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Webinar: Automate your SAP PI/PO, CPI, and API management

On January 30 I hosted two webinars on the topic of how you can speed you your SAP PI and SAP CPI development processes.

From my conversations with people there seems to be a lot of new integration projects going on. And most integration developers have a way to much work they need to work on. We also see trends towards Agile or DevOps where users need to be able to release code much easier, this is what the webinar is about.

That is why I think automation is the way to go. There is a lot of places where it is possible to automate your SAP Integration processes. I normally see the following 5 areas where it makes sense to automate as much as possible.

  • Development
  • Testing
  • Governance
  • Monitoring/Support
  • Migration  (in another replay see video)

In my webinar, I covered the 3 middle parts where the Figaf tool can help you automate the process.

See how to get started

I want to demystify how difficult it is to get started. So in 15 minutes, I’m able to install and connect to both a PI and a CPI system and setup testing on them. You can see this part after 1:07 hour. 

You can get started at https://figaf.com/IRT 

Figaf runs Figaf (SAP CPI Git Groovy scripting)

This week I wanted to try to use our Git for SAP CPI tooling to make some new development and see how it would work out. I wanted to create an SAP CPI microservice to convert XML to PDF, you can see all about it here.

The idea with our Git integration is to take all content from your SAP CPI and API repositories. So it will synchronize all the content in the CPI repository to the Git. The user will then be able to see each iflow with the individual resources. In the Git repository, we had templates to some Gradle plugins. They allow you to upload the content directly to your SAP CPI agent and deploy it all from your IDE like IntelliJ or Eclipse. This speeds up the development because you don’t need to edit files in the WebIDE or upload them manually.

A real editor gives you the option to get syntax highlighting, autocompletion and debugging options. To achieve the running and debugging option we are able to leverage a real test performed with SAP CPI.

Our ide was to make it as simple for normal integration users to be able to edit and run their Groovy scripts without having to know a lot. In my free course about Create SAP CPI Integration faster, I’m covering how you can use the Figaf IRT tool to create a Git repository and configure all parameters, so you can use this development approach. It probably takes you 15 minutes to the repository working. So it is pretty simple.

You can see what the project was about and how the tool worked in this video.

Lessons learned

This was the first time I really used this function to create a useful Groovy script.

  1. It was possible to run the Groovy script pretty simple with the test data generator. That way I could run the message and get the correct output back. Once I was developing the groovy script I could then run it locally in my IntelliJ and even run debug.
  2. Out standard git template does not allow .jar files in the .gitignore file. It is best practice not to have jar files in your git repository because they take up a lot of space. In most cases, you will find the files in a maven repository and use them at runtime. A workaround we used was to add the path to the jar files with the following line in the .gitignore file !demo/XMLtoPDF/src/main/resources/lib/*.jar . ({package}/{iflowname} /src/main/resources/lib/*.jar .You can then add lines for all the iflows you are working on with the tool.
  3. The more you understand Git and Gradle the better. It will make it easier for you to use this workflow.
  4. Our comparison did not understand that the payload was binary for comparison. So it probably does not make a lot of sense to have test cases for it. In the PDF you have a time that is increasing and most of the content is binary. It was possible to create manual test cases and use it to check if the payload was successful.

Conclusion

It does take some time to get use to develop with the Figaf tool to create your SAP CPI iflows. Once you do understand how to create a test case and run it. It is much easier to work in the confines of IntelliJ when you are experimenting and do not know what you need to fix for the code to work.

Try it out your self.

I hope you want to try it out your self. It takes 15 minutes to get started and then you can have all your SAP CPI content in a git repository.

Just go to download it at Figaf IRT

Biggest challenges for SAP Integration in 2020

This blog contains some of the biggest trends in SAP Integration in 2020. Hopefully, you have already progressed with some of the areas, so you will have more time to focus on the other topics.

The topics covered are:

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Migration

Ever since the dawn of software age, there has always been a task to perform migrations. They just happen to ensure customers has the newest software and are able to achieve a lower TCO for their integration, and have support for their tools. The same is true for the SAP Integration portfolio it also undergoes changes. 2020 is the last year that 7.11, 7.3, 7.31 and 7.4 is supported, so in 2021 all customers must be on SAP PI/PO 7.5.

There will still be customers that have not managed to upgrade before then, but they must then accept their system is out of support. So if something bad happens they can move the interfaces to a newer platform.

In some cases, you can go for an upgrade to PI 7.5  with a stack split and then delete the ABAP stack. It is a bit risky and you will need to have good testing in place. It requires that you have ICO’s only.

