
Status records: The status record shows the
information regarding the already processed stages and remaining
processing stages of the Idoc. It has an identical format for each
Idocs support a hierarchical
structure. Figure 4 shows an Idoc, starting with the header. The header has
items, which in turn have sub-items. The lowest level in the hierarchy
contains the text. The end of the Idoc is represented with the help of ACCUM
(means accumulate) segment. Remember that an IDoc can only contain character
2.4 ALE Converters
ALE converters need to be
compatible with SAP R/3 system and therefore chosen carefully. SAP offer a
certification program for ALE converters – and there are a large number
The minimum requirements of
the ALE converter are:
Ability to accept and understand participating IDocs in
Capability of transaction id management and status
Ability of mapping IDoc fields to and from external