This weekend, I went to visit the “European Motor Show” in Brussels. A various range of cars, motorbikes, trikes were on display in any kind of criteria one can think of. You could find extra-ordinary supercars which takes you from 0-100KM in astonishing 3.6 seconds, Cars with latest hybrid technology, cars so big you can have your pool party inside, from the car brands owned by her majesty Queen of England or driven by ‘007’ in the latest Bond-film to of-course average Jo’s (myself included) car which you see every morning parked in the corner of your street. And price range, all between 10,000 Euros to a staggering half a million euros and even more!
Despite this beautiful extravaganza, one basic thing remains common. Cars help us to drive from one place to another. But, then what car do we choose?
It reminded me of one of the Project meetings I was attending few weeks ago. There was a requirement to be able to send and receive IDOCs out of SAP R/3 Enterprise system in XML format. It was for one of our partner companies and they do not yet have a EAI backbone. After some discussions, we could see three possible options:
- Installing a SAP-XI system in front of the SAP R/3 and performing a HTTP Post of IDOCs towards external system. The benefit of this solution is that it will give a EAI backbone, a very important step towards eSOA in future. It is secure and can be extended to other Integration needs that company might have. However, at this point they needed to have an Investment to start a SAP-XI implementation project.
- Using SAP Business Connector to convert SAP IDOCs into XML and vice versa. The main problem with this solution before was announcement of out of maintenance of SAP BC 4.7 at the end of 2009 (OSS note: 571530). However with new SAP Business Connector 4.8 coming up, it’s not an issue anymore. For details see OSS note: 1094412. This gives a secured connection towards external system, XML mapping possibility to send message structures other than IDOC-XML and can be re-used for other requirements. However, it does not get them a strong EAI backbone for future but the cost to implement this at this point is significantly low.
- Directly from SAP R/3 system using HTTP connection with Web-service idoc_xml. This is perhaps most straight-forward solution and with almost negligible investment requirement. IDoc_XML web-interface is standard available in SAP systems based on WAS 6.40 or higher. You have to just activate them via SICF and you can use with a HTTP RFC connection you define in SAP (SM59) and build your ALE partner definition. In our particular case, as the SAP system is based on WAS 6.20, we needed to create it according to OSS note: 701597. This is simple, cheaper and meets the basic requirement of the project. But, make no mistake; it does just that and no more.
At this point, I do not know which of the above options will finally be implemented, but one thing was very clear to me. If that company needs to have a comprehensive eSOA strategy, capability to handle any complex integration requirements which offers more options in integrating SAP and non-SAP systems, they will need a robust EAI backbone and I have no doubt in my mind that implementation of SAP XI will be one step forward in that direction.
And yes, when I was finally leaving the Motor show, I remembered, I will have to arrange a car for our upcoming ski vacation in the Alps which is little bigger and stronger than the one I drive around in the streets of a busy city.