Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cloud Computing, EDI and SAP Information Interchange

The SAP Information Interchange (SII) is a big step forward into the cloud computing arena for SAP. All of the components of this service including managed services, EDI infrastructure, servers, connectivity, data mappings, standards support and helpdesk reside in the cloud. As a hub this makes perfect sense. Unlike legacy EDI systems that are located inside the IT infrastructure of one just one specific SAP customer, this solution operates in the cloud for the entire community of SAP users.

Let's consider five SAP customers. In a traditional EDI model, each of the five SAP customers would need to fund and implement their own legacy EDI system, purchase servers, plus hire EDI experts to start long multi-year trading partner implementation projects. Today with SII none of the SAP customers would need to invest in EDI infrastructure, servers or hire additional resources.

When electricity first became important to manufacturing, all factories purchased and installed their own electrical generating power plants. However, once this utility was available on the street out front, they simply connected to the service as it was an ideal "shared service" and the costs of building, operating and maintaining the infrastructure could be shared by the community. I see the SAP Information Interchange in much the same way today.

Cloud computing is perfect in a B2B scenario. It is the SAP community's SSC (shared service center) for EDI/B2B. Costs are lowered, reusability across the community is emphasized, and the support systems are set up to provide services to the entire community for less than companies could operate and support it internally.

All trading partners are registered and their unique maps and data formats are set-up once and loaded into a repository for reuse by other members of the SII hub. Integration with SAP can be standardized as far as possible, and custom integrations can be documented and stored for reuse by other hub members.

SII is a good example of the value of a solution in a cloud computing environment. Everyone in EDI agrees it is a good idea to reuse maps and integration scripts when possible. Everyone agrees it is good to capture efficiencies and lower costs. Everyone agrees that utilizing standards in as many areas as possible increases efficiencies. Everyone agrees that making EDI implementations faster is a good thing. SII is a good start in this direction.

Author: Kevin Benedict
Principal Consultant/Founder
SAP EDI, Mobile Enterprise Computing and Web 2.0 Marketing Consultant
Netcentric Strategies LLC

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