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Prologue:

There are a lot of factors that have prompted me to put my thoughts into this blog. It started off with my TechEd 2011 experience in Madrid and the sessions around SAP Process Orchestration. I have to admit that it did bring a smile on my face. It made me realize that I was not in the wrong professional after all. But then as I started reading more on the new direction SAP has taken along with an insight into how other leaders in the space of Enterprise Integration have provisioned their products, my mind began to ask questions.

 

What’s new in SAP Process Orchestration? With Process Orchestration, SAP has bridged the gap by combining PI, BPM and BRM into a single suite. This gives integration a new dimension since now you have your ESB supporting BPMN and also utilize business rules. The way I see it, the gap between business and IT gets bridged. In an ideal world, you will see the Business Analyst now working closely with the Integration consultant resulting in a classic Top-Down Approach of building an integration scenario.

You will see that it definitely sounds exciting. But this is where I might play spoil sport. The fact is some of the leading vendors in the space of integration already have these capabilities. For many who have already worked with integration solutions from vendors like TIBCO, WebMethods or say IBM, will know that business rules and BPMN are not new. So from a time frame perspective, it would seem that SAP is almost 2 years behind.   

Even after its journey from a 2.0 stage to the 7.3 version, numerous customers still are not sure about adopting SAP PI as their integration solution at an enterprise level. There are many who restrict the usage of PI for SAP based integration only and the majority of the non-SAP landscape integration needs are catered to by other ESB solutions. Even after eight long years (at least), why is this still? 

There are also some other topics that I would like to highlight. One of them is Complex Event Processing. In case of SAP, I have struggled to find the connect between the CEP solution and the ESB. If you are interested, do go through or participate in this discussion on LinkedIn.


Another is the aspect of Event Based Architecture and BAM. How many of us are happy to recommend setting up BAM in a SAP based landscape using PI? It still isn’t a comprehensive solution and it has a lot of open ends. I cannot imagine thousands of BPM instances running in my PI server for scenarios involving Milestone monitoring. 

Even the simplest of feature had taken time to become reality. While we still have to wait for the general availability in SAP PI, other integration tools have been flaunting the SFTP adapter since ages. Why did SAP overlook such a common requirement?

We are in a world that is drastically making new strides in the area of technology. SAP is indeed a specialist (the market leader to not forget) when it comes to ERP and its knowledge of business processes. But SAP’s strategy when it comes to Integration is quite vague. I will simply start by asking, “Why is REST based support still not available in SAP Process Orchestration?”  

There is a blog I will love to recommend on Netweaver Gateway and the perspective from Sascha. It’s titled NetWeaver Gateway and PI - There's a place for both!  

But then why do you want to separate a smart solution like Gateway from your ESB? Why will a customer seek separate licences? Ideally I would have loved to see this capability being provisioned as part of a comprehensive integration suite. Do you see the disconnect that I see?

So is it that SAP lacks a holistic vision in the space of integration and its team across geographies are building separate solutions that are difficult to fit together? Or is it just a lack of marketing that these solutions are not being binded or bundled under a common theme? Or is it that SAP simply doesn’t really have a strategy going in this area?

I might have been harsh or maybe even plain ignorant in my views here but before I finish I need to mention that even though late, SAP is still investing in the ‘new idea’. Look at SAP Process Orchestration. Also finally SAP is talking about a better B2B support on its integration platform. The signs are there. SAP is doing what it has to do but one cannot stop wondering if it is doing enough and at the right time.

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