A Perfect Wave: Event Driven Business Architecture
Event-driven architecture has been around for many, many years. It has been put to use for very specific use cases by people that liked this asynchronous approach and valued the benefits. Typically, EDA was about architecture and technology. If you dig deeper into SAP’s older backends, you can still find event-driven remnants/approaches and most experienced ABAP developers even know about them. To event-enable ECC, the event-enablement add-on specifically benefits from re-using these approaches and this is why it can support very dated ECCs.
As with other approaches and technologies, it takes some time to reach a critical mass, and then all over a sudden things get moving. Like an avalanche, or using a nicer picture, like a wave.
Before we look into the future, let’s rewind. Let’s go back to Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2022.
November 2022, Las Vegas: EDA Finally takes the Center Stage
Back then there were two events taking place at almost the same time in the same city: SAP’s TechEd in mid November, and AWS re:invent starting on November 28th.
Juergen Mueller, SAP’s CTO, had added a lot of updates on SAP Event Mesh and SAP Integration Suite, advanced event mesh into his keynote. Overall, event-driven architecture at SAP was more visible than in the years before. Although there had always been nice demos of event-driven capabilities in the years before. Does anybody still remember the DeLorean powered by events from the audience shaking their smartphones (in 2016 that was)?
Two weeks later AWS CTO Werner Vogels got on stage at AWS re:invent, for his keynote: 1 hour 53 minutes and 39 seconds on EDA. Just on EDA. Very professionally done, highly entertaining, best watched on a big screen TV or using your VR headset in movie theater mode, and finally moving EDAs to the center stage. To me, and a lot of colleagues back then, this was a real game changer. EDAs had arrived in the mainstream.
A game changer with a few shortcomings though: it simply did not reflect my daily work with SAP’s customers. As professional and entertaining as it was, throughout the presentation I had this feeling that something was missing for me. It was a purely technical perspective on EDA, explaining the benefits extremely well (I still love the french fries scene). Still, I was waiting for more to come, which never came.
Mainstream Event Driven Architecture
What I understood back then is that most players in the software industry still focus on the architectural and technical benefits of EDAs.
For them, and probably most people, EDAs are about:
- Loose coupling for improved flexibility and scalability
- Improved fault tolerance and robustness
- Incremental growth by adding event consumers and event sources step by step resulting in better operations and improved quality
- Real time technical integrations primarily focused on micro services and software components
As said, this does not reflect my daily conversations with customers and their use cases. My customers, that typically build on top of SAP BTP and have quite a number of large scale business applications in the picture, want to bring the technology advantages together with ideally even bigger business advantages.
In a single sentence: they want to, in software terminology, inherit the technical advantages of EDAs and on top benefit from additional business and communication advantages.
This is when I decided to start using the term Event Driven Business Architecture to describe getting the best of both worlds.
Event Driven Business Architecture
In general, in traditional IT data used to be hidden behind fortified castle walls. Access was difficult and the main purpose was to store the data securely. This is changing. Nowadays, modern IT has started to act as a nervous system ensuring that data is made available asap where it is needed, and that it can be used immediately to gain an advantage based on fully up to date information.
Let’s have a quick look three customer citations that describe very well why customers move to Event Driven Business Architecture:
- “We need to move at the speed of business“, Scott, IT, Fortune 500 customer, translating to: everything has become so much faster and we need to be able to support our business.
- “We want our ERP to be a team player“, Derrick, Fortune 500 customer, translating to: player skills don’t just add up in a team sport, they multiply. This is why your ERP talking to your SuccessFactors talking to your Ariba in real time is so important. It adds lots of value.
- “It’s a sin“, Alex, Automotive Supplier, translating to: it is a sin not to use your business data. Don’t just hide it and lock it away so that nobody can use it like it is often still done
So, Event Driven Business Architecture takes a different perspective on things by putting the business benefits first. The real time aspect is highly important, but as well that typical customer landscapes are rarely one vendor landscapes. There’s always a hypercloud provider in the picture, often more than one, often other 3rd party business applications and so on.
The benefits that you get when applying event-driven architecture for business scenarios are the inherited technical benefits, that we have already described above, plus:
- Business decisions can be based on completely up-to-date information
- Getting informed about all relevant events in business real time. It is always interesting to see how customers define real time as part of business scenarios, since this is completely use case dependent. Sometimes business real time is immediately, meaning real time, sometimes an update per hour is already fully sufficient.
- Business processes can be hyper-automated resulting in improved reaction time and lower costs.
- Open approach across vendor boundaries makes new business scenarios possible
It is not only the benefits that are different from plain EDAs, some of the characteristics and challenges of Event Driven Business Architectures are different as well:
- the event quality and the event value are usually higher, since the events typically originate from the system of record.
- we’re often talking about very heterogenous, large, globally distributed landscapes.
- crossing vendor boundaries is key, and ideally the event broker / event mesh is the glue between different vendors.
- and then there is the most important point: Event-Driven Architectures are almost always used in combination with other, more traditional integration approaches.
SAP’s Event Driven Ecosystem
In case you are now interested in putting EDAs to play to support your business, check out SAP’s event driven ecosystem. You can find more information specifically in the following blogs:
And don’t forget: you can take an incremental approach, start small, and then grow your landscape. EDAs are very beginner-friendly.
All of this is just a starting point. In future, SAP Integration Suite will be at the center of SAP’s event-driven ecosystem. It will bring EDAs together with additional, more traditional, integration approaches.
And there will be way more to integrate in an event-driven way: SAP S/4HANA alone will provide a new RAP-based eventing approach that will allow to use SAP standard events while at the same time being able to adjust them to your specific needs, which is what is needed to scale from a content perspective. And then there is all the other business applications and backends.