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SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2013 provided an awesome opportunity to meet the SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) Product Management team and discuss with them the current status and future direction of HCI. Here is the very knowledgeable (and happy) HCI Product Management team meeting SAP Mentors. 😉

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(Left to Right: Sindhu Gangadharan, Udo Paltzer, Prakash Arunachalam, Subha Ramachandran. Missing in the picture: Holger Kunitz and Ginger Gatling)

I was adequately satisfied with the conversation with the team and now that TechEd is over, have started gathering all the random thoughts generated during the discussions, sessions and hands-on about HCI. I soon realized that there were too things to write about HCI and I might not succeed in keeping them well organized. So I would like to apologize in advance for this attempt. 😉 With this blog,

Although there are already some blogs on SCN talking about HCI, I thought about writing this blog as an ‘Integration Architect‘ perspective which might help potential customers to think about using it as their strategic integration solution (and probably SAP). HCI is the cloud based integration solution (earlier known as NetWeaver Cloud Integration) introduced by SAP earlier this year. The ‘Application Edition’ of HCI is available since March 2013 providing specific solutions like SuccessFactors, Financial Services Network (FSN) and S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning). Starting August, customers have ability to extend these packages e.g. with their custom mappings. The next interesting step would be to see the ‘Platform Edition’ of HCI planned for Q1 2014 providing any to any integration capabilities. You may find most of the SAP published HCI documents here.

HCI Behind the scene:

SAP see and promote HCI as a part of SAP HANA Cloud platform offering. Although this clarifies SAP’s intent of using HANA as the backbone of HCI, the current HCI offering doesn’t entirely uses HANA in the background – and there is a valid reason behind it.

As you might know, HCI is available in two flavors – Process Integration and Data Integration. Out of these two, the Data Integration component does leverages the HANA in the cloud. However, the architectural requirement of HCI’s Process Integration component prevents the ‘current’ HANA cloud platform to be its ideal choice. {I will try to explain how I understood the reason behind} Process Integration requires data persistence for certain scenario and therefore replication of this data for disaster recovery is of utmost importance. The current HANA cloud architecture does not allow this replication in the cloud and therefore HCI currently uses the next best candidate ‘Sybase Replication Server’ for its Process Integration capabilities. HCI Process Integration will eventually move to a stabilized replication and disaster recovery enabled HANA cloud.

Opinion:

  • These are the technical back-end details managed entirely by SAP currently and for an HCI customer, there is no significant impact in terms of integration capabilities, implementation time and runtime.

Design Time:

If you have seen the 7.3x version of PI or PO on NWDS, you will realize that the HCI design time uses a similar Integration Designer perspective (both uses Eclipse based development environment). Integration Flows (iFlows) are the most crucial design component of HCI as it is with PI 7.3x. The integration flows uses BPMN 2.0 based notation. As soon as you noticed this similarity, there is a natural tendency (may be it was just me ;)) of comparing HCI design time with PI. I would suggest simply ‘not to do it’.

A crucial point to understand is that architecturally, HCI is completely different that PI and is ‘not’ PI on cloud. The design time is ‘made similar’ to that of PI as this will enable the larger PI community to leverage their experience while using HCI.

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This doesn’t mean that the design times of HCI and PI are completely incompatible. The mappings that are available or created in HCI can be imported in PI as operation maps and this was confirmed by SAP. So why wouldn’t it be technically possible for the other way – moving PI operation maps to HCI. The answer is it should be but with some limitations. Currently, there are several features that HCI design time lacks (and I am very sure SAP is working on it). If a feature used in PI mapping is unavailable in HCI, then obviously the imported mapping in HCI will be incorrect.

Opinion:

  • I don’t know if SAP plans to bring the HCI design time at par with PI, but it would be a good idea in my opinion and if they do, they should start creating and sharing the compatibility matrix between the two design times.
  • There might be customer with small PI landscape planning to move to HCI completely in future. If SAP thinks this number is significant, there should be a migration strategy made available for these customers.
  • There are some missing features that should be included. e.g. navigating the message structure while providing conditions in case of multiple receiver. Currently, we have to manually type it.
  • The Enterprise Integration Patterns provides a good template for building the Integration flows and helps reducing the development time.
  • Apart from using Eclipse based Integration Designer perspective for modelling, you may the use WebUI available for configuring Data Integration as well. For a larger landscape with multiple developers, this can create a version management issue as developers can in parallel make changes at both the places. Changes deployed on one tool will simply overwrite the changes onthe other without any warning or error. Currently, there are no version management guidelines provided for the possible version conflict in this case.

Pre-Packaged Content:

Providing pre-packaged design time content has always worked well for SAP and in my opinion is always an excellent idea. We have witnessed its success with SAP PI and PO. HCI is providing pre-packaged content for various data and process integration solution it is offering and SAP has planned to add more content for various other solutions like Ariba. Here is an overview of the pre-packaged content available. I liked the statement “Fully supported, certified and tested” 😉

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You may check the complete list of pre-packaged content catalog here using your SCN ID.

The feedback about this HCI catalog (and I hope for the entire product) can be provided to HCI team at hcifeedback@sap.com.

 

Opinion:

  • Please voice out the upcoming content if it is planned and on track for delivery soon. This will help potential customers in planning for a long term cloud integration solution. e.g. A customer choosing Dell Boomi for Ariba integration today won’t be happy to realize that in Q1 2014 they will have similar capabilities available with HCI.
  • An option to certify and develop pre-packaged content should be available for customers and partners.

…. In order to accommodate my extended POV and make the blog more readable, I am splitting the content into two. Check out the 2nd part here.

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