Back in 2014 when I first started using SAP HANA Cloud Integration for Process Integration (HCI-PI), the idea of SAP having its own iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) tool was great. However, after completing my first project using it I could see it had a number of shortfalls and needed a lot more improvement, as discussed in a previous blog back in December 2014.
Since then, SAP has continued to roll out new versions of HCI every month with new features and integration content. In this blog, I’d like to share with you the improvements I’ve seen in the tool since 2014, and also some areas with further room for improvement.
Number of adapters available
One of the most obvious improvements is the number of adapters you now get with HCI. For a sender communication channel you have the choice between Ariba, HTTPS, IDOC, OData, SFTP, SOAP, SuccessFactors, and XI. With a receiver communication channel you get a choice between these adapters, but you also have adapters for Facebook, Mail, and Twitter. It is also good to see SAP offering adapters for third party systems. You also have the option to develop your own adapter, if one of the pre-delivered ones is not suitable.
Standard integration content
With every new release of HCI the number of pre-delivered integration packages has increased significantly. There are now more than 60 pre-packaged integration flows (iFlows) available, which can be downloaded from the Web User Interface (UI) of an HCI tenant.
However, one thing I’ve noticed is that the version of these integration packages does not always align with their corresponding SAP cloud software. For example, if a new version of SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C) is rolled out, the corresponding 'SAP Cloud for Customer Integration with SAP ERP’ integration package is not rolled out at the same time.
It can sometimes take two to three weeks after the C4C roll out date for the integration package to be released. Hence, you are forced to use an older version and currently there is no easy way (other than manually) to migrate any custom changes made to an iFlow to a newer version of an integration package.
Web UI or eclipse IDE?
There are two ways to work with HCI, using the Web UI or eclipse IDE. When I first started using HCI, I found myself mostly working in eclipse as there were certain tasks you couldn’t do in the Web UI, such as deploy authentication artifacts.
However, SAP has vastly improved the Web UI and now most tasks can be done there itself. One key feature that is still missing though is the ability to view message traces in the Web UI i.e. message payloads. In eclipse you can see this by clicking on the ‘View Trace’ button. This assumes your HCI tenant has tracing enabled and your 'S User' has authorisation to display these traces. I’m surprised that tracing just does not come enabled by default. You still have to go through the tedious process of having to raise an OSS ticket with SAP to get this enabled.
SAP lead times
One of the things I found frustrating when I first started using HCI was that a number of integration activities could not be performed by users and required SAP support intervention. For example, getting the Root and Intermediate certificates of a CA uploaded onto the HCI load balancer, or not being able to connect to a third-party SFTP server because of SAP network restrictions. This could take several days to resolve and had a significant impact on our project timelines. While these activities still do need to be handled by SAP support (due to security reasons), I’ve seen a definite improvement in lead times and HCI support seems to be a lot more efficient.
Looking ahead the HCI roadmap details a number of new features planned that I look forward to using, such as Integration Advisor for intelligent mapping proposals including crowd sourcing & collaboration, as well as support of transport of integration content between different SAP HCI landscapes.
Overall, HCI has matured significantly over the past two years, particularly for SAP to SAP integration, yet there is still some way to go to match other integration platforms in the market.