Simplifying Integration with SAP’s Integration Solution Advisory Methodology
Meet the Experts
⇨ SAP offers the ISA-M methodology to assist enterprise architects in defining integration strategies and developing relevant integration guidelines for their organizations.
⇨ ISA-M comprises a collection of integration use case patterns that are not tied to any specific technology and can be mapped to integration technologies according to each customer's context.
⇨ This article provides an introduction to ISA-M, and a practical example of how enterprise architects can apply it in their organizations.
SAP’s Integration Solution for the Intelligent Enterprise
Recent years have seen significant hype around “Digital Transformation”. However, it is not merely a buzzword, as a well-structured process of discovering, understanding, planning, and executing is essential for establishing a robust foundation for a digitally transformed environment. In essence, proper methodologies are crucial for achieving a successful digital transformation.
SAP’s Integration Solution Advisory Methodology is one such methodology that presents a thorough structure to expedite the design of hybrid integration platforms, ensure integration projects adhere to SAP’s best practices, and promote a flexible integration approach throughout your company. SAP’s Integrated Solution Advisory Methodology provides the following benefits.
- ISA-M assist Enterprise Architects (EA) in getting much better insights beyond technical aspects of the existing landscape.
- ISA-M is one of the methodologies that can be leveraged to build a robust architecture for any integration platform.
SAP puts great emphasis on integration strategy and has defined a clear strategy that SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP) will be a one-stop solution for building an intelligent enterprise, however, companies need to be cloud-ready for digital transformation.
But why are companies not cloud-ready? How does the landscape become complex despite processes for change management, regular upgrades, and regression testing cycles? There are multiple reasons for a complex and fragile technical landscape. A few of the critical contributors are listed below.
- Companies strive to augment their businesses and be ahead of the game by adding multiple solutions, applications, that are on-premise and cloud.
- Companies start their businesses with legacy systems. Most are hesitant to spend on Information Technology (IT) because it is a cost center.
- When generating revenue and becoming profitable, companies add new solutions to their landscapes especially for multiple Lines of Businesses (LOBs). As a result, the IT landscape is fragmented and lacks centralized ecosystem.
- Any new solution performs best as a standalone but often creates integration challenges when integrated with other systems.
- When businesses grow, companies lose track of IT investments and become reluctant to invest more as the ROI can be considerably low due to multiple solutions in the landscape.
Companies end up with fragmented, fragile landscapes with multiple, complex solutions that result in data redundancy and a lack of governance. Poor integration touchpoint design in the connected systems environment adds to the fragility.
Any organization’s digital transformation journey starts with a clear strategy and roadmap for its integration. Seamless integration is vital for this. For the company to lay the foundation for digital transformation, it must have a robust but straightforward integration strategy. ISA-M provides a template-based tool that helps to create tailor-made integration strategies for the present and future states of the landscape. Companies can get clear insights into how they plan the integration and what solutions are required to satisfy the business requirements.
ISA-M is a methodological process that provides a holistic understanding of the landscape from the following aspects.
- Feasibility to migrate, upgrade, or subject to redesign
- Technologies operated as a gateway in transacting the systems
- Protocols implemented in performing data transactions
- A redundant process that exists in the landscape in completing integrations
- Legacy integration architecture which is overutilizing resources and has poor performance
- Incumbent integrations, never investigated since the build, such as Business Process Management (BPM)
ISA-M methodology assists enterprise architects in addressing four common challenges encountered when designing an integration strategy for their organization:
- Future-proofing the integration architecture of an organization
- Defining a hybrid integration platform that supports both SAP and non-SAP integration technologies to meet all the organization’s needs
- Manage growing integration demands and determine the appropriate integration technology to use
- Implementing an agile integration practice and enable non-central integration competency center (ICC) experts to independently implement integration scenarios
A multi-billion transportation business upgraded their ERP system by entering the RISE with S/4HANA contract. They believed that migrating to S/4HANA was a plug-and-play process, but they had to face certain challenges that delayed the project. These challenges are given below.
Customer landscape integration challenges
- No architectural reference diagram and documentation
- Multiple integration tools in the landscape for various data transactions
- Multiple pit-stops to be analyzed to find the bottlenecks
- Heavy usage of remote function calls and custom coding
- Heavy use of data services in scheduling the batch jobs and posting transactions to SAP
- APIs leveraged to exchange data transactions between SAP and non-SAP systems
- Homegrown systems leveraged to send and receive data between SAP systems
- No centralized integration ecosystem, monitoring, exception handling, and alert notification
- Strategy did not include API management, data governance, and analytics utilizations
- Heavy usage of file-based transactions accessing in and out of SAP from the Al11 layer posed ERP data vulnerability
- Understanding the existing landscape scape systems and connectivity.
- Understanding the complexity of the integration builds taking into consideration the following aspects:
- Custom code
- Process hops
- Number of middleware in the landscape
- The volume of the data
- Frequency of the data
- Data integrity
- Data security
- API governance
- Master data governance
- Understanding third-party solutions and the feasibility of adopting a modern architecture.
All information to develop the architectural diagram was gathered by leveraging ISA-M which was used as the basis to create and propose a future-state architecture.
- AlI integration patterns were mapped and two main types of integrations were found. The first was transactional-based, and the second, data integration.
- Relevancy template was used to map the type of technology to the following integration domains:
- The following integration domain styles were mapped.
- Process Integration
- Data Integration
- Analytics Integration
As mentioned earlier, ISA-M help EAs gain valuable insights and provides a holistic perspective of the integration architecture. The integration architecture information helps to perform analytical analysis of the issue and helps in building the proposed architecture. ISA-M was adopted throughout the initial research and a proposed architecture with the following benefits for the customer landscape was provided. The below elements of the existing integration were considered to propose a “future-state” architecture.
- Avoid multiple stops to send transactional data for process visibility.
- Create a sustained centralized integration ecosystem to reduce data redundancy.
- Create a centralized middleware solution for all landscape transactions that will maintain and monitor scenarios and resolve data bottlenecks.
- Adopt new modernized API-based architecture to enhance security for cloud solution-based transactions.
- Convert long-standing legacy processes into modern and accessible processes with technology implementation.
Proposed architecture after ISA-M analysis
- Unified integration strategy to build one centralized integration leveraging SAP BTP Integration Suite.
- API management to analyze, maintain, and monetize APIs.
- API management to develop security policies and additional security around data and messages transacting to the S4 system.
- Cloud Integration of Integration Suite (IS) to help develop future-proof, seamless, and easy-to-maintain integration touchpoints.
- SAP and non-SAP on-premise and cloud solutions to leverage cloud Integration from Integration Suite.
- Prepackaged content across multiple lines of business from Integration Suite available for the client with tenant subscription.
- Prepackaged content in CPI to reduce development time as it is tested and certified by SAP.
- The Integration Suite supports Integration Content Advisor (ICA) for B2B integrations.
- Cloud Integration supports API for creating a single dashboard if the customer has SAP Analytics Cloud Solution.
- The Integration Suite will provide an assessment tool for the timely evaluation of the integration strategy of the customer landscape.
- SAP Cloud Connector (SCC) will help create a secure tunnel to process the inbound message into the S4 HANA system.
- All file-based processes can be re-routed to the new SFTP server in the same hyperscaler so that S4, a system of record, will not be vulnerable to third-party apps.
ISA-M enables organizations and Enterprise Architects to understand the complexities of the existing landscape and provides analytical tools to resolve and manage them. It should be the starting point for case projects that include migration, upgrades, adopting new solutions, and many more.