I recently attended the 2016 SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) info day in Walldorf, Germany. It was the 4th time this info day had been held, with over 130 customers and partners in attendance. The event is growing in popularity each year, due in a large part to the growing maturity of HCI in the marketplace. More and more customers who have SAP in their software landscape are using it to integrate with their SAP and non-SAP solutions.
One of the big changes I came to know about at the info day was that SAP have changed the name of the product to SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP), integration service. However, it is still commonly known as HCI. It is not unusual for SAP to rename their products over time. For example, Process Orchestration (PO), was formerly called Process Integration (PI) and before that Exchange Infrastructure (XI).
Two other key points from the info day were a certification program is available for HCI. The two certifications include certification scenario for PI Content: HCI-PI-CNT, and certification scenario for PI Adapter: HCI-PI-ADK. Also the first SAP HANA Cloud Integration book from SAP press is now available for purchase.
Benefits of using HCI
One of the advantages of using HCI is that it reduces development time by providing a lot of pre-delivered integration content in the Integration Content Hub. Partner content is also now available on the Integration Content Hub. At the info day SAP were encouraging Partners to develop our own adapters and content packages. HCI is based on the Apache Camel framework, which is an open-source integration framework that is capable of executing most common integration patterns.
Partners have the option to develop their own adapters using the Adapter Development Kit. This makes the process of developing our own adapter for HCI significantly easier than we saw in the past for PI/PO. SAP wants HCI to be able to integrate to as many applications as possible and by providing the adapter development kit it will help with the niche application technical and industry specific protocols.
HCI or PI/PO?
For those customers that already have a large investment in PI/PO and are unsure about HCI need not worry. HCI is not PI/PO on the cloud, it’s an Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS). It is a complementary offering to PI/PO rather than a replacement. There are of course some challenges in integrating cloud applications with PI where HCI would be a better fit.
For example, if a customer was thinking of moving to the cloud and required pre-packaged integration content that is only available on HCI. A customer’s PI/PO system may be on an older release and does not have all the technical adapters available with the latest release. Also if a customer wanted to integrate only cloud applications then faster results would be achieved using an iPaaS tool such as HCI.
HCI is an affordable option for those customers who didn’t want to invest into PI/PO. It allows you to build and have something up and running very quickly. If for example you have a business idea that requires integration, it allows you to work out very quickly if there is a market for your business idea.
Areas for Improvement
There were a large number of partner presentations at this year’s info day. They talked about their experiences with the product, the benefits of it and also limitations with the product. Three key areas for improvement that kept on coming up were the viewing of message payloads, transport of integration content, and extending the free trial of HCI. SAP now provides a script which you can include in your iFlows to capture message payloads (although I feel this is not well advertised, nor a long term solution) and handling integration content transports is on the roadmap for Q3 this year.
Currently SAP only offers a free 30 day trial of HCI. SAP have tried to address this problem by offering two new subscription models of HCI, Innovation Pack and Test & Demo. Both of these subscription models are for non-productive usage but at a cheaper cost of 1500 euro per year. They are however limited to 10 connections (unique endpoints) and 10 GB/Month in bandwidth.
Future of HCI
Overall I feel that HCI has big potential but it still has some missing capabilities. This is made more obvious if like me you come back from a PI/PO background or from other iPaaS offerings in the market. However, the advantages of HCI definitely outweigh the disadvantages and once you have made the decision to adopt HCI there is no going back. When PI first came out people also compared it to other middleware products in the market and pointed out its limitations.
However, over the years more and more customers have bought it and now PI adoption is only surpassed by one other middleware platform, Microsoft BizTalk. HCI may not the best cloud middleware today but it addresses the key capabilities (especially for SAP integration) and it is only getting better with each new release.