Skip to Content

Prologue:

There are a lot of factors that have prompted me to put my thoughts into this blog. It started off with my TechEd 2011 experience in Madrid and the sessions around SAP Process Orchestration. I have to admit that it did bring a smile on my face. It made me realize that I was not in the wrong professional after all. But then as I started reading more on the new direction SAP has taken along with an insight into how other leaders in the space of Enterprise Integration have provisioned their products, my mind began to ask questions.

 

What’s new in SAP Process Orchestration? With Process Orchestration, SAP has bridged the gap by combining PI, BPM and BRM into a single suite. This gives integration a new dimension since now you have your ESB supporting BPMN and also utilize business rules. The way I see it, the gap between business and IT gets bridged. In an ideal world, you will see the Business Analyst now working closely with the Integration consultant resulting in a classic Top-Down Approach of building an integration scenario.

You will see that it definitely sounds exciting. But this is where I might play spoil sport. The fact is some of the leading vendors in the space of integration already have these capabilities. For many who have already worked with integration solutions from vendors like TIBCO, WebMethods or say IBM, will know that business rules and BPMN are not new. So from a time frame perspective, it would seem that SAP is almost 2 years behind.   

Even after its journey from a 2.0 stage to the 7.3 version, numerous customers still are not sure about adopting SAP PI as their integration solution at an enterprise level. There are many who restrict the usage of PI for SAP based integration only and the majority of the non-SAP landscape integration needs are catered to by other ESB solutions. Even after eight long years (at least), why is this still? 

There are also some other topics that I would like to highlight. One of them is Complex Event Processing. In case of SAP, I have struggled to find the connect between the CEP solution and the ESB. If you are interested, do go through or participate in this discussion on LinkedIn.

Another is the aspect of Event Based Architecture and BAM. How many of us are happy to recommend setting up BAM in a SAP based landscape using PI? It still isn’t a comprehensive solution and it has a lot of open ends. I cannot imagine thousands of BPM instances running in my PI server for scenarios involving Milestone monitoring. 

Even the simplest of feature had taken time to become reality. While we still have to wait for the general availability in SAP PI, other integration tools have been flaunting the SFTP adapter since ages. Why did SAP overlook such a common requirement?

We are in a world that is drastically making new strides in the area of technology. SAP is indeed a specialist (the market leader to not forget) when it comes to ERP and its knowledge of business processes. But SAP’s strategy when it comes to Integration is quite vague. I will simply start by asking, “Why is REST based support still not available in SAP Process Orchestration?”  

There is a blog I will love to recommend on Netweaver Gateway and the perspective from Sascha. It’s titled NetWeaver Gateway and PI – There’s a place for both!  

But then why do you want to separate a smart solution like Gateway from your ESB? Why will a customer seek separate licences? Ideally I would have loved to see this capability being provisioned as part of a comprehensive integration suite. Do you see the disconnect that I see?

So is it that SAP lacks a holistic vision in the space of integration and its team across geographies are building separate solutions that are difficult to fit together? Or is it just a lack of marketing that these solutions are not being binded or bundled under a common theme? Or is it that SAP simply doesn’t really have a strategy going in this area?

I might have been harsh or maybe even plain ignorant in my views here but before I finish I need to mention that even though late, SAP is still investing in the ‘new idea’. Look at SAP Process Orchestration. Also finally SAP is talking about a better B2B support on its integration platform. The signs are there. SAP is doing what it has to do but one cannot stop wondering if it is doing enough and at the right time.

To report this post you need to login first.

18 Comments

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.

  1. Ravi Sharma
    Question :
    But then why do you want to separate a smart solution like Gateway from your ESB? Why will a customer seek separate licences? Ideally I would have loved to see this capability being provisioned as part of a comprehensive integration suite. Do you see the disconnect that I see?

    Answer :

    Why Tata need Jaguar and Nano ?

    Both fit different markets and type of applications.

    (0) 
    1. Shabarish Vijayakumar Post author
      not having proper support for REST based services in an ESB can be justified by saying its a different market segment all together? 🙂

      I can already see how many Integration consultants would react to that.

      (0) 
      1. Ravi Sharma
        I understand your sentiments when you say that ESB  should support REST but if you think about ESB its a beast of Different size… ESB should not be introduced everywhere for Integration because of complexity that it brings along with it . Any architect will ask you to stay away from ESB as long as its not absolutely needed which is the case for integrating applications following WEB 2.0 standards.

