SAP Watch

Dec 11 2008   11:09AM GMT

SAP customers: What’s your Unicode strategy?

JackDanahy Jack Danahy Profile: JackDanahy

What is Unicode? Until fairly recently, you had to be a techno-geek to know, but now it seems that all SAP customers had better become familiar with it.

In a nutshell, Unicode is a text encoding standard. For example, when you enter the letter ‘A’ into a computer, the letter is transformed into a certain number of bytes — 2, in the ASCII standard. The purpose of Unicode is to shrink the space (and complexity) associated with traditional character encoding, even when complex non-Western characters such as Chinese ideograms and ligatured letters are being represented.

Let’s consult SAP’s Unicode support policy to learn why that’s such a big deal.

“For new SAP software products and new releases of existing software products new installations will be possible only with Unicode.”

Historically, it’s been possible to do workarounds for non-Unicode systems, but there’s undoubtedly some time and expense involved. Imagine if some of your SAP data is encoded in Unicode UTF-16/UCS-2, in which all characters consist of two bytes while other data encoded in a system friendly to more complex languages will require more than two bytes. If you want to access information on one of these databases via the other’s character set, you’ve got a problem that requires coding and workarounds to solve.

Many SAP customers are global companies maintaining global data in more than one language. In a business environment that demands frequent exchange of data across geographic and linguistic boundaries. Unicode is a way of guaranteeing basic standards that make exchanging and storing SAP data simpler. SAP hasn’t had good experiences with mandates — consider the recent response to Enterprise Support and NetWeaver –and may never officially ask customers to move to Unicode, but SAP’s own Unicode policy is a mandate nonetheless.

In our recent podcast with Unicode expert John Visser, we learned that you can’t install some of the newer SAP modules unless you have Unicode capabilities. That makes it all the more urgent for new and existing SAP customers need to get up to speed on Unicode.

Demir Barlas, Site Editor

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