Today in a company, there exist pools of legacy systems processing data and having dependency on each other. Hence, it is almost impractical to even think of removing those systems. Large amount of crucial data is processed by these systems in traditional ways.

In SAP systems, the Intermediate Documents (IDOCs), Business API’s BAPI are standard mode of data exchange. Non-SAP systems also use numerous proprietary approaches to share information. Altering with these complex systems means putting your head in crocodile jaws.

To handle with such complexities SAP introduced Process Integration (PI) a platform to provide a single point of integration for all systems without touching existing complex network of legacy systems.

SAP Process Integration (SAP PI) formerly called SAP Exchange Infrastructure (SAP XI) is an integration platform to provide a single point of integration or all systems. This is a powerful middleware by SAP to provide seamless end to end integration between SAP and Non-SAP applications inside and outside the corporate boundary.

SAP PI supports B2B (Business to Business) as well as A2A (Application to Application) exchanges, supports Synchronous and Asynchronous message exchange and includes a built in engine for designing and executing Integration Processes.

You will have a glance at SAP PI integration perspective for various types of integrations but before that I would like to give you a high level architectural overview of SAP PI.

SAP PI Architecture Overview
The PI is not a single component, but rather a collection of components that work together flexibly to implement integration scenarios. The architecture includes components to be used at design time, at configuration time and at run time.
PI components includes

System Landscape Directory
The SLD is a central repository of information about software and systems in data center and simplifies the administration of your system landscape. The SLD server contains component information, a landscape description and a name reservation which are based on the Common Information Model. The component description provides information about all available SAP software modules. The SLD is a server application that communicates with a client application by using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

Integration Builder
Integration Builder is a client-server framework for accessing and editing integration objects. Integration Builder is a toolset which contains two related tools for accessing and editing integration objects.

  1. Integration Repository: This tool of Integration Builder provides you an environment to design develop and maintain data types, message structures, interfaces, mappings, integration processes and integration scenarios independently of system landscape. These objects are stored in the Integration Repository and are associated with software component versions that belong to a product that is to be shipped.
  2. Integration Directory:The ID is tool which provides environment for configuring scenarios from Integration Repository. With help of ID we can define and maintain specification of potential senders and receivers of messages, description of their technical options for exchanging messages and specifications of routing rules for exchanging messages.

Integration Server
This is central processing engine of the PI.All messages whether SAP or non-SAP, A2A or B2B, regardless of backend technology or vendor, are processed in a consistent way.

Central Monitoring
The central monitoring of SAP Process Integration offers you the option of executing various monitoring activities. Runtime Workbench is the central tool for accessing PI monitoring. The Runtime Workbench gives you the option of navigating to the monitoring functions of the Integration Engine, as well as integration with the Computing Center Management System (CCMS), and the Process Monitoring Infrastructure (PMI) of SAP.

Adapter Engine
Adapter Engine is used to connect the Integration Engine to SAP systems and other systems. Various adapters are used in the Adapter Engine to convert XML- and HTTP-based messages to the specific protocol and format required by these systems. These adapters are part of Adapter Framework which is based on the SAP J2EE Engine and the J2EE Connector Architecture (JCA). The Adapter Framework provides interfaces for configuration, management, and monitoring of adapters.

Message Processing Technique by PI
SAP PI is an efficient way for seamless integration of diverse SAP and Non-SAP applications within or outside the company premises. There are number of ways for application integration by PI but discussion of each is not possible here.
In this blog, I will give you generic information on one of the most common methods of SAP and Non-SAP applications integration. Yes, I am talking about IDOC to Flat File message processing. As we all know that SAP systems use Intermediate Documents to interact with other SAP systems, which is optimum and traditional way to access data between legacy systems. Number of companies does not afford to implement complex SAP technologies and rely on non-SAP technologies. But they really have to access data from SAP systems. SAP PI is solution for SAP and non-SAP integration.

Design
PI uses Integration Repository (IR) to design message structure for both involved systems and develop an interface message using corresponding message structures which act as a point of interaction for outer world. Message mapping tool allow developer to map attributes of both structure graphically to pass data using message interfaces. Graphical Mapping Technique is inbuilt method for mapping message structures using mapping string. It is really tractable to map attributes at click of mouse. JAVA Mapping, XSLT Mapping, ABAP Mappings can also be used for same.
Note: Metadata of RFC’s and IDOCs are to be imported under repository objects. With reference of these objects we can create message structures for SAP R/3 systems.

Configuration
After designing a scenario in repository, Integration Directory (ID) is used to configure technical parameters for objects created in IR. Here we can specify that Who are potential sender and receiver of messages?What should be technical and logical routing of messages?Which adapter should be used for processing?What is mode of data transfer?

Configuration and maintenance of IDOC Sender adapter and File Receiver adapter is done in ID.
Using IR and ID designing and configuration of scenario is complete. Now IDOC must be triggered from SAP system for message transfer to non-SAP system through PI.

Message Processing
SAP system uses its proprietary technique to trigger IDOCs and using IDOC adapter configured in PI. Once IDOC is successfully triggered from SAP system, it is PI who takes care for rest of the processing. PI converts this message into XML format for its internal processing. During this processing PI server checks for technical parameters for receiver of message like Who is receiver for message and to which interface message should be delivered?Which adapter receiver is using to process incoming message?

If structure and mapped attributes of sender and receiver message structure are same?
If all above conditions are true then PI process messages to receiver
in its required format. Here in our case receiver gets messages in Flat File format. So integration server finally converts XML message into flat file and deliver to receiver as last step of pipeline.

Message Monitoring
These processed messages can be monitored and traced using a tool called Run Time Workbench. Using this tool we can monitor Sender and Receiver adapters, Outgoing and Incoming messages, Error traces and End to End monitoring of complete scenario. Once this message is processed as an IDOC to Flat File through PI, now it is available for non-SAP systems. Which contains data form an SAP system for non-SAP systems which not tractable without using Process Integration.

By Nikhil Joshi (on behalf of SAP Consulting Team)


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