Recently there have been a lot of discussions and rumors on SCN about the future of SAP NetWeaver Process Integration as well as SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management and yes, you are right, SAP wasn’t good in explaining the big picture to you to make you understand in which direction these products are heading. The impression might have come up that SAP isn’t too much caring about them – but the opposite is true. This blog will shed some light into it and explains why the best is yet to come.
What happened so far?
Let me begin with SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration (or Process Orchestration in short) – the bundle comprising the three products SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI or PI), SAP NetWeaver Business Process Management (SAP NetWeaver BPM or BPM), and SAP NetWeaver Business Rules Management (SAP NetWeaver BRM or BRM). SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration is at the heart of SAP’s future strategy for on-premise middleware. The reason? Well, independent from where you come – whether you want to develop a more integration centric or a more human centric scenario – in the end you’ll require functionality from both sides. Therefore, it made sense to combine SAP NetWeaver PI and SAP NetWeaver BPM. SAP NetWeaver BRM as the third component enriches both kinds of scenarios with the option to further automate them simply by applying business rules for typical business decisions, which were formerly driven by end users. Hence, the combination of all three products was an obvious choice for SAP, resulting in SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration. SAP is still investing significantly in this solution and its products to make the experience for you as smooth as possible. This includes the installation and upgrade procedure, the design time tools, the runtime as well as the operations and monitoring capabilities.
Design time improvements
On the design time we brought all development tools into the Eclipse-based SAP NetWeaver Developer Studio (NWDS) harmonizing the modeling and development experience. Especially the tools around PI were newly developed for NWDS. Besides bringing the same functionality to the NWDS compared to the old Swing-based UIs (and we are still closing gaps), we also changed the look and feel for configuring integration scenarios completely. Instead of walking you through a number of tabs allowing you to configure sender, sender interface, receivers, receiver interfaces, mappings, channels etc. as you know it from the Integration Builder, you can now graphically model the message handling within the Process Integration Designer (PI Designer) perspective. The screenshot below gives you an impression of a configured scenario in the PI Designer:
You can immediately identify…
- Who is the sender?
- Which interface is being sent?
- Via which channel is the sender communicating?
- Who are the receivers of the message and which interfaces do they expect?
- Via which channels are the receivers communicating?
- How is the data mapped in case the messages are different?
The feedback from our customers was overwhelming. It’s not only that they get a better overview of the scenario itself – what’s even more important is the
improved efficiency to develop integration flows even faster than it was possible with the Java Swing based Integration Builder. Last but not least we also integrated runtime views into the NWDS. The SAP Process Integration Runtime perspective allows you to directly navigate into the respective monitoring environments of PI such as message monitoring and channel monitoring. So a lot has been done to support you on the development side.
Runtime and monitoring enhancements
Taking a look at the runtime, one noticeable investment was certainly the tight integration of the two runtime environments of BPM and PI. The challenge was to support a reliable and at the same time fast communication between the two. Fortunately we were able to reuse the good old XI 3.0 protocol for this purpose allowing us to rely on a very mature and proven PI component. For monitoring purposes we have improved the navigation within the SAP NetWeaver Administrator (NWA). Since 7.31 SP6 you can navigate from your BPM process to the respective messages (inbound and outbound) related to the process and vice versa. This feature allows fast root cause analysis in error situations.
Another point that you most probably aren’t aware of was our major investment in the BPM engine itself to ensure enterprise-grade performance, scalability and reliability as BPM covers the continuum of human-centric, integration-centric, and document-centric processes, from model-to-code, across structured and unstructured context. With our latest developments we improved message processing, correlation and queuing so that highest-volume scenarios can be supported along the above mentioned process variants. Besides that, we realized additional functionality to help you implement the aggregation of several large messages via the Claim Check enterprise integration pattern (see a replay of the TechEd session explaining how to apply the Claim Check pattern with SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration). For this purpose the functionality of the so-called “Conditional Start” handling within BPM was also enhanced. “Conditional Start” means that a BPM process contains both a start message event and an intermediate message event that point to the same interface. As a consequence the BPM engine has to decide for each incoming message of that interface whether it has to start a new process instance or whether it can forward the message to an already running instance. As you can imagine a lot of race conditions have to be considered and sorted out to make the message handling bulletproof. In the end SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration ensures the reliable delivery of each and every message to the BPM process preventing message loss situations. More details can be found in our blog-series about conditional start.
