What exactly is the exchange infrastructure?
An exchange infrastructure is one of the key elements of mySAP Technology.
Together with the portal infrastructure, it creates a platform that unifies
people, information, and business processes across even the most heterogeneous
IT environments. The idea is that once you add an exchange infrastructure
to your existing IT landscape, you can combine the capabilities of virtually
all your existing IT systems — be they SAP or not — in a seamless
Q. Why is this better than existing process integration technologies?
The traditional approach toward integration takes two systems and puts
a connection in between those systems. In this way, companies have created
IT environments that are integrated at a high price: the complexity of
all the 1:1 connections and the costs of setting them up and maintaining
them locks companies in. With the exchange infrastructure, you just integrate
each system once to a central hub. The exchange then controls the process
flow across all connected systems. So, the exchange infrastructure renders
that mass of connections obsolete. In its place, you’ve got a much
neater, cleaner picture — and one that is far more efficient, effective,
Q. But so many customers have made huge investments in existing inter-system
connections. Are you suggesting they scrap those investments?
No, on the contrary — we actively advise customers to embrace this
new integration platform in an evolutionary, not revolutionary, way. (Personally,
I subscribe to the maxim “If it’s not broken, don’t fix
it.”) If you’re interested in implementing the exchange infrastructure,
we suggest you start by using it in conjunction with a new, collaborative
process, such as mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), and leave
existing integration as is.
Q. How is SAP delivering the exchange infrastructure to its customers?
First, all mySAP.com solutions will be based on the exchange infrastructure.
So the software components that are contained in a solution come already
integrated using the exchange infrastructure. Second, SAP solutions such
as mySAP Supplier Relationship Management and mySAP CRM E-Selling can
leverage the exchange infrastructure to also bring suppliers’ and
customers’ systems into the equation. Companies have understood that
integrating systems of suppliers, customers, and business partners help
unlock the value that is currently buried within business boundaries.
Q. What would be a good analogy around the exchange infrastructure?
It’s not unlike an integrated home entertainment center. Imagine
yourself on your couch at home, loaded with individual remote controls
— one for your TV, one for your DVD player, for your VCR, your amplifier,
and so on. What you really want is a universal remote, right? Well, that’s
effectively what we did with SAP Portals, we’ve created our own universal
remote — the portal. Click through all its offerings and you see
information from your SRM, SCM, CRM, PLM, and ERP systems, from your legacy
systems, as well as the content that is pulled from both your Business
Intelligence systems and the Internet. Now imagine walking behind your
home entertainment center and seeing all the various wires neatly snapped
into the central amplifier. That amplifier is the exchange infrastructure.
The systems don’t have to be connected to each other, only to the
Of course, this analogy has its limits
— the exchange infrastructure is about a lot more than just standards-based
connections. It operates at the highest application layers, too; it actually
maps the semantics of one system’s application to those of another
and drives a business process across all systems involved.
Q. What’s the urgency? If a customer’s integration efforts
are not “broken,” why rush to embrace the exchange infrastructure?
In today’s competitive arena, you soon won’t have much choice.
Information and processes need to flow as efficiently as possible across
both your enterprise and those of your customers and suppliers. A highly
integrated value chain is far more efficient, cost-effective, and defensible
than one that is not. Companies within a value chain strive at improving
their collaborative capabilities to gain a competitive advantage. Any
competitor that is looking to copy or improve upon what you deliver —
whether in terms of quality, functionality, price, or delivery time —
now not only has to replicate the individual strengths of all the members
of your value chain, but also its total collaborative capabilities. And
a tight-knit value chain doesn’t just form a good defensive posture,
it creates a powerful offensive stance.