The features of ERP applications can vary slightly depending on the program you are using. If you are currently looking for an ERP system, you should know that an ERP application generally contains a set of web pages and a database. The web pages provide a general overview of the system and what is required from the system. The database contains detailed information about each system and its functions. Most ERP applications come with a management web site (usually the admin site) that enables the administrators to manage the systems within the application.
A typical ERP application interface includes several data sources, or databases, where data that is returned from the database is stored. The application usually can support many different types of data stored in the data sources. The applications typically can provide a command line interface and a graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI may be used to access the data sources and manipulate the data stored in the data sources. Some ERP applications have built-in applications for remote access to the data sources, to generate a report on a given system or to retrieve data from the data sources. ERP applications can be interactive, using text-based input, screen inputs, or any other appropriate input device. When the application is run as a single process, it does not run as a single process. An ERP application consists of an application program that is a client, or the part of the application that is running on the user’s computer, and a server, or the part of the application that is running on the server. Both programs communicate using a high-level network protocol, called a protocol buffer. When the client program sends data to the server, the server is able to determine whether the data is required by the client and whether the client wants to receive the data. If the server determines that the client wants to receive data, the server returns the client a stream of events that describe the data. The client can then use the events to determine whether it wants to process the data. An ERP application can be written in any language that has a reasonably complete support for the TCP/IP protocol stack. A common protocol stack that is used for both ERP applications is the SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) stack, a superset of the REST (Representational State Transfer) protocol stack. ERP applications written in a language other than this one can still use the REST protocol to communicate with a SOAP server.
These SOAP applications also rely on the use of XML documents to store data. The application program can then use the same tools that the client program uses to process a SOAP document to process the ERP XML document and convert it into a format suitable for the client program. ERP applications written in Microsoft XML Studio can read, write, process, and maintain the XML document in either XML or.NET format.
By using the XML interface of Microsoft XML Studio, ERP applications can build and manage XML documents. The ERP applications need to know how to construct an XML document, including, for example, how to handle attachments (such as lists of objects) and how to translate one XML document into another.
Microsoft XML Studio works on all platforms that support Microsoft XML Studio. Microsoft XML Studio can be downloaded from the Microsoft Web site at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=140797. For information on how to create or use ERP applications, see Designing a Real-Time Business Application using ERP Software, later in this chapter.