Next I want to point out our intensive developments on the B2B Add-On comprising B2B protocol adapters (such as AS2, OFTP, and X.400 adapters), converter modules (for e.g. ANSI X.12, EDIFACT, TRADACOM, Odette, VDA, or Plain text), and B2B infrastructure services such as security enhancements through key management, EDI numbering, acknowledgement handling, archiving of B2B messages, B2B mapping functions, and EDI splitting of inbound
messages. It was one of our customer’s high priority topics to get B2B support directly from SAP. With the B2B Add-On this goal has finally been achieved. A German car manufacturer recently went live on the B2B Add-on and runs the solution as global B2B-hub with hundreds of suppliers connected. Now that we’ve started our B2B journey, you can expect even more improvements in future releases.
The topics I just discussed were only the big ones, which cost us quite some investments already. Other interesting enhancements we recently shipped were:
- Reusing PI mappings in BPM saving you your investments in complex PI mappings (with the obvious exception of ABAP mappings which, of course, cannot be reused on a pure Java environment)
- New Java-based alerting framework for PI which allows you to easily define alert rules in the SAP NetWeaver Administrator and assign them to components e.g. integration flows and track them by various consumers such as Solution Manager, Email-Clients, or your self-developed application accessing the alerts via a newly provided API.
- Large message handling was added for Java-only PI via a dedicated Large Message Queue
- Graphical mapping editor for PI mappings in the NWDS
- Referenced channels for integration flows allowing you to reuse channels in several flows
- Directory content migration tool for migrating your existing integration scenarios from PI dual-stack (Java/ABAP) to Java-only SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration
- Provisioning of implementation details for the most important Enterprise Integration Patterns
- Standard dashboard for process analytics
- New BPM inbox based on HTML5
- Extended Java APIs for access to BPM process, task and reporting data
- Support for custom task UIs (build task UIs in any UI technology)
- Parallel archiving of BPM processes to increase archiving performance
- Monitoring for BPM via Solution Manager
Looking at this impressive list you will certainly confirm our commitment to SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration. However, we will not stop here. There is more to come!
What will the future bring?
Our innovations on SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration also support SAP’s overarching strategy in regards to HANA and cloud. Most probably you have heard about two new solutions, which have recently been launched: SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA and SAP HANA Cloud Integration.
SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA
SAP Operational Process Intelligence powered by SAP HANA helps line-of-business users (the people who live in the process or operate it) to gain real-time process visibility across end-to-end operational business processes with a focus to achieve their process milestones and goals and to reach better and faster business decisions safeguarding critical process instances. The solution correlates any kind of process event (e.g., an SAP Business Suite transaction, an SAP Business Workflow approval, orchestrated NW BPM processes, a single NW PI message flow or 3rd party operational data) into the context of a business scenario that provides end-to-end process phases, tracks measures and indicators for process performance and visualizes trends and forecasts on the level of aggregated as well as single process instances.
For this purpose, solution experts leverage the Eclipse perspective of SAP Operational Process Intelligence in the HANA developer studio to:
- Search and discover SAP Business Suite processes (exposed by Process Observer), NW BPM business processes, NW PI message flows for integration visibility and SAP Business Workflows
- Drag-and-drop one or more of these process fragments into the business scenario editor and configure correlations, phases and milestones (measure and indicators), and…
- Generate the process intelligence workspace (space.me) and all dashboards and views.
In this context SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration is one of the key providers of process state information for SAP Operational Process Intelligence. If you want to learn more about SAP Operational Process Intelligence I recommend the 3-part blog series of my colleague Harshavardhan Jegadeesan.
