016 – Building a reliable SAP PI landscape

In this episode, I’ll share some of the different ideas and techniques that I have seen at customers locations.

Integration services are so important to the business that you must find a way to run SAP PI/PO all the time. It is one of the key things to consider how you can make a good distribution of your system and the workloads. And also be able to support the upgrades/patches as well as configuration as easy as possible.

In the podcast, I mention some different setups they can be combined with a different setup to suit what you want to achieve and how it is best for your organization.

  • One installation on multiple instances or server nodes. This is SAPs way of scaling the system. They are all linked but allow you to restart single servers or instances and distribute among the servers. You cannot specify where an integration should run.
  • Multi productive PI systems to handle the different flow. Then you can patch one while the others are running. It requires some extra maintenance
  • Decentral Adapter Engine. Where all systems are connected to one central system that allows you to distribute workload and just have one place for configuration.
  • Preprod failover. Where you are using your reproductive system as a way to have a hot-hot failover. It does require some extra configuration of the scenarios on the PreProd system but gives you some benefits if you want to switch to it.

If you have another idea please post a comment below then others can learn from it.

 

13 – The how-to guide to SAP Cloud Connector with Morten Wittrock

I’m really pleased to welcome, for the first time, one of my old colleagues in the SAP world onto the show. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the last 12 episodes but today I want to discuss the SAP Cloud Connector. To that end I’m joined by Morten Wittrock an SAP technologist based from KMD in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Morten and I started working together back in 2005. His focus has gradually shifted towards SAP Cloud Platform so he is the perfect person to talk about the Cloud Connector.

Morten is one of the top experts on the Cloud Connector. He’s literally written the book on the subject titled Cloud Connector for SAP Cloud Platform: How-to Guide. Cloud Connector exists to solve a problem created when a company combines their on-site SAP system with the Cloud Platform. Accessing the Cloud Platform from the on-site system is not a problem. But the reverse is more difficult. The on-site system sits behind several firewalls and is not supposed to be accessible from the internet.

You can win Morten’s book, share the podcast with Hashtag #Integrationpodcast on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, then I’ll draw two winners of the limited edition of the Cloud Connector book in paper format.  

The benefit of Cloud Connector is that you don’t have to allow any incoming traffic. The software is installed in the DMZ between your innermost and outermost firewalls. Cloud connector will open a TLS encrypted tunnel to the SAP Cloud Platform. From that point on whenever the Cloud Platform needs to access the on-site system, it will utilize that tunnel.

Cloud Platform continues to add new features. The most recent 2.11 has increased the number of APIs dramatically. There is also created a proof-of-concept command line tool for Cloud Connector which uses some of the functionality of the APIs.

Morten will be hosting an SAP Inside Track event Saturday May 5th, 2018. The event is full of cutting edge presentations on all things SAP. Tickets are still available

Morten really likes Cloud Connector. It’s a very useful tool despite being only a small part of the SAP system.

012 – Navigating the SAP community with Gayathri Narayana

Today on the show I’m happy to welcome Gayathri Narayana onto the show.  Gayathri Narayana is a product manager for SAP Cloud Platform Integration and IoT. She focuses on digital engagement, partner ecosystem, product roll out, cloud integration community and product definition. She has 10 years of experience in SAP integration technology and has led customer engagement initiatives, moderated MOOC courses like openSAP and is a regular speaker at conferences such as SAP TechEd.

On the show, we cover the following things.

Community page. This is a pretty good overview of what is happening with cloud integration topic. It is a pretty good place where you can find some of the highlighted resources for SAP Cloud Integration

 https://www.sap.com/community/topic/cloud-integration.html

Blueprint is proven guide from SAP for solving real-life business problems leveraging the cloud platform and its various services. They give a pretty good overview of the components involved to do a specific objective that covers multiple services. Like the Automating Employee Onboarding Processes document, that covers SuccessFactor, S4 HANA and the SAP Cloud Platform for Integration and Workflow. There is also a number of interesting ones for the security with the cloud platform.

 https://www.sap.com/developer/blueprints.html

Learning journeys is a place to view all the service offerings that SAP has for a given area, so it collects all relevant information and resources to take into account. It is both Open SAP courses, class room training and other guides to follow, so they will be a good place to figure out what areas are interesting to understand. One journey for Cloud Integration has just been published. You can find it here https://help.sap.com/doc/0c3db190da2c4866a1f2906763d4f59a/Cloud/en-US/f4a390d6ee7147aa89ba587102702677.html 

