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Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair

SAP – A Comprehensive Integration Solution?

What is a Comprehensive Integration Solution?

A comprehensive integration solution comprises of the below attributes/capabilities;

1. EAI

2. BPM

3. B2B

4. SOA

5. MFT

6. A Model driven application development (MDD)

The best way to explain this would be to take an extract from the Forrester research on CIS. Forrester has defined the CIS reference architecture model as below;


                              (CIS Reference Architecture Model – Source: Forrester Research, Inc.)

So how does SAP fare in this department?

The last report from Forrester I got my hands on, evaluated SAP PI 7.1 against market competitors like Oracle, TIBCO, Software AG, IBM etc. SAP was judged a ‘market leader’ while Oracle, IBM, TIBCO and Software AG continued to dominate the CIS market.

Moving forward in time, lets understand what SAP has been doing, and how they have been aligning themselves towards a better, capable CIS framework.

The first and foremost mention should be the Process Orchestration suite. With SAP PO, SAP scales many important milestones. To mention some;

a. Single stack provisioning – Moving away from the dual stack concept, the single stack drastically reduces the TCO and helps in faster installation and maintenance cycles.

b. BPMN support is now addressed with SAP BPM being couple into the suite. SAP has already started recommending its customers to start moving away from the traditional ccBPM solutions.

c. Business Rules get embedded thus enhancing the capabilities, one requires for a CIS framework.

d. With ESR and ID accessibility being ported onto NWDS, SAP is now bridging the gap it had when it came to MDD and a single IDE for all development activities.

B2B – Bridging the gap

Apart from the above mentioned features of SAP PO, the recent B2B Add Ons helps the cause of better support when it comes to B2B and EDI. The B2B add ons along with the SFTP adapter and PGP Module makes a stronger case for SAP today. Apart from the B2B add on, SAP also has SAP Information Interchange (remember Crossgate acquisition?) to help customers in managing their EDI landscape. Hence customers can opt to either implement the B2B Add On (which provides the adapters and conversion modules) for EDI messages or use the SAP II infrastructure. A combination of the two resulting in a hybrid model is also recommended.

Event Management/CEP

This is in my opinion a relatively naive feature/capability when it comes to SAP in comparison to other competitors in the market. In a recent SAP mentor call, I was lucky enough to get insight into what SAP is currently doing in the space of Complex Event Processing (CEP). The existing product suite required to handle requirements around CEP is as below;


                                  (Source: SAP Mentor presentation – 07-March-2012)

As a customer if I need to procure licences for more than 3 products to implement a CEP solution, the above matrix would seem scary. As this point, I am aware that SAP is still working hard around this and hopefully soon we would get more clarity and case studies to understand solutions in the CEP space from SAP.

This today is a gap that SAP need to fill if it needs to refine its ratings in the CIS space.

Managed File transfer

As of today, I am not aware of any solution from SAP in the space of MFT. The closest offering in the space of MFT would be the partner solution from Seeburger (See the announcement here)

While major CIS players have their own MFT solutions or have acquired such solutions, SAP seems to employ the strategy of having their partner provision the solution. So should this be seen as a gap?

Would you favour a SAP provisioned MFT solution than a partner solution? If so vote for this IDEA on Idea Place.

The Others

Some other areas of interest in this discussion would be around the support for REST 🙂 . Yes, I agree we have discussed and argued our brains to pulp on the Gateway vs SAP PI usage when it comes to REST and mobility. (Refer this blog by The specified item was not found. and these insights from William Li )

Again, personally I see this as a serious gap. When we talk about a Comprehensive Integration Solution, shouldn’t RESTful services capability be provisioned inline with SAP PI or SAP PO? Why has SAP come out with NW Gateway along with REST adapter in PI (which again is a partner solution) and thus introduced confusion? Is this because they are trying to restrict huge investments on the JAVA side and want to keep the ABAP investments on track (NW Gateway is an ABAP add on)?

Well, answers to these are definitely tough to get. But then its always the questions that drive us, isnt it? Another reason why I believe NW G/W should be ported onto the SAP Process Orchestration suite is that end of the day, the REST service should not only have its backend as SAP but non-SAP applications too. The NW Gateway does not provide access to any system apart from SAP.

Cloud is another interesting dimension. I must admit, I am quite limited in my knowledge on what is happening around Cloud when it comes to a CIS context. Hope that SAP will start publishing information around this sooner or later.

Last but not the least, I would like to ask a question before concluding this blog.

We know that SAP PI/PO is being used widely by customers in their SAP landscape for SAP to SAP and SAP to Non SAP integration needs. But how many of you are aware of customers who are confident of using PI/PO when it comes to Non SAP to Non SAP integration requirements? Have you noticed many shying away from using PI when it comes to this and such requirements generally being realized on the other ESB available in their landscape? What drives them to such a decision?

Note: Do post your thoughts as comments if you feel this is a topic worth discussing further in detail.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Shabarish,

      For the best info I've seen for what's coming in the cloud with regard to integration from SAP, I recommend checking out this 20 minute session from Sapphire Now:

      I'd be curious what you think of the strategy here, particularly how they are addressing sapcloud to non-SAPCloud.

      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Greg. Will respond as soon as I get a chance to go through the link.

      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      Greg Chase interesting talk that is and thanks a ton for sharing the link 🙂

      One important point she made is that customers can leverage their existing on premise PI investments by using the content that is meant for the cloud integration technology that SAP is provisioning. The question that I would have is what would be decision points for customers to go for another additional license for integration needs? When to use on premise PI solution vs the Cloud PI/Data integration solution?

