What is ALE?

Application Link Enabling (ALE) is a set of business processes and tools that allow applications on different computer systems to be linked. This can be done between different SAP systems as well as between SAP and non-SAP systems.
In a single SAP system different applications are integrated via a single database (e.g. finance, sales, production, human resources).
ALE provides distributed business processes that can be used to link the applications on different platforms.
There are some ALE business processes delivered in the standard SAP system. Furthermore, there are tools that can be used to change the existing ALE business processes or to implement new distributed business processes.
Besides the business processes there are special ALE services that are required to set up and control a distributed environment. These services include a distribution model, business object synchronization and tools for monitoring or error handling.
ALE is a major part of SAP's Business Framework Architecture. Besides the basis middleware, that provides the communication between components, and the interfaces (BAPIs), ALE business processes and ALE services enable the cooperation of the single components within the framework. That makes ALE the glue of the Business Framework.

2. What are the benefits of ALE?

With ALE companies get the opportunity to improve business performance and to solve organizational or technical issues.
Through distribution you can decentralize your business, enabling local units to operate independently from each other.
This flexibility enables the local units to return better business results than in a centralized environment. They have the necessary flexibility to optimize business processes in different organizational units and can ensure that information systems can handle the speed of change in rapidly expanding markets.
Distribution allows a high level of freedom, provided that this level of freedom has been clearly defined.
On the other hand, some companies, that already have a distributed organization with different computer systems in the local units, have the opportunity to link their units through ALE business processes.
This enables them for example to provide a 'one face to the customer' approach. Another area that can benefit through ALE are virtual organizations (partnerships between independent companies, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions).
Of course, in many cases an integrated solution based on a single system is not possible at all. Some applications used by a company can not run on the same computer system. This includes legacy systems or complementary software.
It may also be possible that a company uses different SAP industry solutions or specific country solutions, which do not run on the same SAP System. If these applications run on different systems they can not be linked by a central database but have to use a special integration mechanism like ALE.
In this way ALE also links SAP Core Systems to other SAP components like CRM, Business Information Warehouse or APO.
Besides the benefits of having an improved flexibility in setting up the whole business processes, ALE may also reduce costs, in particular costs of upgrading.
If the whole business is run on one integrated system you have to upgrade the whole system, even if only one part of your company (e.g. human resources) requires an update. So the entire company is affected by the upgrade project and all users have to be trained for the new release.
Within a distributed environment with release independent interfaces, like those provided by ALE, you can focus the upgrade project on that part of the company that has to be upgraded. The other parts of the company are not involved and need no training. This can save a lot of money. Furthermore, existing investments are protected.
Another cost factor for distribution might be communication costs. For an overseas connection it can be more expensive to provide online access to one central system (T1) than to connect distributed systems to each other (64K line).


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