XI provides a fertile ground for providing added value and to improve end-to-end integration process. Development for the enhancements of the integration software is still in an adolescent stage. The opportunity to provide software by independent software vendors is just starting.
XI, as an integral component of SAP NetWeaver, already provides a large customer base consisting of existing SAP customers worldwide. In addition, XI is a serious and very strong competitor in the integration arena for non-SAP to non-SAP B2B and A2A scenarios in companies without any existing SAP products.
Below are the primary areas where SAP partners can enhance the usage of XI:
- J2EE Adapter:Like most integration products, XI uses XML standards to process the messages. However, most data are not stored in XML format. This is why XI comes with a set of technical adapters, e.g. file, jdbc, jms, to handle the non-XML data. These technical adapters convert those external data in their native format into XML and vice versa. The technical adapters from SAP only cover a very small set of data formats being used. The vast majority of data structures remain "unconvertible". This is reason why many companies use an interim/intermediate data format to integrate with XI. such as file or database. This is not very efficient and, sometimes, error-prone and security-risky, and also increases production support and monitoring complexity.
However, if an adapter is available to natively work with those external data structures and formats, this will increase significantly the development, support and maintenance of the integration process. Currently, the integration of the many external data in its native format is still vastly untapped.
SAP’s J2EE adapter, which abides by JCA 1.5 standard, can be developed using the SAP Adapter Framework (AFW). The AFW includes libraries to easily incorporate message processing into the existing XI environment, which includes message management, monitoring, alerting, configuration, persistency, etc.
- Application Content:In an integration project, probably 90% of the time is spent in the Integration Repository, defining data structures, interfaces and, especially, mappings.
If these repository objects are available, then significant time and resources can be saved, thereby, decreasing the project implementation time and cost.
Once the repository objects are developed, they can be imported into the Integration Repository and used. Modifications can easily be done to customize special company requirements.
Today, much of development in the repository involves the integration of standard external interfaces (e.g. EDI) to IDoc and vice versa. There are still a vast number of structures with interfaces which are still being developed individually by each company.
- J2EE Adapter User-Modules:User-modules are java programs which are executed in the J2EE adapter, very similar to user-exits. Consequently, these user-modules can be used by any J2EE adapter through configuration in the Integration Directory.
User-modules have been used to perform encryption/decryption of data, and transformation of data before/after the data is sent to/from the XI server.
User-module can process messages generically in the J2EE adapter, meaning that it can be used by any adapter. Therefore, it can be extremely flexible.
User-modules can be developed to handle a variety of situations currently not available with standard J2EE adapters.
- Integration Add-On for non-SAP software:All companies use non-SAP software, and the integration of the software to XI may not be suitably handled by developing new J2EE adapters or user-modules. It might be easier and more efficient to provide an add-on within the non-SAP software to integrate with XI. The integration might be incorporated as part of the usage of the software. The add-on provides a direct, behind-the-scene integration to XI.
These integration add-ons might be webservices, which send specific data to XI to be integrated to SAP or other application/systems. Along with the add-on, there might be application contents required, e.g. defining the interfaces for the webservices and mapping/transformation programs.