Migration projects are a technical exercise that adds little value to the business, except they must be able to process it. The business therefore seldom cares about it, it is just some technical thing that must be completed. A migration project can take many months for you to perform, so you need to plan it. It is probably one of the tasks that you want outside help to perform because it will not be a core competency of your team to run migration projects. 

At Figaf we have created a set of tools that allow you to automate your SAP PI/CPI process, and they can also be used for migration. Here they can help you test everything is correct and identical to what was seen before. That way you know everything works as seen before.

We have also the only tool on the market that allows you to manage your migration process. You will be able to see how fast your migration is progressing and it does help with configuration and transports. I have a recording of the migration tool here.

If you a large investment in Seeburger Message Maps then the tool will enable you to automate the migration. In 2 minutes you can take the old message mapping and update it to a B2B Add-on structure with the Figaf Seeburger Migration Tool. That is a lot less than the 4-8 hours others have reported for migration of on message mapping.

The migration is not a straight path and can be challenging, but depending on your scenario there can cost savings in the operations aspect. 

I have created a list of my best resources for an SAP PI/PO migration here.

SAP Cloud Platform Integration CPI

SAP CPI has already been mainstream and the goto tool for creating new cloud-based integration. For customers using cloud services, it is the best tool compared to SAP PI/PO. 

It makes it much easier to create integrations because everything can be managed in just one iflow and modularity.

The amount of redelivered content is growing and it becomes a lot easier to make modifications to it. So you can create your own special processes that can be reused in other places. 

There is also the Cloud Foundry process that is going on. Currently, there is a large gap between NEO and CF. I would expect this gap to close since CPI is available on AWS, Azure, and Alicloud and Google is not on the road map. This should mean there are more resources to close the gaps. Once it is done I would expect a CF would be the main place SAP is delivering new functions on SAP CPI, to get customers to move to the platform. 

Regarding SAP PI/PO there are still some scenarios that are much better to perform on CPI with regards to handling point to point messages, restarting and design simplifications. 

I do see there is a need in the platform for automation to make the processing easier of managing SAP CPI and I believe the Figaf tools can help you in the process. It will handle testing, governance, transports, documentation, and support. It will also allow you to develop faster with Git integration, so you can develop Groovy scripts easier. 

If you are new to SAP CPI the process of developing in SAP CPI is different than you are used to in SAP PI/PO. With greater power comes great responsibility. It is therefore recommended to learn how the tool works and how to leverage it. I have created a list of different concepts that you must master before creating your first SAP CPI iflow

Migration to CPI

Some SAP PI/PO customers have already migrated to SAP CPI and achieved some great savings in regards to operations. I do see that there will be a lot more customers moving to CPI. 

Some have already completed the migration and are seeing big returns in cost savings because the cloud platform is cheaper to run and manage. 

There are some tools that allow you to reuse message mappings but there is still some limitation for the process. I hope that we at Figaf can take our current migration tool from SAP PI/PO and leverage the same process for a CPI migration. We still have some steps to be completed before it is possible. 

Automate the delivery process for SAP Integration

The way SAP PI/PO has been transported and configured has not changed the last 10-15 years. It is basically happening in the same way. You will need to create some CTS+ transports and once they have been applied on target systems users must configure things manually. Testing was also done manually.

This is much different than the rest of the world now is thinking of delivering software much different. Where ideas as DevOps is the new norm most rapid development projects. It allows developers to release code much faster because the processes can be automated. 

I do see customers talking about how they are able to automate the delivery process of SAP PI or SAP CPI, so they can live up to a requirement to deliver integration faster.

There are a few aspects that the automation gives. It makes it easier to get other people to take over the code and manage it, this means you will not be as reliant on the same developers, so they can change jobs without affecting you. 

Figaf has a solution that allows you to automate the full delivery process so you don’t need to spend months creating your own tool for it. 

API Strategy

I have talked with a number of organizations. Most of them have some projects about exposing APIs either from the SAP systems or from other business systems, so their customers would be able to use it. 

It is quite a fascinating journey to start on. Just as when people started with an SOA journey in 2005. I guess the API is even more critical now and will help you build more applications. The business may also be more interested in exposing services, so the process may be faster. 

I guess you can get a lot of good ideas and inspiration for it and plan it well. In the development process, you probably have to be more agile and experiment. You need to understand that you cannot make correct APIs the first time. 

I do like the SAP API mgt platform, it is pretty easy to get started with. The great benefit is that you can expose your first Odata service on the internet really easy from your SAP backend systems. 

It may have some limitations to other better platforms. It may be a good place to get started and understand what APIs you have and how to expose them. If you find some great need or challenge you can migrate away from SAP API mgt or combine 2 platforms. 

I do think that it is something you will need to learn how to work on in your organization. There are some good books on the market that will make sense to read up on. 

