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SAP systems and their (unknown) interfaces

Interfaces ensure information exchange within the system landscape and externally. They are therefore critical for business processes. In the case of indirect SAP use, it is important in what form and to what extent an interface is subject to additional licensing by SAP.
Achim Westermann, SNP
October 17, 2018
SAP systems and their (unknown) interfaces
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

Due to the unclear legal assessment of current SAP licensing practice and the continuous adaptation of SAP licensing policy, it is relatively complicated to find out whether an interface gives rise to a further license obligation.

Just how important it is for companies to know and understand their interfaces was demonstrated by the ruling in the case of SAP UK Limited v Diageo Great Britain Limited in the UK.

SAP had sued for back payment of license and maintenance fees amounting to over 54 million pounds sterling (over 62 million euros), referring to users who access Diageo's SAP system via interfaces using other applications. The court agreed with SAP's view that indirect access also gives rise to a right to user fees.

This shows that SAP customers need to know all the variables that can cause costs in terms of the SAP license agreement when integrating third-party products into their SAP landscape.


In order to determine the potential liability and possible additional fees under an SAP license agreement, the interface environment in a customer's SAP installation must be determined quickly and accurately.

Interfaces are the "gateways" for the flow of data in and out of the SAP system. At the same time, they are the mechanisms that can justify fees for indirect users according to the SAP license agreements.

Unfortunately, many companies lack accurate information about their interface landscape - a significant risk in terms of licensing, security and compliance.

Customers should analyze their systems thoroughly to get an accurate picture of all existing interfaces. There are various methods for this. The most commonly used is a manual check combined with a system check.

However, a manual process is not recommended, as it is a labor-intensive, time-consuming and generally inefficient procedure that is highly prone to errors.

Common problems when determining the interface environment include

  • Lack of knowledge about the type and number of interfaces.
  • Missing, incomplete or outdated interface documentation.
  • No central access to interface information.
  • No suitable graphical representation of the interface topology.
  • Irrelevant data sets and lack of filtering options, making manual analysis and evaluation cumbersome, costly and frustrating.
SNP Interface Scanner 17.12 E3 Cmyk
SNP Interface Scanner in the CrystalBridge for reliable interface analysis.

However, accuracy and speed are crucial, so SAP customers should only use proven and, above all, automated solutions. The SNP Interface Scanner, for example, produces exact results:

Interface analyses are extremely important in order to assess the risk of additional license and maintenance fees to be paid to SAP in an overall view and to be able to optimally prepare for the annual SAP license audit. Trust in the experience and knowledge of a reliable partner.

Achim Westermann, SNP

Achim Westermann is SNP-IFS Product Owner.

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