SAP HANA Cloud Integration
Another important investment bucket for SAP is its cloud business. Several acquisitions and new product announcements underpin this strategy. However, new cloud-based applications still don’t live in isolation. They require integration with existing on-premise applications and SAP customers expect a smooth integration especially of the new cloud solutions with SAP’s existing on-premise applications. That’s the reason for a completely new integration offering on which we worked heavily in the recent past: SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI). With their comprehensive knowledge of integration needs and solutions, the PI development teams supported HCI from the beginning. They also ensured the smooth integration between HCI and SAP NetWeaver PI as many customers expose their on-premise business functionality via PI to the outside world. In the first wave, SAP HANA Cloud Integration will bring to market a cloud integration platform to enable integration needs of:
- SAP Financial Services Network – to support reliable connectivity needs between Banks and their Corporates
- SAP cloud solutions to SAP on-premise solutions (e.g. integration between Sales on Demand and CRM on-premise, integration between Success Factors based on-demand applications and SAP HCM on-premise). Important for you to know: the integration standard content that is delivered in the context of these SAP applications can be deployed on both SAP HCI or SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration
In the end SAP HANA Cloud Integration is delivering the required technology to enable integration of SAP Cloud solutions to 3rd party cloud solutions and SAP Cloud solutions to 3rd party on-premise applications. Additionally HCI will offer core capabilities like a development environment, runtime capabilities, and operations and monitoring capabilities that are needed for each of these solutions. Additional prepackaged content being shipped with HCI helps customers and partners to integrate SAP solutions much faster than any other offering in this domain. Find more information about SAP HANA Cloud Integration and further links in this introductory blog by Mariana Mihaylova.
Finally I would like to mention two more investment areas for SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration: near-zero downtime maintenance and integration visibility.
Near-zero downtime maintenance
Near-zero downtime maintenance is already available for the dual stack PI in order to reduce the business downtime for applying support and enhancement packages from hours or days to 30 – 60 minutes. This can be achieved by applying the updates on a shadow system of the productive server. In essence the business critical functions of the PI system are available during most of the maintenance process duration.
An extended technology is now used to apply the whole SAP Process Orchestration package for patches, support packages and selective upgrades. Obviously it increases the overall availability times for SAP Process Orchestration and will reduce the planned downtime to the bare minimum of around 30 minutes.
Further info can be found at http://scn.sap.com/docs/DOC-53383
Another pain point in the execution of processes and message exchanges on top of distributed landscapes, that we addressed recently, is the monitoring and the traceability of end-to-end business transactions. The current monitoring tools (either local monitoring directly on the SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration box using the SAP NetWeaver Administrator (NWA) or central monitoring within Solution Manager) track primarily single activities, most prominently the transfer of one message. But very often one business transaction consists of several messages which belong together and which are being sent back and force between several participants, especially in B2B scenarios. It is a challenge to track down errors if this sequence is interrupted due to various reasons. In those cases it would be beneficial to understand the overall context: what happened so far? Who initiated the communication and where did it get stuck right now?
This is where our latest enhancement (aka “Integration Visibility”) comes in handy. Integration Visibility is a technical foundation that discovers message flows and enables consumer applications such as Solution Manager or Operational Process Intelligence to subscribe and consume monitoring events for a selected set of discovered message flows. It solves the problem of associated messages by correlating them to each other and tracking the overall message flow, including PI and SAP backend systems comprising various connectivity types such as ABAP Proxy, ALE, tRFC/qRFC, and Web Services. As Solution Manager is one of the event’s consumers, it can now provide a message flow monitor, which allows you to display business relevant payload data in the monitoring overview (e.g. EDI number or order number).
Besides that you will also be able to measure business SLAs, such as end-to-end processing times, error ratio, or volumes. Not to forget the automatic discovery capability of “Integration Visibility”: this capability automatically identifies integration flows in your landscape based on the information in the Integration Directory and the configurations in the various SAP backend systems. Based on this information the corresponding messages belonging to one business transaction will be identified. After all these capabilities will make your lives easier if it comes to root cause analysis of error situations in more complex business transaction.
Icing on the cake: SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration on HANA
Last but not least we should not forget our plans for SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration on HANA: our development teams are currently putting their whole energy in enabling the SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration package to run on HANA. Especially if it comes to analyzing the message traffic and the relationships between messages and processes we expect significant improvements due to the analytical real-time power of HANA. We plan to have the first increment comprising BPM on HANA available with SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration 7.4 SP 3 which is scheduled for July 2013 already. Our goal is to run the complete Process Orchestration stack on HANA with SP 4 (around the September 2013 timeframe).
In the end it became a rather long blog. Longer than I initially expected, but I hope it gave answers to all the questions you have regarding the future of SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration (and with that the future of our products PI, BPM and BRM). You also have to understand the big picture and how SAP NetWeaver Process Orchestration fits into it. SAP has significantly invested in Process Orchestration and will continue to do so. With Process Orchestration we are also contributing to SAP’s overall strategy in regards to supporting the HANA database as well as the integration of cloud-based applications. We have a clear roadmap and will continue to deliver on it in the months and years to come. So rest assured: the best is yet to come!