All learning journeys: https://help.sap.com/doc/221f8f84afef43d29ad37ef2af0c4adf/HP_2.0/en-US/317030086f83418a94dfe94173b46584.html

Road map for SAP Integration. We cover the roadmap for SAP integration a little. This covers some focus on self-service of users, moving to a cloud only development and then the new Cloud Integration Content Advisor. I’m sure that we will cover the areas in more details in a future episode. You can find the SAP roadmaps at the SAP RoadMap site

 

011 – IoT integration using SAP Leonardo with Mrinal Wadhwa

The number of internet connected devices continues to grow daily. But managing that huge increase in information is no easy task. That’s why I wanted to invite Mrinal Wadhwa, the CTO of Fybr, to join me on the show this week.

Fybr has been developing a number of IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are usually wireless low power units that can be installed in remote or hard to access places. One of the first devices they created was a hockey puck sized device that can be installed in individual parking spots. That device then connects to a central server to show if a parking spot is occupied or not. The devices don’t communicate with one another in the physical world because that would take too much power. Instead Fybr has developed the idea of a “digital twin”. The twin of the device exists on the server side and that allows all of the information collected by the individual devices to be shared across the network.

Developing those digital twins allows the user to create “business rules” for each device. You can tell the device when to go to sleep and when to wake up. You can also change the amount charged for a parking space during different times of the day. Whether those rules live on the server or on the device itself is decided based on the application.

One of the biggest issues in IoT development is over the air updates. A new business rule has been created and the company wants to push that code to the device. There is a fundamental problem, though. If you are constantly updating devices with new code and you make an error you run the risk of bricking the devices. Fybr has solved this problem by creating a tiny virtual machine that lives inside FybrLyn’s. Because it’s a virtual machine that is independent of the actual hardware code it functions as a sandbox. You can push business logic to the edge on a regular basis without fear of harming communication with the remote device.

Fybr’s system specializes in low power wireless devices but that’s not the only kind of IoT device. A customer may have powered devices or large manufacturing machines as well. The SAP Leonardo IoT is very well positioned to bring all that data into one place. The IoT created some required steps that should be performed. This could be to send a service technician to perform work, this would require a work order and here SAP would be integrated and handle those actions. Or it could be the new sales order to a printer ink that needs to be purchased and sent.

As IoT continues to expand there are huge hurdles to overcome. If Fybr’s parking sensors were deployed in every parking spot in America it would require hundreds of millions of devices. The scale of that information will be incredibly challenging to manage. There are also security challenges that have to be solved. A connected machine in a manufacturing facility is very well guarded. It’s very difficult to access that machine.

But a smart city sensors are installed on streets. Someone could spend hours trying to access the sensor without anyone knowing. The sensors will have to include some kind of encryption key. Anyone could steal the device and figure out the key. If a device cannot keep a secret than how can you trust if the device is providing accurate information? That is a huge challenge that is hard to solve for many smart infrastructure applications. Fybr has tried to solve it by carefully monitoring the life cycle of each key in each device.

Mrinal says IoT is a big challenging world. There are a number of unresolved problems. And there has not yet been very large scale deployments. There is tremendous possibilities in this space by combining traditional SAP knowledge with this new class of devices.

010 – Using SAP Operational Process Intelligence (OPI)

Today on the show I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of inviting a guest to join me today I’m going to talk a little about OPI or Operational Process Intelligence. SAP OPI is a product that…

offers real-time end-to-end process monitoring combined with pattern detection, analytics, alerting, and response management. It gives business users real-time visibility into processes and the ability to respond swiftly – enabling better, faster decision-making to achieve greater agility in business operations.”

OPI is helping out with BAM(Business Activity Monitoring). I first encountered BAM back in 2006, when I was working on writing a bachelor assignment. The goal is to give better information into what is happening an organization. Which processes were taking too long time and where to improve them and give real-time monitoring if anything was failing. This is the goal of SAP OPI. So it was only in 2015 that I got a chance to work with OPI in practice at a customer site.

I also created a video on them as an alternative to the podcast. Same content just saved on youtube.

 

In this podcast I will cover the following things.