I will recommend going through some training or material on the topics, so you will be able to judge how you want to start out. I would start with the SAP API mgt book but will probably also find a vendor neutral book. can

Citizen integration

Citizen integration is a hot topic. It is about allowing the business to self make new integration without having to contact IT for it. It will make it a lot easier to create the correct integrations, but also add a lot of complexity to the landscape. 

A good Citizen integration will require

  • A good way to govern access business users only see the data they are allowed to
  • Monitor so users can see what is going on
  • Scalable to more users can use it
  • The flexibility that users can find different ways to enrich or modify the content
  • Move from Business to IT without re-engineer everything

For BI reporting there already have been some tools like PowerBI alike. Here users can create their own reports one some predefined reports. It does require a good management process because the report can consume a lot of CPU and memory. I did read a good blog on the topic for BI where it has been possible for some time. I would assume that much of the same learning can apply to Integration. 

In SAP SuccessFactors there is a place where business experts can create their own reports and files based on some data. I’m not sure where they can send the files and share them. I do like the approach because nobody understands the data better than the business users do. 

As a normal user, I do like Zapier and use it for some of my integrations. It is pretty simple to distribute data between systems and map fields, so it would be something that many users will be able to configure. They do have some enterprise accounts but I’m not really sure it will scale to Fortune 500 companies with regards to simplicity, governance, and flexibility. 

In the SAP world, there are Open Connectors/Cloud Elements which also could provide some option to make it easier for businesses to exchange data in predefined formats. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what will be used and how tools will work in that perspective.

S/4 HANA migration and integration projects

Many SAP customers are considering how and if they want to upgrade to S4/HANA. Some have already upgraded, but most still have that journey ahead. Though some are considering if they want to or not. Let’s see how the support changes. 

If you “just” perform an upgrade you can mostly still use all your current integrations. You will need to test to see if everything still works. Some tables have been moved and some programs bay need to be changed.

If you start from scratch there are a lot of new interfaces, so no more need for using IDOCs. So it will instead be SOAP messages or events.

There is also the option to use AIF (Application Interface Framework) to manage . 

It will be something that you will be learning from so good luck on that process.

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Governing SAP CPI with Figaf Tools Webinar replay

Managing and running an SAP CPI system can be easy. You can if you don’t have any quality control and can move everything. I have examples on fixing a feature request and move it to production in 30 minutes. No governance was made in this process. Which was not optimal nobody would know what was going on.

If you want to be able to govern the approach then you need it will take some longer. Govern is about managing the process to ensure there is proper audit trail for all changes, testing, and documentation is in place. This is something that can take a lot of manual hours to get working. With the Figaf tool we have automated the full process, so you developers, architects, and business experts no longer need to spend as much time on the tasks.

You can see the replay of a webinar below. This covers a lot of the process around change management and it even shows what is possible with the development process.

Try the Figaf tool

You can try the Figaf tool you can signup here

How do you Document your SAP CPI Iflows

Documentation of integration has always been a strange thing. It has been pretty difficult to make sure we documented the details correctly and had enough information with. Normally you will just get some document designed to document some other thing and then try to adapt it to your integration. That will never give a good result. You may be compliant but just a waste of time if the documentation is not useful.

For SAP PI/PO we have for ages been using a Word template for the documentation of each interface. We support that with the Figaf IRT tool, so you can generate it fast. You can see an example of the SAP PI documentation here. The inspiration was to avoid having the documentation that was never updated and always had the initial version.

SAP Best practive

I did find an example of a SAP CPI template in the best practice guide. I did not like if for a few assumptions:

  • It was focusing on the wrong things that were a bit to detailed and too generic. Like a file conversion, or mapping it just has empty tabs that users need to fill in.
  • It could not be automated every well, which ment it did require a lot of user governance to host the information
  • It was juggling 3 different adapters and not showing the required details

I wanted to improve the process and make it even easier to capture the most important part of a CPI Iflow. It ended up with the following information:

  • Overview of the iFlow header information like name and description
  • History of changes logged with business requirements
  • Connection sender and receiver together with information
  • Test cases you have created for the tool
  • Flow description which is a table representation of the iflow. It will give some overview of how the different steps are connected
  • Configuration parameters configured in the full landscape, so you got some information on what is being used and the relavant resources.
  • Resources and the lat change data for them.

You can download an example of the document here for the SF to AD iflow.

There are ways to improve the document with more information. If you have anything that you think will provide value and make it easier to understand the documentation. Do let us know.

Automated documentation does have some limits like being able to update it different places, and add the extra information that makes sense.

You can try it own on your own iflows and see how it performs in your landscape.