        This of this phrase
        ‘When you have to CLEAN use SOAP, When you want to Relax take REST’

        Do you think introducing Gateway components within ESB / PI will help sap gain more customers ??  Gateway is meant to supply data for Information Workers …

        (0) 
        1. Shabarish Vijayakumar Post author
          please remember that i am not talking only about ESB but a comprehensive suite provisioned for integration. That’s why i raised the question if it is just a lapse in proper marketing 🙂

          Also gateway is not the only concern i have in the blog but definitely it features due to the REST feature.

          (0) 
  2. Fred Verheul
    Hi Shabarish,

    I’m totally with you on this subject, and I’m glad you’re asking these questions regarding SAPs integration strategy. Not being harsh at all IMO.
    And thanks for pointing me to the Linkedin discussion group. Joined it immediately.

    Cheers, Fred

    (0) 
  3. Arun Bala
    Hi Shabarish, Great points! Nice to learn some patterns/gaps… Can comment the same situation in BI/BW (as in PI 7.3).. Hope SAP is hearing 🙂
    (0) 
  4. Martijn Linssen
    Great points Shabarish

    I guess SAP doesn’t really need an integration strategy – as far as I know, it’s been greatly lacking. SAP Netweaver was a nice idea, but XI was weak, and basing PI on XML under-the-hood a clear sign of an utter lack of experience and thinking

    Where ever I’ve seen SAP projects, they come to conquer; what they can’t integrate, they simply build into SAP. I often resemble SAP to the Borg, but that subtle hint goes unnoticed even when I hold SAP presentations for SAP crowds. Most SAP projects I’ve seen that run into integration issues, simply cut the corner by point-to-point integrating their ways around the 5, 7 or even 9-layer SAP architecture in order to overcome dramatic performance

    SAP is too fine-grained at the very front-end bottom, forcing it to build application logic on the outside versus simply extending SAP functionality through mean and lean services. SOA, REST, and all that? Nitty-gritty irrelevant issues, stressing the fact that SAP simply is incapable of taking on an outside-in view

    http://www.martijnlinssen.com/2011/11/asphalt-that-controls-traffic-type-and.html shows my vision of what the world really is about: an awesome diversity that is now becoming even more disparate than it used to be. It’s time to realise that adopting isn’t the answer, but adapting is. SaaS, Social, Mobile: these will run circles around SAP devs who get stuck into debates around RESTfull ways, and bring the same business value as SOAP did: none. No interoperability on the tech nor functional level, no industry standards, no nothing

    “So is it that SAP lacks a holistic vision in the space of integration and its team across geographies are building separate solutions that are difficult to fit together?”

    Absolutely

    “Or is it just a lack of marketing that these solutions are not being binded or bundled under a common theme?”

    Marketing integration requires most excellent experts at the tech and biz level wrt Integration, and the few I’ve met usually didn’t work for SAP

    “Or is it that SAP simply doesn’t really have a strategy going in this area?”

    If they do, I’d like to hear it, but I’d just have to say that they don’t. Then again, you don’t take SAP on board because it integrates so very well, and I’m quite sure that, once their “integration solution” starts to crack, you don’t turn back a few million dollar investment. You simply “go Borg”: can’t integrate? Assimilate – build the functionality into SAP itself

    Will this “strategy” hold for much longer? I’d love to say that it’s outdated, and all the TIBCO’s of this world, who take multi-channel, multi-message, Complex Event Processing and Event-Driven Architecture almost for granted, would probably agree. But will it really stop working for SAP any time soon? As long as you don’t use SAP for real-time integration, you’ll be fine for a while. An odd batch here and there won’t kill you

    I don’t expect SAP to become proficient at Integration – it’s not in their system and apparently there’s no business case for it either. But, when I look 10 years ahead, I see the end of monoliths, an end to “adopt, adopt, adopt” and a very strong business case for flexibility and the ability to adapt on the fly to all the new kids on the block out there: SaaS solutions of any kind, Social streams of any kind, mobile solutions developed at the speed of light. The “solution” of cutting corners via a point-to-point handscribbled piece of code will make clear to SAP what it has done 20 years ago: beyond mid-size SMB scale, it becomes profoundly expensive, ineffective, and a ball and chain to the business

    (0) 
    1. Michal Krawczyk
      hi Martin,

      it’s good to see someone with another view on the matter even if I do agree with only a few things