Use case

  • BPM and show how runs
  • Process phases and to identify what needs to be done

Challenges

  • Getting BPM process information – You need a Solman role in SAP PRO
  • Reporting information from BPM requires the use of data source in the BPM flow
  • Some KPI easy to use like a number of processes or duration of steps. 
  • Complex take bit more work like % of processes that worked. 
  • HANA development you will need to learn a lot of HANA to be a good developer

Future

  • No SP for 1½ year, so it does not seem like a tool that has a lot of future. 
  • It would make sense for SAP to move it to Cloud Platform in some form and then have integration tools to get data
  • Process Miner – Celonis is SAP tool to understand what is going on in a process. 
Today we are going to discuss API management with Bram Keijers who works as an SAP Integration Consultant with Proxellence. Most of the company's clients are using integration middleware and so API management is just starting to be backed up by customers. It's still a relatively new feature having only been released by SAP three years ago. Bram tries to convince clients to use the API management feature for any services exposed to an SAP gateway. Suppose a customer has an SAP backend system like ECC that is providing employee data to third parties. If another third party needs to access the same data the old method was to create an entirely different interface and another integration flow. What you can do with API management is to create a central interface and there you can govern access to all third parties. That means it's going to be a lot cheaper and easier to get your end point exposed. The price is fairly affordable. There is a cloud platform pricing calculator that you can access here. € 180 per month will cover a million calls per month. Bram really likes the new consumption based pricing. It's cheap enough that new customers can try it out for a few months and experiment with it. SAP's strategy is to allow customers to try different parts of the platform at a low price. If you have any other questions about SAP API management you can contact Bram here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bram-keijers-proxcellence/

009 – API management using SAP with Bram Keijers

Today we are going to discuss API management with Bram Keijers who works as an SAP Integration Consultant with Proxellence. Most of the company’s clients are using integration middleware and so API management is just starting to be backed up by customers. It’s still a relatively new feature having only been released by SAP three years ago.

Bram tries to convince clients to use the API management feature for any services exposed to an SAP gateway. Suppose a customer has an SAP backend system like ECC that is providing employee data to third parties. If another third party needs to access the same data the old method was to create an entirely different interface and another integration flow. What you can do with API management is to create a central interface and there you can govern access to all third parties. That means it’s going to be a lot cheaper and easier to get your end point exposed.

The price is fairly affordable. There is a cloud platform pricing calculator that you can access here. 180 per month will cover a million calls per month. Bram really likes the new consumption based pricing. It’s cheap enough that new customers can try it out for a few months and experiment with it. SAP’s strategy is to allow customers to try different parts of the platform at a low price.

Recommended places to get started with SAP API management

API management overview:
https://blogs.sap.com/2016/03/03/sap-api-management-overview-getting-started/

Deep dive blog:
https://blogs.sap.com/2016/01/08/deep-dive-on-sap-api-management-powered-by-hcp-publish-consume-and-monitor-apis-in-secure-and-scalable-manner/

Building & Consuming API’s:
part 1, configuration and API portal: https://blogs.sap.com/2016/02/24/building-consuming-apis-using-sap-api-management-part-1/

part 2, Developer portal:  https://blogs.sap.com/2016/02/25/building-consuming-apis-using-sap-api-management-part-2/

OData services discovery in API Management:
https://blogs.sap.com/2016/02/10/how-to-use-sap-api-management-on-hcp-trial/

If you have any other questions about SAP API management you can contact Bram here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/bram-keijers-proxcellence/

Today we're going to return to the subject of testing and look at another case study. This time we're joined by Peter Atling who recently worked on the PI/PO and webMethods upgrade at AkzoNobel As the test manager Peter executed several kinds of testing including regression testing. At the beginning of the project Peter was asked to find a tool that could handle some automated testing. At AkzoNobel testing middleware is not that easy. Over the last couple of years many interfaces have been implemented. The company uses PI mainly for application to application interfaces. 500 interfaces are being run over the system. The company needed to implement automated testing in order to better improve the system. Peter downloaded one of the earliest versions of Figaf's IRT to implement regression testing. There was a serious discussion about the use of an automated tool for this kind of work. They tend to want to do some tests for themselves. It was the mapping function that won the day because it removes the need to check all the fields. Their users want see that the interface is running. But Peter thinks as the use of this tool becomes more commonplace there will be more confidence in it's use. Peter feels the tool is really useful for fast growing companies who depend on PI for their delivery process. Without a good regression testing tool problems with PI can become a bottleneck. Convincing the development team to use the IRT was fairly easy because of it's ease of use.

