- Abhilasha Kulkarni
SAP Integration Using an ESB
One of the most pervasive challenges for companies who use SAP, the market-leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, is integrating it with other applications--both on-premise and in the cloud. For instance, companies commonly integrate SAP with CRM solutions, supplier systems, third party purchase order systems, and many other applications to fully automate and optimize their business processes.
There are several ways to integrate SAP with other applications, including point-to-point integration, hub and spoke, service oriented architecture (SOA) stacks, and standalone enterprise service buses (ESBs).
The rest of this article provides an overview of these different SAP integration approaches, with attention to the pros and cons of each, and concludes with a a discussion of why using an ESB to integrate SAP with other applications makes the most sense.
Point-to-Point SAP Integration
In a point-to-point approach, SAP and other applications are directly integrated. Using key SAP technologies such as Intermediate Docs (IDocs), Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs), and the SAP Java Connector (JCo), developers can directly wire applications to SAP.
· Provides a quick and relatively simple solution, especially in cases where SAP is being integrated with only one other application
· Low initial hurdle -- writing custom code to connect SAP with another application can be accomplished at minimal cost and within a short time frame
· Costly and increasingly complex in the long run
· Tight coupling between SAP and other applications creates a brittle architecture
· Difficult to add new integrations or make changes to meet evolving business needs
In general, point-to-point integrations provide convenient quick fixes, but are not recommended as a long term SAP integration strategy.
Integrating SAP with a Hub and Spoke Approach
An alternative to directly integrating SAP with other applications is to use a middleware component in a hub and spoke approach. In this approach, applications are connected to a middleware component or “hub” through which all communication flows.
· Developers no longer have to write code directly to each interface
· Enables loose coupling between applications
· More flexible architecture in comparison to a point-to-point approach
· Use of a central hub creates a single point of failure
· Typically requires heavyweight, proprietary products that are difficult to implement
· Hub and spoke approaches tend to lack robust support for newer integration challenges, such as integrating SAP and Salesforce and other cloud-based applications
Using Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Stacks to Integrate SAP
Another approach to SAP integration is to use an SOA stack offered by a large vendor such as IBM or Oracle. SOA stacks usually consist of several products: application servers; enterprise service buses; orchestration engines; management tools; development tools; and more.
· Offers a robust integration architecture that can address many use cases
· Enables loose coupling so changes can be quickly made
· Greater reliability and lower maintenance costs SAP can be service-enabled, making it easier and less costly to support new business processes
· Requires half a dozen or more products, all of which need to deployed and configured
· Full SOA implementation typically takes several years and high upfront costs
· High learning curve for proprietary SOA tools
SAP Integration with an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus)
Standalone ESBs are a newer and modern alternative to implementing a full SOA stack for integrating with SAP. ESBs are a key component of an SOA stack but can be used alone for SAP integration.
· Unlike an SOA stack, ESBs can be implemented without outside application servers or other infrastructure components
· Comes with management tools or can be integrated with existing ones
· Utilizes standard technologies and development tools that developers already use SAP can be service-enabled without high upfront costs or a lengthy rollout period
· Unrivaled flexibility to meet changing business needs and future growth
In most SAP integration cases, a standalone ESB is the optimal solution, giving organizations a robust set of capabilities without the expense of a full SOA stack.
Mule ESB - The Best Way to Integrate with SAP
Mule ESB is the only lightweight, standalone enterprise service bus that is SAP-certified for SAP integration. Mule’s SAP Enterprise Connector enables organizations to solve practically any SAP integration challenge by providing an interface to SAP and works with the following SAP technologies:
· Intermediate Documents (IDocs)
· Business Application Programming Interfaces (BAPIs)
· SAP Java Connector (JCo)
In addition to the SAP Enterprise Connector, Mule ESB provides industry-leading Cloud Connect technology to simplify integration with popular SaaS applications such as Salesforce. It also eliminates the need for implementing a full SOA stack.
Easy to learn and understand, Mule ESB reduces overall development costs and shortens development times for mission-critical integrations, making it the best approach to integrate with SAP.