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After my last post, Tim S.e-mailed a question that’s very relevant to our discussion of middleware solutions.  He wanted to know, “Just what is Process Orchestration and how is it different from Process Integration, or an AEX?”  Obviously, there are some excellent courses on this topic, including SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (BIT400) and Process Orchestration Overview (BIT800).  But before you dive into training, I’d like to use this week’s blog to explain the concept of process orchestration, and offer a brief (but necessary) history lesson.

From a generic perspective, process orchestration is the idea that you can take business processes that are inefficient and time consuming, and use middleware tools to convert them to run more effectively across your business.

SAP offers an on-premise middleware solution called SAP Process Orchestration that helps automate and optimize business processes, and transform them from simple workflows to integrated processes that work across multiple applications and organizational boundaries. At a high level, this technology makes it possible to:

  • Develop custom process applications based on models
  • Exchange data across SAP and non-SAP applications
  • Automate decisions and ensure compliance with policies

Of course I haven’t answered the second part of Tim’s question. That is, how is process orchestration different from Process Integration, or an AEX? I know we technology geeks don’t spend a lot of time studying history.  But to answer this, I think we should take a trip back in time and see the progression of process orchestration middleware.

Process orchestration:  A history lesson


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In the beginning there was Exchange Infrastructure (XI).  XI was a dual stack application. The adapter engine, Integration Repository, and Integration Directory were on the JAVA stack. The Central Integration Engine and the Business Process Engine (BPE) were on the ABAP stack.

Adapter Engine was responsible for two actions: Connecting to and from XI, and converting a message format to a usable SAP XML formatted message. Central Integration Engine was responsible for routing and transferring a message.  Business Process Engine was based on a SAP Workflow Engine. The BPE was a very system centric BPM tool based on BPEL4WS.[MC1]

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The components of Exchange Infrastructure included:

  • Integration Repository – Central design
  • Integration Directory – Integration Server was made up of 3 main engines:
  • – Adapter Engine
  • – Central Integration Engine
  • – Business Process Engine

XI 3.0 grew into Process Integration (PI) 7.0. For developers, Basis, and architects, not much changed other than the name.

There were big changes in 2007. For Basis, the changes where not very big but for the developers and architects the changes were worth taking a look at. The Integration Repository grew and become the Enterprise Service Repository and the Service Registry was added to design time.

  • The Adapter Engine grew into the Advanced Adapter Engine. With this new component, you could map and route through the Adapter Engine. Now, a message could remain solely on the JAVA stack.
  • In the Integration Directory, we see a new configuration object called the “Integration Configuration.” This allowed the message to remain in the Advanced Adapter Engine to be routed and transformed.
  • You now had two engines to route and map messages. The central integration engine and the Advanced Adapter Engine.

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Components of Process Integration (PI) included:

  • – Enterprise Service Repository (ESR)/Service Registry (SR)
  • – Integration Directory (ID)
  • – Integration Server, which consisted of three main engines:
  • – Business Process Engine
  • – Central Integration Engine
  • – Advanced Adapter Engine

In 2010 things got interesting for Basis and architects. SAP introduced the Advanced Adapter Engine Extended. You had a choice to run your middleware either in a traditional ABAP/JAVA stack, or in a JAVA stack only. One concern was that you’d lose the ccBPM capability. But you had a lower cost of ownership. But this was an option if you just needed a robust enterprise service bus to transform messages to and from your SAP environment.

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Components of the Advanced Adapter Engine Extended included:

  • Enterprise Service Repository
  • Service Registry
  • Integration Directory
  • Integration Server, which was made up of one main engine – the Advanced Adapter Engine

Wow, in 2011 things got fun for everyone. We now had PI 7.31, PI AEX 7.31 and the new kid on the block, Process Orchestration! Now it’s easy to see this as the next version of PI, because it does message transformation, but it also does much more.

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Components of Process Orchestration include three existing SAP programs:

  • Advanced Adapter Engine Extended (AEX) – Routes and transforms messages.
  • SAP Business Process Management (SAP BPM)business processes, both human and system-centric. This is something that the traditional PI configuration cannot do.
  • SAP Business Rules Management (SAP BRM)

Understanding what the components of SAP Process Orchestration can do

With that background, here’s more detail on what the components of this middleware solution can help you accomplish:

  1. 1. Develop and deploy custom process applications quickly (SAP BPM).

Support process improvement projects by making it easier for business and IT teams to jointly compose executable processes using standardized notation.

  • Foster collaboration with a shared environment for process modeling, design, and development.
  • Streamline end-to-end process modeling from initial definition to specs and execution.
  • Improve efficiency by leveraging service-oriented architecture and reusable services.
  • Enable business on the go with intuitive access to process tasks on mobile devices.
  • Gain deep transparency into business processes with powerful analytical capabilities.
  1. 2. Master the growing demand for connected systems across your business network (AEX).

Connect heterogeneous systems and achieve application-to-application (A2A) and business-to-business (B2B) integration.

  • Use a mediation layer to exchange information across distributed business applications.
  • Take advantage of packaged adapters to support B2B integration.
  • Get predefined integration scenarios to jumpstart your integration.
  • Manage and govern the complete lifecycle of Web services.
  1. 3. Empower your business and it teams to manage business rules (SAP BRM).

Compose, execute, and maintain business rules across your enterprise – so you can improve agility and decision making.

  • Create and amend business rules in your organization’s natural language.
  • Validate and deploy rules with speed and reliability.
  • Leverage reusable Web services to make rules available to multiple applications.
  • Empower users with a Web-based collaborative environment and familiar tools.

More than routing and transforming messages

Here’s my take:  Process orchestration (PO) is more than just routing and transforming messages. If that is all I want to do then I would look at a PI configuration. But let’s face it, the days of simply taking a message and routing it to another system are few and far between. With the speed of today’s business environment coupled with new technologies, a company needs to be able to make changes and know the impact of those changes – quickly!

Ask yourself these two questions: First, on the last interface you created or changed, if you had to changed it tomorrow would you know what the impact would be to the business process? And second, the big one…did you document it?  Be truthful!

When I want to take messages, make them a part of a business process that may involve system and human-centric tasks that cross multiple systems both SAP and Non SAP.  Oh, and I want to keep the control on premise. SAP Process Orchestration is your tool.

“But,” you may ask, “what if I want to do cloud integration?”  That’s easy.  Check out my next blog to learn about SAP HANA Cloud Integration.

I hope you’ve been rebooted, with a better understanding of where SAP Process Orchestration fits.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask them below as a reply to this blog![MC3]

Any questions drop me line j.valladares@sap.com

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