008 Testing SAP PI/PO at AkzoNobel

Today we’re going to return to the subject of testing and look at another case study. This time we’re joined by Pieter Atling who recently worked on the SAP PI/PO and webMethods upgrade at AkzoNobel As the test manager Pieter executed several kinds of testing including regression testing. At the beginning of the project, Pieter was asked to find a tool that could handle some automated testing.

Pieter Atling

SAP expert Pieter Atling

At AkzoNobel testing middleware is a huge task as this is for most of the companies. Over the last couple of years many interfaces have been implemented. The company uses SAP PI mainly for application to application A2A interfaces. 500 interfaces are being run over the system. The company needed to implement automated testing in order to better improve the system. Pieter downloaded one of the earliest versions of Figaf’s IRT to implement regression testing.

Besides regression testing with the IRT tooling also end-to-end testing is done to make sure the interface is working as it should work. The expectation is that with the help of the tool upgrades could be done more frequently so that only regression tests have to be done combined with some manual testing done by the technical teams and that the user is not involved  or just limited involved. But Pieter thinks as the use of this tool becomes more commonplace there will be more confident in it’s use.

The approach how regression testing is done with IRT, is more or less the same as the approach followed for regression the webMethods platform that is also used by AkzoNobel.

Pieter feels the tool is really useful for fast growing companies who depend on SAP PI for their delivery process. Without a good regression testing tool problems with SAP PI can become a bottleneck. Convincing the development team to use the IRT was fairly easy because of it’s ease of use.

007 – Choosing between Boomi, Mulesoft and PI with Kishore Nanda

Kishore Nanda is an integration expert who has worked with SAP for many years. In this edition of the podcast, we discuss his experience with SAP PI and Cloud Integrationas well as Dell Boomi and Mulesoft. He has been working on various integration solutions using a variety of platforms. Too often professionals develop myopic focus on SAP without paying attention to other solutions like Boomi and Mulesoft. As a person coming from the SAP ecosystem, it is interesting to hear what is going on in the world outside.

Dell Boomi offers a cloud application that includes interfaces that can be deployed throughout the cloud. The can have instances running on servers that can use in multiple deployment options. Atom Cloud, for example, allows for the same instances running in multiple places which allows for load balancing and offers very high reliability. Boomi also offers predefined content very similar to SAP. My interpretation is that it depends on the supplied APIs and how they work.

Mulesoft have a full integration suite that supports the same things as SAP PI/PO with ESB, API management, and Workflow/BPM. It design approach is different for the integrations.

Kishore says the best reason that an SAP PI user should consider using Boomi or Mulesoft is licensing and how they integrate with a specific system. The key point is that Boomi allows you to deploy an optimized solution for those customers who don’t want to move all of their systems onto the cloud. On the downside, Boomi and Mule have a greater learning curve because of their reliance on more programmatic language.

006 – How to automate SAP PI/PO testing with Mark Oshifeso from Anadarko Petrolium

In this episode, we will talk about SAP PI/PO testing and how to automate it with Figaf IRT.

I’m very happy to have Mark Oshifeso on the show. Mark was one of the first people to use Figaf’s new Integration Regression Tool for SAP PI/PO. Mark works for a mid-size oil and gas producer based in Texas. He and his team upgrade the systems on a regular basis and have found the IRT especially useful on their PI systems.

Mark wanted to make it a lot easier to do upgrades of the SAP PI/PO system. The big challenge was that he used to upgrade the SAP PI/PO system only every 2-3 years because the testing requirement was really big. So the cost was too high it too a long time between upgrades.

“Fully automated testing in the SAP world is pretty rare.” He says.

Mark compares the IRT to other testing options on the market very favorably.

“It’s crazy easy to use.” He added.

The IRT doesn’t require you to learn a programming language and can be taught to someone in as little as an hour. Mark and his team decided to introduce the tool and create a test catalog by upgrading their PI system from one service tech level to a more recent version. They were able to complete their work quite quickly.

