02-10-2013

SAP has spent the past few years dedicating much energy to improving and further expanding SAP PI, the SAP Enterprise Application Integration Software. Version 7.31 will be an important milestone. Besides offering a new free module that will support B2B messages, the SAP CE BPM and BRM solutions from have been added to SAP PI. “Process Integration” will become “Process Orchestration and Integration”.

Dual-stack will become single stack

SAP PI always needed both an ABAP stack as well as a Java stack to function. As of version 7.31 just a Java stack is needed. SAP has decided that all Netweaver products will become a single stack: As of NetWeaver 7.4 dual-stack systems will no longer be supported by SAP, thankfully except SAP PI. SAP, however does recommend organisations to consider a single stack, but in this way offers companies some time to switch their dual-stack solution to a single stack solution. Such a change is great and I will elaborate on that in a future blog post.

ccBPM and Netweaver BPM

At first glance, the move to a single stack not really special as ABAP stack functionality is just about built into Java. Only, with the exception of ccBPM. This BPM solution is entirely based on SAP Workflow, and therefore cannot be added to a Java solution. Not many people will be sorry to see ccBPM not making it into the Java solution, as it’s never really come into its own as a full BPM solution. Additionally, it has been a while since SAP provided Netweaver BPM as alternative. Now that asynchronous processes will be supported, meaning that queuing is possible, it would be able to completely replace ccBPM.

Innovations in SAP PI

Shifting the functionality to one stack isn’t special, but it is a part of the further development of SAP PI. Maintaining two stacks is a burden, especially for SAP, and innovations were delayed due to this. The innovations are ready: The change to a single stack allows for easy, quick installation and better performances with the same hardware can be achieved. Combining PI, BPM and BRM offers new possibilities. Add the new B2B add-on into the mix and we can see that SAP is working to create a great solution for EDI messages.

From EAI to Process Enabling

The important thing to remember is that SAP PI is changing. There is now a complete suite focused on “Enabling Process” which replaces the EAI tool. The combination of PI, BPM and BRM provides the ideal combination to support, manage and monitor processes. BPM provides capabilities to build the processes, PI provides the tools to add data to the services, and BRM ensures that the processes are flexible through the defining of business rules. A complete solution for process-oriented working. SAP now speaks of “Process Orchestration and Integration” (PO) instead of “Process Integration” (PI).

The three products, PI, BPM and BRM, have existed for some time, but version 7.31 allows for the easy installation of all three products in one Netweaver stack. It’s not yet perfect, as whilst they’re in the same stack, the communication between the products happens outside of the stack via RFC connections and web services. Perhaps this will be improved later.

Business rules management

Even if you do not wish to use BPM, this trio of products provides some advantages. BRM is a good alternative to the limited possibilities PI offers to perform mappings on the basis of data. This is a mapping such as “if the incoming message in field A contains value x, then the outgoing message in field B should contain value y”.

The old way to solve this issue is to define rules in a manner that only a PI consultant can maintain. BRM allows you to define these mappings as a Business Rule and take a look at them in the standard mapping by calling on them using a “lookup”. You’ll no longer be dependent on the PI consultant for the maintenance of these rules. If the value shown in field B should be change, this can be done through the BRM tool’s user interface.

Conclusion

Overall, you could say that after SAP PI experienced an initial setback it has experienced a strong completion. SAP is currently working on adding new features and improving the product. Enough reason to see whether a change to a higher version, or even perhaps to the version without ABAP stack, is the right step for your organisation.