      Author's profile photo Sunil Chandra
      Sunil Chandra

      I strongly agree and always had this question in mind that why PI is not being projected as an independent middleware for non SAP to non SAP integration. If we see integration space, PI is recommended only when you have SAP ERP in landscape.

      No doubt PI comes with an added advantage and capabilities for SAP integration, but is this fact overshadowing its capability for non-SAP integration. Why can't it grow like other middlewares (e.g Tibco, WebMethods etc)? The reason till now could have been the dependency on partners for B2B solution. But now with so much effort being invested in development of its own B2B addons, it seems more committed towards B2B space.


      Sunil Chandra

      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      to me a true CIS platform will ideally not care what the end systems really are 🙂 Yes.. PI gives you benefits when it deals with a SAP system but when it comes to non SAP, frankly I dont see any reason why customers should shy away looking at the massive investment SAP is currently making on the product.

      Maybe it is about creating awareness. I know of many EA and decision makers up the ladder being aware of the mess SAP XI/PI was in 4-5 years back but are not upto date on what's happening in the space today 😕

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi All,

      Its not that SAP NetWeaver PI is not able to handle SAP to non SAP or even non SAP to non SAP with the right adaptors and content in place.  I've seen customers do very well using PI as their primary integration solution, and in many cases, it needs far less maintenance required than some more common competitors.

      But you are right. A very common configuration I see customers use is PI for SAP to SAP, and then connect PI to another integration solution for everything NOT SAP. I'm assuming this setup exists from when PI was either not capable, or not perceived in the market to be capable of working with non SAP systems in a scalable manner.  Add the fact that SAP typically does not independently market and sell middle ware can contribute to this perception.

      And, once this kind of infrastructure is in place, simplifying almost never happens since departmental politics and people defending their jobs comes into play.

      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      And, once this kind of infrastructure is in place, simplifying almost never happens since departmental politics and people defending their jobs comes into play.


      Greg, very well put. That remains the ultimate truth 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Shabarish

      I had a chuckle to myself as I read this when I thought of what my non-technical wife would make of this acronym-rich blog. IT-speak really is another language, isn't it? 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      well Glen.... after all we are the 'IT Crowd' !

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Shabarish

      I agree that its interesting to see the road SAP is following to a bigger more comprehensive Enterprise Solution.

      The big question marks that I see (as in other suites also) is that there is a huge variety of stacks, SIDs, interactions and message behavior that makes the solution under the shiny surface rather complex to understand and manage. And for one thing... to sell...

      Like in the PI/BPM area... dual installations (right now) with complex installations. And to this we add the complexity on licensing. If we have problem to understand and manage this... how does a customer react?

      Even if SAP is on the move to single SID and single stack installations there is still a long way to go.

      When it comes to GAPS in PI I can clearly see that the strategy of relying on 3rd party solutions is a big disadvantage. We have seen this in EDIFACT area and right now its the same for REST and MFT. Customers that are planning to invest in PI, or are already running PI, gets problems with support and also on how to invest for the future. It would also be a clearer track to align on the java side on an independent integration platform instead of pointing towards to solutions requiring dual stacks.

      Many SAP ERP clients are choosing other integration platforms due to this even if PI would be a much better option in general for them. So I hope that this will change further on and that new technologies will be a part of PI much faster than before.

      To your question... I have seen the same path but it seems that most of those customers (I have seen) has been running XI/PI for a while... It seems to be the XI legacy that still hunts the decisions because its felt that its not stable/hip/versatile enough... and of course they are normally not on any 7.3 releases but more to 3.0 and 7.0. I have suggested for some of them I have met to abandon dual and go java-only if they don't have BPMs that can be easily replaced. But thats also a pricetag that comes with all upgrades/changes.

      One thing that I have been thinking about is the actual role and impact of a Gartner/Forester report like this for common users/companies...

      If you have a big ERP suite installation you would normally not use any report like this to change from a suite integration plattform to a third party platform (imagine an Oracle suite running PI... 😉 )... regardless of the placement in any quadrant. The only good thing is that it could prove the usage of SAP PI / Process Orchestration if you have, or were to invest in, a SAP ERP landscape or if a non-SAP customer really wants to "try" PI


      Author's profile photo Shabarish V Nair
      Shabarish V Nair
      Blog Post Author

      thanks very much for sharing your thought Pontus Borgström

      Author's profile photo Nabendu Sen
      Nabendu Sen

      Hi Shabarish,

      An amazing blog, thanks for writing. I have seen couple of projects where Client uses multiple Middleware Tool like Webmethods, Tibco besides PI. If I also ignore the EDI/B2B part and Third Party dependencies, PI still runs 2 step behind the other leaders.

      You may compare the mapping part or Receiver/Configurations, other tools have much more flexibility.For WM, its like a workflow and you can easily add different parts/functions at different level. Some times I have seen a simple requirement can be fulfilled by them very easily where in PI its a bit complex. PI obviously has the one of the best Monitoring capabilities.

      Another typical thing which I observed that, lot of clients/positions for SAP PI demands experience in ECC developments (like R/3 ABAP Development). 😳

      They think PI less as integration but more a sub component of SAP ECC.

      PI is progressing rapidly and it has gained lot missing parts. May be in very near future we can easily compete with other leaders as an Independent Middleware Solution, rather than a product which helps R/3 to connect other systems.