Stay healthy everyone! We can do pilots 100% offsite. Multiple options available. Learn more >
New Webcast Series! Get answers to common questions, see live demos and engage with experts. Learn more >
We're signing up new partners excited about OpenLegacy's legacy integration. Read the news! Learn more >

Blog

Leading SAP API Architecture & Integration Best Practices

Posted by OpenLegacy on July 21, 2020

SAP is a powerful, widely used enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Organizations typically rely on SAP to centralize data management and optimize critical business functions like accounting, financials, human capital management, enterprise performance management, etc.

While SAP offers organizations a lot of flexibility, this means the SAP ERP is often complex. It typically consists of various disparate technologies, including a mix of legacy on-premise ERPs, S/4HANA, proprietary language, logic, business processes, and a myriad of integration tools that help connect and navigate this intricate landscape.

SAP complexity and integration

This complexity of SAP means that one of the biggest challenges organizations that rely on SAP face is integration. The vast majority of organizations understand the plethora of strategic benefits that stem from leveraging the cloud and transitioning to microservices architectures. It’s universally acknowledged that cloud-based SaaS applications are much faster to deploy and more flexible, and that they enable organizations to embrace innovation and reduce costs.

For organizations that rely on multiple applications and third-party systems, SAP integration is critical for streamlining workflows. That said, SAP ERPs are notoriously difficult to integrate with other systems due to their complexity.

OpenLegacySAP integration processes can vary greatly between different organizations across various industries, given that each SAP may consist of a distinct set of processes. The processes, and consequently, the integration approach, will vary depending on the SAP and non-SAP applications the organization is using.

With the proper SAP application integration tool, however, you can quickly develop APIs from your on-premise SAP systems and deliver outstanding digital services lightning fast. The OpenLegacy integration platform allows you to quickly generate APIs and Angular HTML5 from Business APIs (BAPIs) or Remote Function Calls (RFCs) and deploy them anywhere — the web, cloud, mobile, or SaaS.

The high level of customization and the complexity of SAP results in a multitude of SAP integration challenges that enterprises must overcome. In this article, we’ll explore the most common SAP integration challenges and show you how our robust solution can greatly facilitate your integration efforts and significantly reduce your time-to-market.

Biggest SAP integration challenges

As standards of technology and communication evolve, it’s critical to have a connected, agile IT landscape that would allow businesses to quickly embrace innovations and integrate new systems with their existing applications.

While SAP ERP acts as a system of record for a huge portion of an organization’s data, various non-SAP applications hold invaluable customer and business information. Many organizations also rely on CRM systems to manage customer data, provide actionable insights, and facilitate team communication.

Integrating these disparate systems can often prove quite difficult. The main challenges of SAP application integration include:

  1. Applying SAP’s integration methods to third-party systems
  2. Communicating with non-SAP applications using different technology
  3. Providing a scalable SAP application integration infrastructure
  4. Ensuring flexibility to add new functionalities
  5. Introducing more middleware
  6. Requiring a specialized technical skillset
  7. Considering the cost

Applying SAP’s integration methods to third-party systems

SAP provides a variety of integration methods and interfaces, which are supposed to help organizations connect and manipulate data and processes. The trouble is, rather than using industry standards, SAP has developed its own capabilities like:

  • BAPIs (Business APIs)
  • IDocs (Intermediate documents)
  • ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming)
  • RFC (Remote Function Call)
  • JCo (Java Connector)

SAP’s proprietary integration tools don’t extend well to third-party systems. Rather than facilitating integration, they complicate the process further. Let’s take IDocs as an example — there are over 600 IDoc types that you need to consider when developing a strategy for your organization’s integration project.

Add to that the fact that BAPIs don’t support all available SAP transactions, and that RFC might not be documented or supported by SAP, and the issue becomes apparent.

OpenLegacy makes the most out of RFCs and BAPIs and allows you to utilize them and expose them as Java through the SAP JCo. With the OpenLegacy integration platform, a single Java developer can generate both OData for use with Fiori and standard REST with Angular HTML5 in a few simple steps. This allows you to generate APIs from your SAP systems in minutes or days, instead of months.

Communicating with non-SAP applications using different technology

Another SAP integration challenge comes from the fact that the many non-SAP applications the organization might be relying on could be built using different technologies. In these situations, it’s necessary to find a cost-effective SAP integration solution that is both flexible and robust and that can easily cope with different technological challenges.

Providing a scalable SAP application integration infrastructure

Another thing to keep in mind is that SAP application integration infrastructure needs to be easily scalable in order to accommodate the large volume of data from third-party apps that may be deployed into geographically dispersed sales teams. The solution must also provide process management tools and capabilities, such as dashboards and reporting.

Ensuring flexibility to add new functionalities

When deploying an SAP integration solution, it’s important to look to the future. With the rapid advancement of technology, new software solutions are becoming available at an increasing pace. Your SAP integration infrastructure must be flexible enough to support the rapid deployment of these solutions to maximize the business benefits.

