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We’re proud to announce that the integration content advisor (ICA, formerly named Integration Advisor) for SAP Cloud Platfrom Integration now supports creating and maintaining B2B integration content much faster and more efficiently. The ICA follows a revolutionary crowd-based machine learning approach, which enables a user to define, maintain, share, and deploy B2B integration content based on a completely new paradigm. Our initial tests indicate that this new approach can speed up B2B content tasks – from drafting to deployment – by as much as 60%.

The newest release of the ICA is available to all SAP Cloud Platform Integration Enterprise Edition licensees starting January 22nd 2018. This release lets a user customize interfaces based on B2B standards, and create mappings based on customized interfaces. It also provides a first set of B2B libraries: ASC X12[1], SAP IDoc and UN/EDIFACT[2]. This blog post is an introduction to how to use these libraries to create customized interfaces and mappings. A more detailed series of blog posts will follow, with more examples for, and insights about, using the ICA. Future posts will include information about what will be available in upcoming releases.

What is the ICA?

Business-to-business (B2B) integration relies on a variety of industry standards for electronic business document exchange, including ASC X12, UN/EDIFACT, and SAP IDoc. Until now, one of the biggest issues for B2B is connecting and managing a potentially large number of business partners who have a wide variety of business requirements. This means that defining and implementing these interfaces based on the standards for electronic business document exchange still requires high manual efforts.

To overcome those efforts, SAP offers ICA, a cloud-based design-time solution that accelerates the implementation of B2B scenarios. ICA unifies all the required tasks for creating integration content based on a comprehensive knowledge base and machine learning. Building integration content is primarily focused on the business domain experts who understand the business requirements and have the domain-specific knowledge. This approach is more transparent for all involved users, and accelerates implementation and maintenance of B2B integration content.

The ICA design-time paradigm is based on the following main pillars:

  1. Library of Type Systems – the ICA includes a set of B2B industry standards and de-facto standards libraries, which are not simply the interface structures of message types. These libraries also include detailed documentation for, and the libraries of related codelists used in the B2B libraries. The aim is to provide various types of system libraries, regardless of how they’re used. These also include API libraries and other kinds of A2A libraries. The entry point to these libraries is a dedicated browser.
  2. Message implementation guidelines (MIGs) – the focus of the ICA isn’t on creating technical interfaces, such as XSDs or Web Services. Its main goal is assisting in the writing of interface specifications, which provide the instructions and constraints for implementing a certain message type interface using a B2B standard provided by the library of type systems and in a certain business context. These specifications determine the behavior and use of each B2B standard message type, including limitations or customizations, the setting of mandatory elements and occurrences, property definitions for each element, permitted code lists and code values, and the definition of validation constraints and business rules.
  3. Mapping guidelines (MAGs) – a mapping guideline is the detailed specification of a mapping from a source MIG to a target MIG in a given business context. The focus is on the description of each mapping entity across the corresponding elements, so that business domain experts, in particular, understand the reason and meaning of the mappings. All technical aspects are implicitly calculated and derived into the technical artifacts, which is the fourth pillar.
  4. Automatically generated runtime artifacts – these artifacts are required for pre- and post-processing, conversion, detailed validation, or even the transformation (mapping) from source to target. The ICA generates a number of artifacts based on XSD Version 1.0 and XSLT Version 2.0, which can be directly implemented into a prepared integration flow in the integration service.

Library of Type Systems

As mentioned above, the ICA includes a library of type systems with documentation for, and codelists of, frequently used B2B standards. The entry point for browsing this library is a dedicated type system browser.

This release comes with the following type systems and versions:

  • ASC X12 – Version 004010 and 005010 (all message types)
  • UN/EDIFACT – Version D.96A S3, D.98A S3, and D.01B S3 (all message types)
  • SAP IDoc – Version S4HANA 1709 Release (47 most frequently used message types)

Further type systems or versions will be added according to a predefined roadmap or based on customers’ requests respectively.

The browser supports all main concepts of type systems, like message types, complex types, simple types and codelists and displays them with all relevant details in a structured view. The browser also supports various versions of each type system. A user can browse through all artifacts belonging to a dedicated version, as well as all artifacts of all versions.

The browser for the library of type systems is shown below:

When the browser is opened for the first time, a user will see only the type system “SAP IDoc”. Other type systems must be purchased separately.

The blog integration content advisor: Display and review B2B/A2A standard libraries gives you more insights on typ systems.

