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SAP Cloud Platform Integration Day 2017 (aka third annual HCI Day )

I attended the SAP Cloud Platform Integration(HCI) day this week.

I created a video around the topic where I’m going deeper into the content that I can describe here.

 

There is a problem with the name of the product. There is no official abbreviation of it so during the presentation it was mentioned as HCI, SCP Integration and CPI. CPI is the most logical but is used by another product. The lack will mean it becomes more difficult to find people with the correct skillsets because there is so many different solutions. So until somebody find an official abbreviation I’ll be using HCI.

There was a section with the news highlights of HCI where Udo Paltzer was presenting some new.

·        Self service key store

·        JMS Queues internally to decouple async message. It is on the enterprise version.

·        99.99% uptime on a monthly basis. Somebody was mentioning that contract giving SAP access to hours of service window if it was planned.

·        Web UI was the way forward, Eclipse would be depreciated.

·        A customer regression testing solution. Since it is something I’m quite interested in with my tool for doing the same on SAP PI/PO. Check out http://figaf.com/irt to learn about the generic solution to test SAP PI/PO.

Customer regression testing is a service SAP provides where a customer can submit an iFlow together with in and out test messages. SAP would then make a test mock of the service and run the tests on it.

SAP will then run those mock iFlows in their own system before the code is released for customers and if there are any errors they would ensure that they do not break any functionality. This is a service you need to buy at SAP and will only cover your most critical or complex scenarios. And if your iFlow changes you will need to submit new tests. It will be a service you will see on the price list.

SAP was also presenting some of their services that used the HCI. There was a Ariba Connector hub something which enabled you to onboard vendors or suppliers fairly easy. Here the user was guided thru a wizard about the integration. There was some confusion where it fitted in but they were just creating iflow based on the configuration. There was also a Farma net demo where they also created iFlows in the background using some internal APIs for HCI. The API will be public this fall.

I was at a workshop last summer in Waldorf where we were looking for better ways to improve the integration experience. One of the ideas was this one click or wizard approach to create integrations.

There was also a Successfactor and eDocuments presentations. From them it was clear to see that these services gave companies an approach to SAP HCI and then they would get to know the product. And hopefully start moving more integrations to it. The hot example is the Spanish SII document that will start 1 july 2017. Last weeks there was 80 productive instances running now there was 280. So it was a big driver for getting HCI to customers.

There was 9 partner presentations of different levels of depth and relevance to HCI.

Some of the takeways I got from Morten Wittrock from KMD was that it would be beneficial to learn about the Camel framework and groovy scripts because it enabled you to leverage the full platform.

ProXcellence was talking about if customers was really ready for the cloud. It was something to buy HCI but not all organizations was able to leverage it together with the changed capabilities of the cloud infrastructure. HCI was quite simple but you sometimes needed to get some more experienced developers onboard because there were limitations to what business uses knew about certificates and the integration.

Do check out video attached to this post.

 

SAP Integration Landscape and Emerging Complexity

The field of process integration is changing quickly, setting new challenges for Integration professionals, and I think a good understanding of the available tools is key.

When we talk about paradigms in process integration, there have been 3 major phases:

  • Mainframes: Back in the day, most companies had one mainframe or two. The good thing about the mainframe was that it was fairly simple to integrate what were essentially internal programs – even if you had to work across mainframe platforms.
  • Client-server: With the emergence of client-servers and SAP R/3, the number of application servers was growing quickly. Suddenly, as an Integration Department, you had to figure out how to integrate the applications in your landscape so that you could create a new interface. In SAP terms, it may have been a Business Connector or eXchange Infrastructure (XI). You only had one tool to use.
  • The Cloud: Today, cloud integration is the norm, and the goal is to be able to quickly and easily leverage new cloud capabilities from existing development. A couple of examples of existing cloud capabilities are Hybris Cloud for Customer (e-commerce solutions) and SuccessFactor (human capital management).  There are also a number of non-SAP cloud applications. In fact, you most likely have some of them in your landscape already. As the integration expert, your job requires you to make them all play together seamlessly. Some come with prebuild content others you have to create for yourself.

As I said earlier, it used to be that you had integration consolidation that mostly worked in XI/PI. Now, Integration departments are faced with a very different landscape, driven by the need for new integration capabilities, and need to be looking outside of their space at the tools that are already available in other areas of process development. If we understand what’s out there, we can choose the right tool for the job.

I’m talking about tools like the HANA Cloud Platform – integration services (HCP-IS)/HCI, Process Orchestration (PRO), API Management, and Data Services to do bigger data ETL. We’ve also got the Application Integration Framework Overview (AIF), for when you want to do any integration with backend services. There are also SAP Gateway solutions available for exposing OData. Those are the SAP integration technologies that I can think of off the top of my head, other vendors have similar offerings that may be relevant.

I did this exercise with a customer and we spend 6 hours on the different topics and when it did fit into their architecture.

The big problem for the integration manager/architect is that you need to know the tools, and know when it makes sense to use one and how to select one over another. You also need to be able to train your team to use them. As you learn more, you’ll find a lot of overlap between the capabilities of the various tools, and knowing what each one can do will allow you to streamline your process when you have complex situations.

The challenge with all these tools is that it is both labor-intensive and potentially expensive to try them out. Say you have a situation where you want to expose some data to the user. First, you will have to figure out the logic and the capabilities of the various tools to find the best one to combine the elements so your API management will call  PRO or Gateway — to get or expose some data. Then you’ll need to acquire the tools and start using them, in order to really understand where they fit and what you can do with them. Once you get that down, you will need to work out how to leverage the technology internally. So, a lot of work is involved whenever you introduce new technology like this. You also have to keep in mind that you will be paying for licensing to use the tool, even if you don’t end up implementing it.

So as integration experts and enterprise architects, working in a rapidly changing field, we want to do our homework and really understand any tool and how we can leverage it before we place it in our systems.

What is your strategy for landscape integration? How do you cope with training problems?