Introducing more middleware

To execute SAP integration properly, organizations have to install and support integration middleware that would allow the integration infrastructure to cope with upgrades and future changes to functionality — on both SAP systems and non-SAP applications. You have to consider the setup and ongoing maintenance cost of middleware when strategizing the integration project, as it is a necessary investment.

Requiring a specialized technical skillset

Building specialized connectivity into SAP, as well as adding new SAP application software from different SAP API technologies, typically requires a specialized technical skillset. On top of that, SAP’s solutions and multiple integration methods we mentioned (BAPIs, IDocs, JCo, etc.) often lead to a complex environment for software development and delivery.

This complexity means organizations have to either dedicate large teams of in-house developers to the task or hire SAP developers from system integrators. Regardless of the approach an organization takes, the complexity of SAP projects and their business-critical nature make them extremely time-consuming. It’s not uncommon for SAP integration projects to drag on for months.

At the same time, line of business (LOB) requests are moved into the backlog, where they have to wait for prioritization and resourcing, which can be extremely frustrating for end-users who need to innovate in real-time. Even after you start working on a line of business projects, seemingly small requests can take tremendous effort and a considerable amount of time, given the complexity of SAP.

Considering the cost

With SAP integration, there are quite a few costs you need to keep in mind before you start the integration project. There’s the initial setup cost, the cost of acquiring external technical skills, as well as costs associated with ongoing maintenance, support, and hardware and software licenses. SAP integration projects can be quite expensive, so you need to weigh your options carefully and be prepared to allocate the necessary resources to the project.

The Solution — Leverage your SAP business applications and processes to deploy APIs with ease

As you can see, relying on SAP’s integration methods and interface to integrate your SAP with third-party systems is inherently quite challenging. The process can take months, you need to dedicate a developer team to the task (provided they have the necessary technical skills), and integration can be quite costly.

OpenLegacy offers you a much easier, faster, cost-effective alternative. With our API integration platform, you can quickly and easily open up your SAP business applications and process to the digital world.

The OpenLegacy platform generates microservices and microservice-based APIs that allow you to bypass the layers of complexity to automate and accelerate API integration and management. Our robust solution allows you to automatically generate REST APIs and angular HTML5 from SAP. Here’s a video that explains how to do it in a few easy steps.

Our integration platform comes with built-in API connectors that can pull data directly from your SAP system to create a standard REST or OData API that includes the business logic. You can launch new innovations in real-time and drastically reduce your time-to-market with open, standard code connected to your SAP ERP on-premise systems.

The best part about the OpenLegacy integration platform is the fact that you can build reusable APIs, rather than creating point-to-point SAP system integrations. Fewer integrations mean lower maintenance and costs. On top of that, you can completely bypass the IDoc format — our solution allows you to transfer the data directly from SAP to non-SAP systems, without conversion. 

Since the APIs are contained within microservices, this approach perfectly aligns with DevOps and agile development. Multiple teams can work on developing and deploying different microservices and microservice-based APIs simultaneously.

Open up your SAP application to the digital world for a fraction of the cost

For most enterprises, SAP integration requires tying up their valuable staff resources or hiring expensive consultants. Relying on SAP’s products to expose business processes calls for a team of SAP (BASIS) specialists for installation and the proper use of the whole set of SAP NetWeaver Gateway products.

This approach can take several months and is often extremely expensive. There’s also the fact that SAP’s products can’t generate standard REST APIs or Angular HTML5 code.

With the OpenLegacy integration platform, a single Java developer can generate mobile and web applications in minutes from any BAPIs. We automate the process and generate the APIs, Angular HTML5, and Java code in days or weeks, while other solutions can take months or years. With OpenLegacy, you pick exactly which BAPIs or RFCs to expose, and the rest is fully automated.

Best of all, our REST APIs open up your SAP system to a new world of possibilities with partners, customers, and stakeholders. You can leverage your existing SAP investment and accelerate virtually any type of innovation:

  • Bypass complex SAP middleware to generate APIs directly
  • Create production-ready APIs in hours or days, not months
  • Generate both OData and standard REST APIs
  • Deploy anywhere with microservices
  • Align with DevOps and CI/CD

The OpenLegacy integration platform reads and parses metadata from SAP to automatically generate self-contained Java-based microservices that call the SAP applications directly. It also enables you to load and manage the microservices with ease.

This gives you quick and efficient access to the SAP applications through standard REST APIs. We simplify the process — there’s no need for installation or specialized knowledge of SAP NetWeaver or other SAP integration specific tools. This makes SAP integration infinitely faster and much more cost-effective.

How does the OpenLegacy integration platform stack against SAP NetWeaver tools?

