SAP solutions in the API-driven economy
Posted by Joakim Löves on 23/11/2022 09:23
In the modern business environment APIs play a key role even for those enterprises which are not within IT-sector. As Google states, "APIs are core to a successful digital transformation" (Apigee) . Forbes also refers to APIs as "the most critical technology component for business innovation" (Forbes), because it allows to establish an easy connection between partners so that partners can make innovations on the top of company's product.
SAP has a set of different technologies related to APIs. For those who are not familiar with SAP portfolio, such names as Cloud Integration, API Management, API Business Hub, OData APIs can create a certain level of confusion. We will try to bring some clarification to this confusion and show how SAP solutions fit into the API-driven economy.
OData is a protocol for creating and consuming RESTful APIs. OData APIs can be exposed from SAP core products such as S4Hana, SuccessFactors, or older ECC, CRM systems. If an organization would like to expose some functionality from, for example, S4Hana it can reuse standard OData APIs or develop custom OData APIs. These APIs are often exposed through Gateway and Cloud Connector for external partners.
So if S4Hana comes with standard OData APIs and possibility for custom OData APIs, why would any organization need any other solution, like Integration Suite? The answer is the nature of scenario. Typical use-case for OData APIs exposed through Gateway+Cloud Connector is user-centric scenarios when users want to access SAP from their mobile devices or web applications, Fiori apps.
But if a company wants more, then SAP Integration Suite (and Cloud Integration which is a part of it) can be purchased. The lightest option available here is Integration Suite Basic edition. SAP Integration Suite is a middleware in cloud, and it also allows to expose REST APIs to external parties. So why should companies choose Integration Suite on top of S4Hana? It can be suitable in following cases:
- any A2A\B2B\B2G scenario when a company wants to orchestrate\connect multiple systems\applications\partners;
- when APIs exposed from S4Hana cannot be just consumed by external systems\partners but need to be mapped to those external structures;
- when a company wants to achieve asynchronous communication between systems\partners (by using for example event queues);
- when a company wants to have better monitoring and logging of all messages flying between parties
There is another SAP product called API Management which can be purchased as a part of Integration Suite Standard (or Premium) Edition. A company will need API Management in order to:
- introduce more or less level of security to exposed APIs. API Management is much more flexible when it comes to authentication mechanisms. For example, some of APIs can be exposed as webhooks without authentication (which is not an easy task by using Cloud Integration alone). Or in contrast more restrictions can be applied to API - such as limitations to maximum number of calls, to allowed IP-addresses etc, this will help to prevent abuse of company's APIs
- monitor and analyze APIs. This will help to understand if some APIs are used too rare and maybe should be deprecated
- apply extra policies to APIs. For example, configuration of CORS mechanism.
- monetize APIs
API Business Hub is an online repository of business processes, pre-packaged integration content, standard APIs and others. It is available here: https://api.sap.com/ with no requirement to purchase anything. It is possible to use it as a reference, for example for finding standard S4Hana APIs there, reading documentation, or importing pre-packaged content.
text: Artur Latifov, S5 Consulting