Types of integration platform for integrating SAP S/4HANA
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Integrating SAP S/4HANA – Should your Integration Platform be Cloud Based? And How?

| | SVP Strategic Product Management, SEEBURGER
Integrating SAP S/4HANA– How far into the clouds should your integration platform go?

When introducing or migrating to SAP S/4HANA in your organisation, you will need to re-integrate the rest of your network, too. This is pretty complicated, with specific needs varying from company to company. You may need to deal with B2B integration, or to integrate 3rd party applications and legacy systems. You may need to integrate a connection to a public cloud or data lake. There are also other SAP applications to integrate, not all of which were produced by SAP. Your integration team has a lot to think about when choosing the best way to integrate SAP S/4HANA into your organisation and beyond! Of course, this is easier if you use an integration platform. However, should this be in the cloud? And is cloud always cloud? What options do you have? This is a fundamental decision you will have to make for your integration platform. Read on to discover what options you have for your integration platform, which make sense when working with SAP S/4HANA, and what you need to look out for.

The diagram below shows the IT architecture of a company which not only needs integration in all four of the areas this series has covered, but also follows a multi cloud strategy.

There’s an integration platform setup for every integration need
Figure 1: There’s an integration platform setup for every integration need

Despite the appeal of running applications in the cloud, many organisations make a conscious decision to run certain applications on premises. These may include their shop floor management system, legacy systems, in-house creations or something like SAP Business Warehouse. The ERP system at the centre of all this runs and provides data from the cloud. For SAP S/4HANA, this is usually a hosted private cloud.

In the image above, the top row shows both public and vendor clouds. Your organisation may have applications running from a public cloud. A vendor cloud is used to access software or an application as a service (XaaS) from a specific company. Examples include SAP itself, Salesforce, Coupa, Workday or Microsoft Dynamics 365. How can an integration platform cover such a wide range of connections?

A) A platform for integrating SAP S/4HANA needs to be a hybrid model.

This means, it needs to run both on-premises and in a variety of cloud scenarios, with the exception of the private (vendor) clouds detailed above. This allows your integrations to successfully fulfil demands on functionality and security, while also minimising risk and costs.

If the integration platform runs from a vendor cloud, it is an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service). This might be a sensible solution if you are also using business applications from the same vendor cloud. However, an iPaaS is not really suitable if you need to address time-critical or batch & bulk processes on premises. On the other hand, if following a multi-cloud strategy, it is advantageous to have your integration platform in a public cloud of your choice, from which you also run a number of applications.

In the image above, the decisive factor for this company would be the cloud operating platform their central ERP system runs from. There are just a few providers of centralised, hybrid integration platforms, which give their clients complete freedom in choosing a cloud-based operating platform.

A central, hybrid integration platform may actually be distributed among a number of cloud platforms. However, it is administered centrally.

To this end, it is one platform which runs in parallel in different clouds. An organisation that chooses such a set up is still responsible for application management, configuration and setting up integrations. There are specialist providers who can can support the organisation in this through remote services.

B) You need to be able to add other integrations to your SAP S/4HANA integration platform

Implementing S/4HANA involves re-integrating the rest of your network and beyond. Therefore, many organisations are now considering the following questions:

  1. Which integration tasks or areas should you be responsible for yourself? Would you only operate these, or also set them up? These will be processes which you have developed – or could develop – to give you a competitive edge. If they run smoothly, they enable you to stand out from the crowd.
    Essentially, these integrations give you a competitive edge and need to run smoothly.
  2. Which integration tasks, on the other hand, would be dealt with better, more reliably or more cost-effectively by a provider of well-defined integration services? These will be integration areas which are vital to any business, yet require a great deal of detailed knowledge and maintenance,
    Essentially, these integrations don’t give you a competitive edge. However, if they don’t run smoothly, it would be disadvantageous, or even damaging to your business.

Introducing SAP S/4HANA into your organisation is a great opportunity to look at ways to modernise, optimise and become more efficient. And efficiency is something that service providers and specialists can offer. Rather than being responsible for setting up, operating, monitoring, troubleshooting and maintaining your integration platform, this is done by an external provider. The provider becomes responsible for the smooth running of your integration platform and guarantees this with processing service level agreements.

With integration services, an SLA is not for system availability, rather to guarantee a certain processing speed and scope, as this is what counts.

Which integration areas are particularly suited to an external service provider? The criteria discussed above, differentiation and optimisation, fit the following areas:

  • B2B integration
    • Classic, or over an API
    • Need to comply with various legislation:
      • such as international stipulations for e-invoicing
      • integration with customs authorities when using SAP GTS
  • Integrating 3rd Party cloud-based applications with an SAP backend system.

C) An SAP S/4HANA integration solution needs to be available as an iPaaS

In recent years, the iPaaS model has grown in popularity. A significant reason for this is the explosion in interfaces over the last 10 years. Driving factors have been the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications, the success of APIs as an interface technology, and integration needed by companies following multi-cloud strategies. A number of recent integrations have been to connect an internal endpoint to an external, such as a cloud.

iPaaS is a pragmatic solution which is quick to implement. It provides the integration technology you need, covers application management, and ensures that your integration platform runs smoothly. It not only reduces the workload of your IT department, but also means that your company doesn’t need to spend time and resources searching for and purchasing a licensed product. It’s a low entry-cost way to address certain operating needs. As long as data volume remains low and you do not need a higher processing speed, the costs remain reasonable, even if extended to integrate further points. However, it does decentralise an organisation’s data and information streams. Modern iPaaS solutions can overcome this disadvantage by being part of a hybrid integration platform. This is a different offering to that of a purely iPaaS provider.

These days, one major advantage of using an iPaaS solution is that this is managed by the provider. It can also be optimised to meet the company’s scope and needs. While not absolving a company from their responsibility to see that the product is fit for need and productive, the legwork is done by the provider.

Whether a hybrid integration solution, classic integration services such as B2B integration and connecting up 3rd party and legacy systems, or an iPaaS, SEEBURGER has the experience to support you.

Find out more about how SEEBURGER can help you integrate SAP S/4HANA, and have a look at our blog posts covering the things you need to consider in this mammoth task. For one thing’s for sure: S/4HANA integration is best left to the experts.

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Read the full article from the June 2021 issue of E-3 Magazin.

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Thomas Kamper

Written by:

Thomas Kamper, SVP Strategic Product Management, is responsible for strategic product initiatives related to all SEEBURGER’s business integration technology and solutions. The focus is currently on API solutions and Big Data. In addition, he is responsible for solutions that enable organizations to master challenges of visibility and to control the proper execution of digitalized business processes. Thomas rejoined SEEBURGER December 2017. Before, he worked for many years as a hands-on interim manager and business advisor supporting C-level executives within software and cloud service providers to make their strategic product initiatives successful.