The OpenLegacy integration platform leverages an SAP connector, which parses metadata about a legacy system. This approach offers multiple benefits:

  • Simplification — OpenLegacy automatically parses RFCs (BAPIs and zBAPIs) and turns them into simple Java objects. This allows you to easily add additional business logic by editing and enhancing the Java code.
  • Flexibility — OpenLegacy uses the parsed metadata to generate both OData APIs (used as input to the SAP Fiori tool) and/or standard REST APIs and Angular HTML5.
  • Shorter development cycle — For customers who want to leverage DevOps, OpenLegacy automatically generates self-contained microservices, including both the API and the translation logic. Multiple developer teams can work on different microservices simultaneously, and they can be independently deployed across different development environments.
  • Standardization — OpenLegacy provides a direct connection between SAP and JCO (Java connector). This eliminates the need for ESBs or SAP Gateway.

OpenLegacy vs. SAP NetWeaver Tools

 

OpenLegacy

SAP NetWeaver Tools

SAP version prerequisite

No prerequisite

SAP Gateway requires a minimum version of 7.4. For many users, this means an upgrade is necessary.

Installation

No special expertise or tools needed

Requires BASIS expertise and installation of a set of SAP Gateway tools

Angular HTML5

Quick and easy to generate Angular HTML from BAPIs (standard or custom)

No support

OData

Easy and fast to generate with a few simple steps

Numerous steps through SAP NetWeaver Gateway; takes specialized ABAP developers

Standard REST

Fully supported

No support

API version control

Fully supported

No support

Orchestration with non-SAP resources

Fully supported

No support

Container support for cloud development

Fully supported

No support

As you can see, the OpenLegacy platform gives you a fast, easy, hassle-free alternative that will enable you to expose your SAP business application and processes to the digital world with ease. Apart from the capabilities covered in the table above, OpenLegacy SAP connector also offers the following capabilities:

  • Supports all SAP data types
  • Supports all RFC parameters - Import, Export, Changing
  • ABAP Functions are read as metadata into XML
  • Automatically generates the XML to standard Java

Why do organizations integrate SAP into their system

To better understand the impact the OpenLegacy integration platform can have on your business, here are a few case studies that show how our clients overcame the SAP integration challenge and accelerated their digital transformation.

Exposing APIs

Bezeq Telecom relied on a major portal that thousands of employees used for all HR-related activities. The trouble was, the portal was developed in .NET and didn’t provide the most up-to-date functionality. Developing new features took months and required several dedicated development teams.

Bezeq solved this problem by embracing microservices and microservice-based APIs. This allowed the company to keep the backbone of its legacy system, eliminating any learning curve that new middleware would require.

If you’re concerned about expensive middleware or proprietary software, here’s how Bezeq developed 8 REST APIs on top of SAP in three days and modernized its major portal.

Rapidly embracing innovations is crucial if you want to stay competitive in today’s digital business world. An Indian conglomerate wanted to modernize its SAP backend and accelerate the digital transformation. Their goals were engaging clients, adding new business capabilities, and exposing legacy backend user interfaces in newer environments such as web, mobile, and cloud.

OpenLegacy generated Java APIs from SAP BAPIs and exposed them as microservices. The platform created a fully functional, responsive web and mobile application within minutes. Here’s how an Indian conglomerate used OpenLegacy to expose SAP backend applications for use in new digital channels in minutes, instead of months.

Connecting to other back end systems

A leading Indian manufacturer relies on multiple manufacturing plants, each home to dozens of machines of various types. Every machine is equipped with multiple sensors tracking multiple data points and supplying event data every 2-3 seconds. The data is saved in each machine’s database, in a proprietary manufacturer format. Then, each machine transfers data to the central Oracle databases.

The process did work, but it lacked error reporting and handling — a feature that’s crucial for efficiency and the company's bottom line. The company used OpenLegacy's platform to automatically generate microservice-based APIs that encapsulated the processes of transferring data between the machines and the central Oracle database.

This resulted in earlier error detection, leading to improved performance and cost savings. See how the company leveraged the OpenLegacy platform to improve performance with real-time error tracking.

Creating APIs in a highly regulated environment

A leading investment advisory financial group in Mexico, with billions of dollars under management, grew rapidly and doubled in size in the past ten years. As the company grew, the process of signing up new customers has been increasingly difficult and time-consuming.

Newer regulatory requirements in Latin America practically forced financial institutions to collect a wealth of information from every new prospect. This information frequently amounts to dozens of pages, including both data fields and scanned documents. After collecting the data, the financial institution distributes the information to government agencies and regulatory institutes for review.

The company’s technology stack made this process extremely cumbersome and time-consuming. Their customer database — SAP CRM interacting with IBM System i (AS/400) — does not integrate with other applications. Customer data had to be manually copied and sent to applications and institutions needing access.

OpenLegacy allowed the company to streamline the customer onboarding process. With our platform, a simple API took 15 minutes to create, while the more complex transactions took less than a week to fully implement.

See how a leading investment advisory group used OpenLegacy to create APIs on top of SAP CRM and IBM System and speed up customer onboarding by three times.

References

Topics: SAP, API