At AgilityWorks we see the drive towards cloud based IT solutions poses a number of challenges for enterprises that utilise the cloud as part of their IT strategy. One of the key challenges sits in the Integration space, something which has not gone unnoticed by SAP who are rolling out SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) as their strategic cloud-based integration platform to link cloud applications and on-premise applications together.
Recently we have been involved in a trial of HCI from SAP. During the trial we implemented some basic integration scenarios, and in doing so have discovered that the development and configuration of HCI interfaces is pretty straight forward. This is thanks to the use of, Eclipse, a commonly used development tool, and the use of iFlows, a concept that has been used from SAP Process Integration (SAP PI) 7.3 onwards. Eclipse is free to download and install and the HCI specific tools, Integration Designer and Integration Operations, are also easy to install as plugins to Eclipse. All the functions of PI graphical mapping are supported and XSLT mapping can also be used. Existing PI content is also supported and can be imported into HCI. So it is possible to re-use existing investment in SAP PI interfaces within HCI.
We also found that HCI can reduce the amount of time spent on development by providing out-of-the-box integration. For example SAP’s Cloud for Customer application to on-premise SAP CRM / SAP ERP integration, and SuccessFactors BizX suite of applications to SAP HCM integration are all available out-of-the-box. The integration content covers templates with prebuilt process integration, data integration flows and other integration artefacts that significantly reduce the implementation time, cost, and risk.
As with any integration solution security is an important area, particularly when comes to exposing your on-premise systems and data to the Cloud and therefore the wider Internet. HCI provides us with both Transport Level and Message Level security. The chosen adapter and transport protocol determine the Transport Level security, as summarised in the table below:
Message Level security can be applied independently of and on top of the applied transport level security. It is used for signing and verifying a message, as well as encrypting and decrypting the content of a message. Another form of security that can be used with HCI is the Data Services Agent. The Data Services Agent can be downloaded and installed locally in your landscape. The Agent enables you to move data between your on-premise systems and the cloud without requiring you to open your firewall to inbound traffic or configure a VPN.
One of the limitations we currently face with HCI is the number of adapters it provides us to integrate with on-premise solutions. Currently HCI only has the following set of adapters; SOAP, HTTP, IDoc, SuccessFactors, and SFTP. If you want to connect to an on-premise solution using a different adapter then you need to use PI in between. However it is expected that additional adapters will become available in future releases of HCI.
From the trial we have learnt that HCI is not yet able to answer all our integration needs as it does not provide the same level of features as SAP PI. However it is definitely moving in the right direction as it can make integrating with the SAP Cloud significantly easier, and closely aligns with the trend towards the use of Cloud applications by the Enterpise.