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The SAP Information Interchange is SAP’s new EDI and B2B managed service. It is a managed EDI/B2B exchange service that is operated in a cloud computing environment. It utilizes SAP’s NetWeaver platform as a foundation for the service which makes integrating with SAP users that have NetWeaver very simple – almost plug and play. Even those without NetWeaver can activate the service using IDocs or tRFC.

In an article from last week, I made the following statement, “SAP is making a bold move now to eliminate the need for third party EDI and B2B service providers in favor of a simplified SAP supported environment.” What does that mean?

Historically, companies would need to purchase an expensive EDI system from some third party specialized EDI vendor. It was a completely different technology platform unrelated to SAP, required in-depth training, specialized EDI knowledge, integration projects, servers, security and 24/7 helpdesk support (related article on EDI costs). This is just to get started. Once the EDI system and resources were in place, long, hard and expensive multi-year trading partner implementation projects would be initiated. For more information read the article, The Process of Implementing EDI and B2B here.

Today this scenario has completely changed. SAP customers can now simply activate the SAP Information Interchange and pay a small set-up fee and then subscribe to the monthly EDI/B2B service from SAP. There is no longer the requirement for servers, specialized training, helpdesk, EDI systems, multi-year implementation projects, etc. For companies wanting to simplify their IT environment, reduce third party applications whenever possible and standardize on SAP this is a big step in that direction. Simplifying IT environments and reducing non-SAP applications is a growing trend. Even in the emerging mobile computing categories companies are choosing vendors like Sky Technologies because they have embedded SAP mobility solutions rather than external third party middleware.

This new methodology for supporting EDI requirements is similar to connecting to the electrical grid that is run by your local electric utility. You do not need to operate the electric power generation plant, the utility manages and operates it. You just need to activate your account with the electrical utility. SAP now has this service available and it is sold through their field sales teams.

You can get more details and pricing from SAP’s sales team.

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9 Comments

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  1. Kenneth Eriksen
    Hi,

    Interesting news! Do you know how this will operate in relation to SAP PI? Will PI be necessary for Information Interchange to function or will Information Interchange reduce the need for companies to invest in PI as their integration platform?

    Thanks for any feedback!

    Br,
    Kenneth

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    1. Kevin Benedict Post author
      The SAP Information Interchange uses NetWeaver PI itself, in the EDI Hub, and can easily connect PI-to-PI with any other SAP customer using it.  However, the EDI Hub can also connect to any SAP customer via tRFC, web service or IDoc as well.
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      1. Steve Sprague
        The service can connect to an SAP application in two ways today.  The standard certified processes are based on standardized IDOCs via RFC connections.  You can also utilize SAP PI as a middleware and exchange XML IDOCs as well as Enterprise Services in future releases.

        From an implementation perspective – there is a managed service/hosted component that Crossgate provides that manages all the day to day operations, transactional monitoring, partner connectivity, as well as add on components such as e-Invoicing support in 38 countries.

        To other comments, here is a more defined definition:

        The SAP Information Interchange  is a standalone runtime system for managing B2B mapping based on the message content. SAP Information Interchange runs in the role of a B2B/EDI translator (mapping engine). SAP Information Interchange  integrates into the backend system (e.g. SAP ERP) and translates the backend system (standard IDOC formats, PI connectivity, or via Enterprise Services) to the external business partners’ message format (i.e. Wal-Mart Purchase Order EDI format). The major difference is that you are no longer purchasing a EDI mapping tool and building the content. Instead, the runtime is included and pricing is based on a set of profiles representing the individual rules and requirements of the Trading Partner.

        This is the major difference to any competitor.  Content, you actually are purchasing the Wal-Mart Purchase Order to Orders05 IDOC which is running and working. This content is then maintained by SAP.  For example if Wal-Mart were to add an additional field or change their version as they tend to do — that mapping format change is provided within the support contract.

        The core of the mapping methodology is based on a canonical structure. Similar to the classic way EAI solutions are implemented. The left side (or ERP interface) is maintained with SAP based on the GDT definitions and Enterprise Service descriptions.  The right side (Partner Proifles) are always mapped to the canonical format.  Interestingly enough, this mapping procedure has been done for years.  Many of the large global enterprise have used canonical structures between their apps and B2B solutions in order to provide a buffer from internal changes as well as flexibility to consolidate systems.

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  2. Christian Sy
    Interesting. But how do you handle the requirement of customer-specific mappings ? I have not seen one single customer which did not require any specific mapping changes between Idoc and EDIFact (so far about EDI “standard”). Is it possible that the customer does the mapping in his own PI and then just calls a SAP EDI service which converts the document 1:1 between XML and EDIFact ?

    And what about monitoring options ? Famous topic, we sent the document, but customer did not receive it. What now ? Where to look ?

    Regards,

    CSY

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    1. Kevin Benedict Post author
      Good question CSY!  SII (SAP Information Interchange) is a managed EDI Hub, and as such they will need to map the customer specific requirements into the Hub.  However, once the map is created it will be available for re-use by all other SAP customers that exchange EDI with that particular customer.  That is my understanding.
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  3. Lee Chisholm
    So is this a web based service that basically does the EDI translation for us?  IE: We upload EDI and get SAP IDoc’s back? 

    Just trying to understand the concept.

    Thanks,
    Lee

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    1. Kevin Benedict Post author
      I believe it is even easier than that.  You upload IDocs and receive IDocs back.  All EDI maps, translation, operations and communication is done in SII (SAP Information Interchange) as a managed service.  As a result, no EDI resources or hardware is required.  That is my understanding.  Just an initial set-up and then a monthly subscription.
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      1. Lee Chisholm
        Interesting.  So if my business partner uses EDI and I use SAP, then would the partner send EDI data to SII, and then SII would send IDoc’s to me?
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