SAP middleware - SAP AIF

05 January 2015

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In our last blog post about SAP middleware we discussed the problems that complex mappings in PI can create. In this blog post we will discuss the SAP Application Interface Framework as one of the possible solutions to counter these problems. AIF is a separately licensed product based on SAP NetWeaver technology and can be implemented as an add-on based on SAP NetWeaver. With AIF we can streamline efficiency, provide better interface architecture, and reduce costs in interface implementation and monitoring.

AIF provides an interface implementation framework as well as a monitoring and error handling function in a single framework residing in the SAP application system. An integration scenario for AIF involves an SAP application system with AIF implemented and a legacy system, with or without PI as middleware system between them.

The system architecture graphic above shows AIF in detail in the SAP application system. In our example data is exchanged using IDocs through a PI system, but other ways of communication are also possible, like using the Proxy Framework.

In the customizing section of AIF the interfaces are implemented. Field and value mappings allow to map structures and fields from the source structure to the destination structure. Field values can be derived from single or multiple interdependent data sets. Also SQL statements, conversion exits and default values can be configured. For even more complex requirements, custom function modules can be used.

Checks can be implemented to verify the validity of the data. Upon failure of the check it’s possible to generate an error message or just exclude the current line from the message, not blocking the other information from being processed. Complex checks can be configured using custom function modules.

An Action is linked to a processing step of an interface in SAP AIF. An example of an Action is sending an IDoc message to the PI system for an outbound interface. Actions can also be used to invoke a post-processing step.

The greatest added value for AIF comes from the fact that business logic is put in the application system instead of in the middleware system. The technical and business aspects of interfaces are decoupled, thus enabling business users to perform monitoring and error handling.

While the typical PI user is a technical user, a typical AIF user is a business user or functional user. AIF provides a user-friendly monitoring tool which is role based and access to data can be restricted by customizable authorizations. These authorizations can be restricted on interface level and based on interface data (e.g. company code, employee group).

AIF enables business users to efficiently solve specific interface errors. When there is an error in the master data, the business user can change the contents of a field to correct the value and reprocess the interface. This kind of interface data changes can be restricted down to individual field level. When there is an error in the customizing (e.g. mapping of company code or employee group), the customizing can be corrected and the interface message can be reprocessed.

For the IT department AIF offers a framework for interface implementation which results in a simplified interface landscape and architecture. By an easy and efficient interface monitoring targeted at business users, the time for monitoring and error handling can be reduced. AIF will provide transparency, better governance and cost savings.

In our next blog post we will discuss the middleware of the next generation SAP Process Orchestration (PO).

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