This is in continuity of my first blog about SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) where I share my perspective (or you may say randomly put all the thoughts swirling in my head) of this evolving product.
HCI currently has three connectivity option (lets call it ‘adapter’ as in SAP PI terminology) – IDoc, SOAP and SFTP.
SAP is soon planning to add SuccessFactors, REST and a few more adapter. I think there is a lot of room for improvement in this area.
- The capabilities of currently available adapters should be extended. e.g. for SFTP adding archiving, dynamic configuration.
- Do not expect all the PI adapters to be available with HCI. Remember, this is cloud environment. e.g. no customer will (or should) allow unsecure JDBC database update through a cloud.
- Although SAP is planning to deliver SuccessFactors (SF) adapter, make sure you understand that SF can even currently be integrated seamlessly by HCI using SOAP and SFTP adapter.
Most of the monitoring capabilities for HCI lies within the ‘Integration Operations’ perspective of the Eclispe development environment. For each tenant (in simple words customers), a separate agent is available which will be used to track all the messages passing through HCI. For each message, the detailed logs can be seen for the route traversed by each message and technical communication made with the external systems. However, this will be hidden from the customers and will completely be managed currently by SAP. SAP will act as per the SLAs defined with the customer.
- More information on Service Provider Cockpit should be made available. I know it has some alerting capability and therefore I think the access to this cockpit is limited to SAP. If that is correct, I have one more point below.
- As I understand, customers have to contact SAP for details of these messages in case of any issues. In my opinion, SAP should provide a tool or access for the customers to have an ability to view the current status of message processing. There might be customers who don’t really need it, but a good number of customers would probably be interested in it.
Apart from this standard monitoring, applications like SuccessFactors have their own monitoring capability to view the exchanged messages:
For FSN, SAP BackEnd systems should have FSN Connector (ABAP add-on) installed. FSN Connector has a ‘Connector Monitor’ (accessed via a transaction) which helps in providing additional monitoring capabilities in ECC BackEnd with details of all inbound and outbound messages. For more details on FSN, see this.
B2B support in SAP Process Orchestration (or PI) has become pretty powerful since the inception of the B2B adapter suite and related tools last year. Even before, the Seebuger suite of adapters with PI were providing pretty significant B2B connectivity options. A similar capability is therefore expected from HCI by the existing and potential customers. There is no official B2B support in HCI. I used the word ‘official’ because the SFTP adapter can still be used as a connectivity option for B2B messages provided you don’t want to get crazy with the mappings. Good news is that SAP is planning to provide B2B connectivity options with HCI. However, SAP hasn’t clarified (or may be I missed) many things in this area:
- Will it be built from scratch.
- Will it use any of the PI content?
- Remember Crossgate acquisition? What is happening in that front? I haven’t seen SAP providing any future direction of this acquisition. There was not even a single session about Crossgate at TechEd this year. This makes me feel SAP will slowly move away from Crossgate and won’t invest much in future development of its offerings.
- Would be it be limited to Ariba content planned to Q1 next year?
- It is good to have multiple offerings for different types of customers. I understand that ‘one size fits all’ couldn’t work here for B2B. However, SAP should provide a direction where they are heading with B2B offerings and a set of recommendation for potential customers before these customer pick a wrong path.
HCI Advantages (you probably don’t realize)
As I did, you might already be comparing HCI Process Integration and Data Integration capabilities with existing on-Premise solutions like PI or BODS. When comparing with established products, you may obviously find some features missing, however, there are and could be some advantages that you might have missed so far:
- The light weight nature of HCI may be used in future for mobile based communication for non-SAP back-end systems. SAP has already planned support for RESTful services in near future.
- The future releases and upgrades will have near zero down time for the businesses. Customer will be hidden from the underlying product changes. This means no longer EhP, SP, patch work.
- Not only externally, but your communication within HCI is completely secure as well. Unlike PI, the data persistent at the pipeline steps in HCI are encrypted. Of course they can be decrypted in HCI if required, but that will need some additional certificate management at HCI.
- The WebUI available for Data Integration provides an easy way to build and configure scenario reducing need of a specific technology expert.
- The multi-tenancy, in simple terms, will completely separate one customer with another. The tenant based architecture provide dedicated resources to each tenant or customer.
- The obvious other advantages of cloud based offering – like no maintenance, less implementation time, failovers etc.
Possibly in Future:
There are a few things that I think SAP should consider (if they are not already considering):
- HCI is currently hosted and supported by SAP only. This should in my opinion be opened up for Partner once SAP thinks that the offering has stabilized.
- There doesn’t seems to be any plan for providing Business Process Management (BPM) capabilities on HCI. Probably SAP doesn’t have a business case for it yet. However, as I see, it has some strong potential in future.
HCI can currently be used as a complementary offering along with your existing middleware (on premise or cloud based) or ETL tool. The lightweight nature of HCI enables several new dimensions for process and data integration. There are already clients using HCI to provision data to HANA along with keeping their existing ETL tool in the landscape. However, to present HCI as a any-to-any Cloud Integration solution, it would take HCI some release iterations. To SAP’s credit, you will see more and more sessions (or slides during the sessions) durig SAP event like TechEd talking somewhat about SAP’s recommendation for integration solution but there is definitely some more work to do in that front. For the new customers introducing integration solution in their landscape, it would be interesting to see how SAP positions HCI in future among its integration offerings.
P.S: I think SAP should ‘direct’ community and post most of their HCI related blogs and document (where relevant) in the 1 space on SCN. I have already seen some blogs under ‘SAP HANA and In-Memory Business Data Management’, ‘Enterprise Information Management’, ‘SAP HANA Cloud Platform Developer Center’, ‘SAP Cloud Computing’. Whichever it is, there should be one. I am using ‘SAP HANA and In-Memory Business Data Management’ without any real good reason. I hope someone can comment on it and one of the Moderators could move it all to one place.