      BTW

      >>>But, when I look 10 years ahead, I see the end of monoliths

      I wonder how many people were saying that about EDI in 90′ … and how many people will still say that about EDI in 10 years time hehe 🙂

      anyway  – good comment you should have posted that as a weblog on SDN – we need to have more debates/other views like that 🙂

      Regards,
      Michal Krawczyk

      (0) 
  5. Sascha Wenninger
    Hi Shabz,

    nice post, and many, many arguments I agree with. I too am in an environment where PI is relegated to pretty much “all of the SAP stuff”, and TIBCO for everything else. Mind you, we are doing some pretty cool stuff with PI – high volume, mission-critical interfaces…

    But it still pains me that I would need to upgrade to PO 7.31 in order to get high-level feature parity with our ~5 year old TIBCO versions, and for many of the reasons you mentioned. It shouldn’t be like this…

    Thank you also for the blog link 🙂

    Sascha

    (0) 
    1. Shabarish Vijayakumar Post author
      Sascha,

      But it still pains me that I would need to upgrade to PO 7.31 in order to get high-level feature parity with our ~5 year old TIBCO versions
      >>
      i think the pain is shared by many like us

      (0) 
  6. Jason Scott
    Hi Shabarish, Interesting topic and I agree with allot of your thoughts and the comments – good to initiate this discussion. Sounds kind of similar to discussions in the mobile space at the moment…

    With most of the clients I have worked with, its the same. They will use PI for integration with the SAP system only and in most cases the I.T. department will select Websphere (after asking IBM to consult on which is the best ESB of course) or some other product for the corporate ESB.
    Sometimes this results in silly situations where a data message must go through two or more middleware products.
    I’ve actually seen 3 in one case: Websphere – MII – PI  to SAP (though this has allot to do with consultants looking after themselves as well).

    Why does SAP not push PI into this space more with better marketing and better engagement with their customers and by putting more effort into the product and not be “behind” by two years as the blog mentions above (in some respects).

    I’m tending to agree with the comments by Martijn that they don’t “really” have an integration strategy. Nor a mobile strategy for that matter. There… I said it.   😉

    (0) 
    1. Shabarish Vijayakumar Post author
      Clients not using PI as the ESB but just an SAP data broker…
      >>>

      some of this is partly due to the bad experiences with older versions like XI 3.0. I do agree that SAP is putting efforts to better the product but it is falling behind with others in the same area.

      I have heard many consultants and customers openly make statements like do not use PI for non SAP based integration. When you think abt it, cant really argue with them most of the times cos there are other tools available with better value benefits.

      I have spend most of the last 7 yrs of my career on XI/PI. I have seen the product grow but I say this again and again… it is not enough!

      (0) 
  7. Bhavesh Kantilal
    You’ve hit the nail on the head and now you know why I’ve been a skeptic for sometime now 🙂

    While being 2 years behind competition is a valid grouse another one I hold is a lack of Upgrade options to new versions.Reality is that Upgrades ( at least PI Upgrades ) are IT Projects and Business Cost Approvals for such will be difficult to get. 1.5 years back we were discussing what it would take to go to PI 7.1 EhP1, beginning of this year it was PI 7.3, now PI 7.3 EhP1..Where will all this lead to if upgrades for your ESB platform are not easy. Migration is a easy fix but costs and timelines make it almost impossible for customers to buy into. There aren’t too many Upgrade case studies out there nor are there any major documents other than the Upgrade Guide which somehow tells me that it is not a easy path to take and its the road not taken too often.

    The need of the hour on one hand is a long term direction on how the Enterprise Integration Landscape has to look like and  for the availability of easy Upgrade tools / options. Which brings me to my second grouse – the B2B Strategy from SAP..for years now SAP has been a re-seller for Seeburger and IWay B2B Solutions for PI. Why now build your own solution with a separate license? What does it mean to customers who have taken the plunge into Seeburger / IWay? If you Vendor has 2 competing solutions out there, how do customers know what is the best to choose? If the SAP built one is the future, how do customers on Seeburger / IWay move to the SAP Built solutions? Another Migration? No Upgrade option?

    I did a upgrade on a competing platform couple of months ago and the project was done in 3 months flat. This was a landscape with B2B Connections and the Upgrade solution and tools provided by the Vendor were easy to implement and had a strong backing from the Vendor. If Migration is what it will take to get to the latest versions don’t be surprised if customers start another tool evaluation process to look at where to spend their $…

    (0) 

Leave a Reply