This blog contains experience gained over the years of implementing (and de-implementing) large scale IT applications/software.

CORS in a SAP Netweaver Landscape

In this brief article I’m going to try to simplify and articulate what Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) is, how it works and how in an SAP environment (we use Fiori in our example) we can get around CORS without the complexity of rigidly defining the resource associations in the landscape.

Let’s Look At What CORS Is:

Fundamentally CORS is a protection measure introduced in around 2014 inside Web browsers, to try and prevent in-browser content manipulation issues associated with JavaScipt accessing resources from other websites without the knowledge/consent of the Web browser user.

You may be thinking “Why is this a problem?”, well, it’s complex, but a simple example is that you access content on one Web server, which uses JavaScript to access content on another Web server.  You have no control over where the JavaScript is going and what it is doing.
It doesn’t mean the other Web server in our example, is malicious, it could actually be the intended victim of malicious JavaScript being executed in the context of the source Web server.

What Does “Consent” Mean?

There is no actual consent given by the Web browser user (you). You do not get asked.

It is more of an understanding, built into the Web browser which means the Web browser knows where a piece of JavaScript has been downloaded from (its origin), versus where it is trying to access content from (its target), and causes the Web browser to seek consent from the target Web server before allowing the JavaScript to make its resource request to the target.

A simple analogy:
Your parents are the Web browser.
You (the child) are the untrusted JavaScript downloaded from the source Web server.
You want to go and play at your friend’s house (the target Web server).
Your parents contact your friend’s parents to confirm it’s OK.
Your parents obtain consent for you to go and play and the type of play you will be allowed to perform, before they let you go and play at your friend’s house.

Based on the simple analogy, you can see that the Web browser is not verifying the content on the target, neither is it validating the authenticity of the target (apart from the TLS level verification if using HTTPS).
All the Web browser is doing, is recognising that the origin of the JavaScript is different to its target, and requesting consent from the target, before it lets the JavaScript make it’s resource request.

If the target Web server does not allow the request, then the Web browser will reject the JavaScript request and an error is seen in the Web browser JavaScript debugger/console.

What Does “Accessing” Mean?

When we talk about JavaScript accessing resources on the target Web server, we are saying that it is performing an HTTP call (XML HTTP), usually via the AJAX libraries using one of a range of allowed methods. These methods are the usual HTTP methods such as GET, PUT, POST, HEAD etc.

What is the flow of communication between origin Web server, Web browser and target Web server?

Below I have included a diagram that depicts the flow of communication from a user’s Web browser, between a Fiori Front-End Server (FE1) and a Back-End SAP system (BE2).

In the example, pay attention to the fact that the domain (the DNS domain) of the FE1 and BE2 SAP systems, are different.

So, for example the FE1 server could be and the BE2 server could be

1, The user of the Web browser navigates within Fiori to a tile which will load and execute a JavaScript script from FE1.

2, The JavaScript contains a call to obtain (HTTP PUT) a piece of information into the BE2 system via an XML HTTP Request (XHR) call inside the JavaScript.

3, The user’s Web browser detects the JavaScript’s intention and sends a pre-flight HTTP request to the BE2 system, including the details about the origin of the JavaScript and the HTTP method it would like to perform.

4, The BE2 system responds with an “allow” response (if it wishes to allow the JavaScript’s request).

5, The Web browser permits the JavaScript to make its request and it sends it’s HTTP request to BE2.

What Needs to Be Configured in BE2?

For the above situation to work, the BE2 system needs to be configured to permit the required HTTP methods from JavaScript on the origin FE1.

This means that a light level of trust needs to be added to configuration of BE2. This is documented in SAP notes and for NW 7.40 onwards.

Is There a Simpler Way?

An alternative method to configuring Netweaver itself, is to adjust the ICM on the target (BE2) to rewrite the inbound HTTP request to add a generic “origin” request. This means you can have many domains making the access request, without needing to maintain too much configuration at the cost of security.
I’m thinking more about what needs to be done, not just in production, but it in all DEV, TST and PrePRD systems, plus config re-work after system copies.
Not only this, but it would be difficult for your URL rewrite to be accurate, so it may end up being applied to all URL accesses, no matter where they come from.  This will impact performance of the Web Dispatcher.
You could solve the performance issue by using a different front-end IP address (service name) for your Web Dispatcher, which is used specifically for requests from your origin system (FE1).  Another option could be (if it’s your own code being called in BE2) to apply a URL path designation e.g. “/mystuff/therealstuff”, whereby the ICM on BE2 can match based on “/mystuff” and rewrite the URL to be “/therealstuff”.

How About an Even Simpler Way?

A much better way, which solves the CORS problem altogether and removes the need to place config on individual systems, is to front both the origin and the target behind the same Web Dispatcher.

This way, CORS becomes irrelevant as the domain of the Web Dispatcher is seen by the Web browser, as both the origin and the target.

To enable the above configuration, we need to ensure that we align the Web Dispatcher DNS domain to either the origin or the target.
It has to be aligned to whichever system we use the message server to load balance the HTTP call. This is a SAP requirement.

For the other back-end server (behind the Web Dispatcher), we use the EXTSRV option of the Web Dispatcher to allow it to talk to the BE2 system.
This has the capability of supplying multiple servers for HA and load balancing (round-robin).   It also means the DNS domain of that system can be different to that of the Web Dispatcher’s.

2 thoughts on CORS in a SAP Netweaver Landscape

Add Your Comment

* Indicates Required Field

Your email address will not be published.