Have you ever found yourself wondering how to go about integrating solutions that have been installed on-premise with solutions you are now using in the cloud? A big part of my role at the Center of Excellence for SAP Cloud Platform is to educate and assure customers that when it comes to integration, SAP has you covered.
I collaborate with customers across North America who rely on SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) and SAP S/4 HANA to run their businesses. The on-premises modules that make up these critical systems are pre-integrated—a critical component to enabling end to end processes across any organization and one of the greatest value propositions for running a single integrated ERP system. With the goal of being able to evolve independent business processes faster and be more agile, SAP has slowly but surely been acquiring best of breed cloud based solutions that essentially replace/extend some of the core ECC functionality. (e.g. Ariba for procurement, SF for HCM, etc…) So, as we move these business processes to the cloud, what exactly are customer to do to achieve that same level of integration?
SAP offers a broad set of services to integrate both processes and data between on-premises and cloud-based solutions. I’m going to walk you through the three of the most common areas that I get asked about when customers are new to SAP Cloud Platform and are wondering what is available in the cloud to help them with their integration scenarios. Under the umbrella of Integration Services there are many services but in this blog we will start with process integration, data integration and API management— this will get you started with some of the core services and perhaps in a follow-up we could cover streaming services, remote data sync, workflow and/or business rules. Let’s get started.
Let’s say you want to change some aspect of an employee record on the cloud within Employee Central and you need to ensure that the change is also reflected on-premise. You have two options.
You could employ a 3rd party integration tool like (insert your favorite tool here) that already exists on-premise to build out the integration process in question. You could start by understanding the record structures in Employee Central, then research and understand the record structures within ECC so that you would be able to start creating your mapping content. From there, you would have to figure out how implement the integration scenario, which adapters would be used, create the appropriate services, etc…. Of course, this same process would have to be completed for every integration scenario that you wanted to implement. Of course, this is all in parallel with making sure that the on premise software is up to date, bug fixes applied, security patches, etc….
The second option is to use process integration within Integration Services running on SAP Cloud Platform. This set of cloud-based services easily supports and manages changes made in the cloud and reflects them on-premises with minimal effort.
At the very core of the issue is that integration technology has been somewhat commoditized, most tools can integrate with JMS for example, they can invoke REST services, etc… It’s far more efficient for customers to leverage SAP pre-built integration scenarios (based on our experience with business process excellence) than to create and maintain your own on-premises integration content and in my humble opinion, this is the value proposition that SAP Cloud Platform brings to this business problem. And, since SAP content is built in the cloud, all integration process information is automatically catalogued and documented for easy access by authorized employees and can be viewed by visiting http://api.sap.com.
One example is for SAP Success Factors, our human capital management cloud-based solution, which has over 50 pre-built content packages to suit just about any customer’s integration needs right out of the box. If you really question the logic of this approach, how much do you think it would take to build just one of those interfaces? Would a 5 figure cost such as 10K or 15K be reasonable per interface? If so, the value proposition is pretty easy to calculate. Oh yes, and I forget to mention, the integration scenarios that we provide are also supported by SAP. This support feature might be something to think about if your IT person suggests “I can just build it with RFCs” J
Extracting a subset of ECC data for use in an agile data market is another common customer integration scenario. Integration Services offers a complete set of cloud-based tools to extract data from on-premise datasets to the cloud. No changes are made to the on-premises data, nor is any maintenance required. The technology being recommended by SAP for the majority of these use cases is the Smart Data Integration toolset found within the Hana platform. Once these tools are configured, customers can easily create accurate and up to date agile datamarts in the cloud for easy access to the data from external sites. The resulting cloud-based database is primed to drive better analytics for organizations.
I have rarely come across a customer who wants to install additional integration tools on-premise. Using cloud-based Integration Services for process and data integration results in minimal impact with respect to your on-premise environments.
I would be very hard pressed to speak about Integration without a reference to API management. In my opinion, API management is central to creating/fostering a digital economy. I like to describe API management like this: helping customers go digital by securely exposing processes and data outside the four walls of the organization. Let’s jump right in with some examples.
Product data housed on-premises might need to be visible to partners to foster collaboration. Historically, a portal would be created to share the information. Time and effort would be devoted to deciding the best way to serve up that information in order to best meet the partner’s needs. Applications would be built, reports would be created, all with the hopes that the data would be delivered in a way that was useful to the partner/vendor. Using API management, customers can expose a service that the partner can access to consume the data in whatever way they choose.
Uber is the classic API management example. The company uses a conglomeration of mapping and payment APIs to offer their ridesharing services. In turn, Uber also publishes their own APIs to companies like airlines who in turn offer Uber Services to customers who have taken one of their flights to enable a better customer service. In this case, did Uber try to tell the airline what type of application they should build or how to expose the service? Of course not, they just make their services availale in an easy to consume way so that anyone,anywhere can invoke the services to find an Uber Ride.
Why Use Integration Services?
My answer is: Why not? Integration Services easily supports and manages process and data integration, along with API management for direct consumption of non-mediated services. And, with pre-built content and APIs available out-of-the box from SAP, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. When you take into consideration the deep business process knowledge that SAP has embedded into it’s applications, no other company on the planet will be able to provide a deep set of APIs like SAP.
It’s important to note that SAP on-premises integration processes – still an integral piece of our customers’ ongoing success – were initially developed over 15 years ago. These processes have not simply been moved over to the cloud. The cloud-based Integration Services from SAP are built from the ground up to provide customers with an open and flexible on-demand service that has been designed for cloud.
I hope this post jump starts your understanding of three of the key elements of Integration Services. I encourage you to check out api.sap.com to explore available SAP APIs and pre-packaged integration content that you can put to use TODAY.
Want to learn more about the innovation and integration capabilities of the SAP Cloud Platform at a hands-on workshop? Register now for a SAP Cloud Platform Technical Academy at a city near you in April or May and perhaps we can whiteboard out your scenario together 🙂