Message Implementation Guideline Editor

The message implementation guideline editor lets you create and edit message implementation guidelines that are based on a message type provided by the type system libraries. All elements of a MIG structure are shown in a tree-like manner and can be edited freely. Mandatory elements as specified by the respective type system standard are visually marked, but can be overwritten. All properties like cardinality, position in the message, length and so on, can be edited and adapted to customers’ needs. The proposal service offers possible elements that have a very high usage confidence based on your given business context.

The MIG Editor is shown below:

The editor also includes many unique features that support creating complete MIGs in a short timeframe, such as the intelligent setting and duplication of qualified groups. Details about these features extend beyond the scope of this blog post; we’ll publish a MIG editor post soon.

Mapping Guideline Editor

The MIG Editor is used to customize and describe the interfaces that are based on own, or our partners’ requirements. Use the mapping guideline editor to create a mapping between two MIGs. In comparison to other more technically driven mapping editors, the mapping guideline editor shows all of the properties of the required elements at both the source and target sides, providing an immediate visual understanding of possible and available mappings.

The MAG editor, and how the details appear, is shown below:

The editor also considers all defined aspects of the source or target MIGs, such as the qualified groups or even refined code values. We’ll publish another blog post with more details about how mappings can be significantly simplified at a later point of time.

Generation of Runtime Artefacts

The ICA uses the content of the MIGs and MAGs to automatically generate the required runtime artifacts for validation, conversion, transformation, and pre- and post-processing. These runtime artifacts can then be directly used in SAP Cloud Platform integration flows. In addition, with communication adapters supporting external communication via AS2, SFTP, HTTP/S, and SOAP and the ability to create integration flows based on very individual requirements, SAP Cloud Platform Integration can be used for all B2B communication scenarios. The following example shows a sample B2B integration flow in an outbound direction, which includes the ICA’s generated runtime artifacts:

  • SAP IDOC Pre-Processing and Qualifier Pre-Processing – these steps are responsible for the normalization of source payload and explicit labeling of qualified groups and peer elements.
  • SAP IDoc to ASC X12 Mapping – this is the mapping step responsible for the transformation from SAP IDoc ORDERS05 to ASC X12 850
  • MIG Based Validation – this step validates the output against the defined rules, cardinalities, element/code value restrictions, and the qualifier definition as defined in the target MIG
  • Qualifier Post-Processing – this step removes the qualifier labels for getting a plain output
  • Envelope Handling – this step wraps the ASC X12 interchange envelope around the payload
  • XML to X12 – converts the XML payload into the specific ASC X12 syntax representation.

Further flow steps are necessary for envelope handling and the generation of the interchange number using Number Range Objects features. Further adaption, e.g. adding a JMS queue for asynchronous integration pattern implementation, might be necessary as well. More information about B2B at SAP Cloud Platform Integration can be found here:

Note: The provided UN/EDIFACT and ASC X12 message type XSDs for validation and syntax conversion at the SAP API Business Hub will be deactivated after a period of time, because the entire B2B standard library content will be provided only via the ICA. These XSDs are currently provided here:

Summary

The latest release of the ICA signals the beginning of a new era of fast and efficient B2B integration. It comes with the SAP Cloud Platform Integration Enterprise Edition, and includes powerful design-time editors for creating and maintaining customized interfaces and mappings according to individual business needs. A proposal service based on machine learning significantly reduces design efforts. The ICA isn’t only for technical integration experts – it’s also for business domain experts who have the knowledge about the detailed business requirements for doing B2B. Create content that can be immediately deployed on SAP Cloud Platform Integration without significant coding and development efforts.

Stay tuned for further blog posts that introduce all parts and features of the ICA in greater detail.

Further Reading

Footnotes:

[1],[2] – Please note that external libraries for UN/EDIFACT, ASC X12 need to be purchased separately (please contact your Account Executive for further guidance).

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10 Comments

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  1. Former Member

    Much needed fresh perspective to existing application. It will immensely help Consultants to utilize the functionality in a more productive way.!

     

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  2. Gunther Stuhec Post author

    Hello together, thank you very much for the kind feedback. We are working on a sandbox + demo system and will announce these accordingly.

    Kind regards, Gunther

     

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  3. Former Member

    I would like to ask a question concerning MIGs. The text reads as if the editing of item properties were unconstrained (“can be edited and adapted to customers’ needs”) – but is the freedom not constrained by the original message schema? Example – the message schema specifies a cardinality of 0..1 – I would expect that the MIG may change this to 1 (or to 0), but not to, say, 1..8. Is this correct?

     

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    1. Gunther Stuhec Post author

      Hello Hans-Juergen,

      yes, this is possible. The message template that is provided by a type system is just a recommendation. It can be changed according the final business needs down to every propety.

      Kind regards,

      Gunther

      (0) 

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