One of the big things that I’m grateful Mark helped with is the business side and share how the business could react to automated testing. And then give me the good difference between the normal workflow testing tools and the Record Replay tool.

With the help of Figaf IRT Mark and Anadarko was able to setup a testing of all 300 interfaces in 4 weeks, part of this was the 3 weeks to create the test catalog. Once this is there the overall testing time should go down to 1 week including manual tests. And at the time Figaf where also doing development to enable the recording of the scenarios Mark was using.

You can see the slides here

In the podcast Mark also cover one of the big aspects which are to get business buying of the project. In Anadarko’s case, the business and accounting is responsible for making sure that there is sign off on all interfaces being tested. So each business owner needs to approve the testing result.

The business really enjoyed the testing framework and a lot of their questions was regarding how automated testing worked.

We also cover the two different approaches for testing.

Workflow based in which you define a scenario for testing a message. So you program to place a file here, and then SAP PI will map the file. Next step is then to query the receiving system if everything is correct. Mark estimated that it takes up to 4 hours (when special data etc is required). An interface which doesn’t require any special things can be done in 30min.

The other approach that Figaf IRT user’s is the Record/Replay. Here you simply copy some message from production and run them on your test system. If messages are different then you must evaluate if it is okay or you need to do something with it. Here you don’t have any coding options, but just simple configuration. All of this was enough for Mark and Anadarko to setup the testing.

Mark was using the Rest API of IRT to integrate it with HP ALM which is used to track all testing performed.

If you are looking to do setup any testing of your SAP PI/PO system then have a look at figaf.com/irt. We do have a free plan that will allow you to test 10 interface.

 

I'm really happy to welcome Igor Mitrovic on to this week's episode. Igor is the Managing Director of Proxellence Netherlands and is also the company's SAP Integration Specialist. He has more than eight years working with customers on SAP integration. His focus has been all about integration and innovation. When a customer first approaches Igor and his team the first conversation is about cost-savings and the benefits of moving there systems onto the cloud. After that they begin a process of cataloguing the customers back-end systems to determine if they are going to be exposed to the cloud. Igor then determines what applications need to be exposed outside of the internal network. “That's the most important thing that you have to figure out preemptively.” He says. Proxellence then divides the different connections between those that require encryption and those that do not. One question that is often asked is whether there are latency issues when adopting HCI. Igor says that the system runs very smooth except in cases where there is a lot of logging. PO is a much more developed product but it is much more difficult to maintain. Deciding which to use very much depends on what the end goal is. The biggest change coming to the world of cloud integration is the increasing number of customers for this solution. It's not just big companies anymore. CPI is a simple and easy to understand tool that is great to begin building on. “From my point of view it's a really strong tool and they're really fast at developing it.” He says. The fact that the product started only four years ago and is already being used in a production environment speaks volumes, according to Igor. There are gaps and flaws but he has, nevertheless, had a really good experience.

005 – The future of cloud integration with Igor Mitrovic

I’m really happy to welcome Igor Mitrovic on to this week’s episode. Igor is the Managing Director of Proxcellence Netherlands and is also the company’s SAP Integration Specialist. He has more than eight years working with customers on SAP integration. His focus has been all about integration and innovation.

When a customer first approaches Igor and his team the first conversation is about cost-savings and the benefits of moving there systems onto the cloud. After that they begin a process of cataloging the customers back-end systems.  They determine if they are going to be exposed to the cloud. Igor then determines what applications need to be exposed outside of the internal network.

“That’s the most important thing that you have to figure out preemptively.” He says.

Proxellence then divides the different connections between those that require encryption and those that do not.

One question that is often asked is whether there are latency issues when adopting HCI. Igor says that the system runs very smooth except in cases where there is a lot of logging. PO is a much more developed product but it is much more difficult to maintain. Deciding which to use very much depends on what the end goal is.

The biggest change coming to the world of cloud integration is the increasing number of customers for this solution. It’s not just big companies anymore. CPI is a simple and easy to understand tool that is great to begin building on.

“From my point of view it’s a really strong tool and they’re really fast at developing it.” He says.

It speaks volumes that  the product started only four years ago and is already being used in a production environment.  There are gaps and flaws but he has, nevertheless, had a really good experience.

Connect

LinkedIn

https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitrovicigor/ 

Company website:

http://www.proxcellence.com