A common setup: you have a non-SAP business intelligence system – like Tableau – and your users analyze SAP data in it. The million dollar question: should you buy SAP licenses for the users of your BI system, even those who do not touch SAP system itself?

Not surprisingly this question does not have a clear “yes or no” answer.

One problem is that SAP perceives the term “using” SAP software in a much wider sense as most of the people do and wider as it was meant in the software licensing standards for decades. According to SAP licensing docs and IT sourcing specialist UpperEdge , SAP do not differentiate direct (like through SAP’s own user interfaces) or indirect (roughly: activating SAP’s processing capabilities through technical interfaces, e.g. RFC-s) usage. Instead SAP licensing focuses on the value derived from the usage of SAP capabilities – with over simplified words: any people deriving value from SAP systems should buy SAP  named license. Here is a mock interview created by UpperEdge explaining this logic. What does it mean in practice?

In another post there is a list of more precise explanations what cases may be considered as indirect use of SAP during an SAP license audit.

From technical point of view it is a little more clear: if you use BAPI-s, RFC-s or live interfaces (like the own UI of SAP) to log into SAP and execute functions or access data, your session is logged on SAP server and during an audit it will clearly denote that your SAP system is used directly or indirectly. Most of the 3rd party SAP data extractors / connectors work this way, they use mainly RFCs to log into SAP systems and pull the requested SAP data. The well known connectors – Theobald, Symba, generic ETL tools like Talend, Informatica or ODI, but even Qlik’s or Tableau’s own SAP or SAP Business Warehouse connectors have this approach.

VirtDB Data Unfolder works in a totally different way. Since it runs inside SAP systems as an ABAP add-on, only the licensed and authorized SAP users can access and execute VirtDB functions like pushing data out to XLSX-s, CSV-s or Tableau’s native format. All the rest of the analysis will happen outside of SAP, not invoking SAP processing capabilities, not logging into SAP and definitely not generating RFC or other usage logs on SAP server.


To decide if your company is in risk, if your BI users violate SAP license terms by indirect SAP usage: search UpperEdge’s blog or other SAP licensing related content, or contact an IT sourcing expert.

And as an easy next step try VirtDB Data Unfolder