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Enhance and Extend SAP Solutions with Best-in-Class IBM Enterprise Software

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Published on 13 October 2014

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IBM Form #: TIPS1218

Authors: Yaro Dunchych, Michael Love, Stefan Momma, Antonia Provost and Marcela Adan

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    SAP is a market leader in enterprise business application software. SAP solutions provide a rich set of composable application modules, and configurable functional capabilities which are expected from a comprehensive enterprise business application software suite. In most cases, companies that adopt SAP software remain heterogeneous enterprises running both SAP and non-SAP systems to support their business processes.

    This IBM® Redbooks® Soultion Guide explains the value of integrating IBM software with SAP solutions. It describes, at a high level, the IBM Reference Architecture for SAP which provides a blue print to guide solution architects through the enterprise transformation journey. The IBM Reference Architecture for SAP includes architecture patterns, requirements they satisfy, and product options and choices based on experience gained through thousands of client engagements and IBM internal transformation.

    For related information about this topic, refer to the IBM Redbooks publication IBM Software for SAP Solutions, SG24-8230.


    SAP is a well-established leader in the packaged applications market. The term packaged application typically refers to upscale enterprise software suites, such as ERP or CRM. In most cases, organizations that adopt SAP software remain heterogeneous enterprises. In heterogeneous enterprises, most SAP implementations must be integrated with various non-SAP enterprise systems, portals, messaging infrastructure, security, systems of record, systems of engagement, and so on.

    Organizations can enhance and extend pre-built capabilities in SAP software with best-in-class IBM enterprise software to maximize ROI in their SAP investment and achieve a balanced enterprise architecture approach. From an architecture perspective, the IBM strategy revolves around three types of systems as shown in Figure 1: Systems of record, systems of engagement, and systems of interaction.

    Figure 1. Systems of engagement, interaction, and record (Logical view)

    Did you know?

    SAP software, although ready-made, rarely comes ready to run. SAP adoption typically becomes an enterprise business transformation program. The SAP adoption typically takes six months to 10 years, and the average life span is five to 15 years.

    At some point after the initial implementation, the packaged applications need to be upgraded either for new functionality, or continuity of support. If the packaged application is heavily modified to meet the specific functional requirements of the organization, upgrade costs can be more than the initial implementation, making it a challenge to ever achieve a return on the investment.

    Business value

    SAP is a market leader in packaged applications. IBM is a market leader in enterprise software. IBM is also a market leader in the delivery of SAP projects. IBM enterprise software extends and increases the value of SAP-centric business transformation programs in multiple ways:

    • Achieve better business metrics

    • A global, cross-industry study of over 20,000 production SAP environments found that organizations consistently achieved better business results when they combined IBM and SAP solutions together. The following business metrics were measured in detail, and organizations who used the capabilities of both IBM and SAP achieved better results in every category:
      • Acquisition and merger sublimation speed
      • Agility (time-to-market)
      • Budget to actual expenditure compliance
      • Customer satisfaction
      • IT stability and reliability
      • Operational cost
      • Organizational viability
      • Overall expenses
      • Recoverability
      • Staffing level reduction
      • Strategic decision speed and management control

      IBM enterprise software perfectly balances SAP applications, and SAP applications perfectly balance IBM enterprise software solutions. By combining IBM and SAP capabilities, organizations can maximize their investment in SAP solutions while also ensuring flexibility and reliability at the same time. It is a proven model of efficiency that avoids many common interoperability and change challenges experienced through one or many other vendors.
    • Reduce business and I/T risk

    • Successful SAP adopters reduce business and I/T risk by combining the value of pre-built SAP integration within the SAP domain based on SAP middleware (integration you buy), also known as Inner Ring, with best-in-class IBM enterprise middleware for custom integration in the enterprise that needs to be developed for an SAP-centric transformation program (integration you build), also known as Outer Ring.
    • Accelerate SAP integration into a heterogeneous enterprise

    • IBM software provides a powerful set of pre-built enterprise-level capabilities that are pre-integrated with SAP systems, but are also integrated with non-SAP systems in the enterprise landscape, including systems built on open standards, cloud-based offerings, non-SAP packaged applications, and internally developed existing systems. Examples of this extensive set of IBM software capabilities include areas such as mobile technologies, smarter process, decision management, Enterprise Content Management (ECM), business analytics (BA), portal, master data management (MDM), application lifecycle management, security, and systems management. Paring these IBM software capabilities with SAP solutions in large-scale enterprise transformations, allows customers to accelerate the integration of SAP solutions into the heterogeneous enterprise environmentsand build an enterprise approach that is not restricted exclusively to SAP software.
    • Achieve business agility

    • SAP is rarely implemented with business agility in mind. Often the opposite takes place. Business agility allows organizations to implement frequent changes in business processes or business rules without changing the SAP solution and implement business processes underpinned by SAP data, but which are only partially met by the SAP solution or not realizable in the SAP system without extensive customization coding.
    • Reduce cost

    • IBM software reduces the cost of SAP-centric enterprise transformation by using the best-in-class tools depending on the type of optimization needed. For example, running a robust IBM application integration middleware systemwith market leading performance characteristics can lead to substantial cost savings by requiring less CPU and RAM resources to handle enterprise scale workloads when compared to less optimized middleware that might require more hardware resources.

    Solution overview

    The solution described in this IBM Redbooks Solution Guide is captured in the form of the IBM Reference Architecture for SAP. It provides a set of predefined architectures or patterns that are designed and proven for use in particular business and technical contexts. The overall goal of the IBM Reference Architecture for SAP is to establish a prescriptive blueprint that can be used as a template when designing solutions that include IBM software and SAP systems. It informs and guides technical professionals, architects, and decision makers who are responsible for designing solutions that include IBM software that must co-exist with SAP systems. The following are the key architectural goals:
    • Use standard, non-customized SAP applications

    • One of the primary business drivers for adopting a packaged ERP solution such as SAP is the business value achieved from using pre-built, ready for use components. Configuration changes can be made with minimal effort and in a version-safe manner. However, custom development can require more effort and takes away from the value provided from a packaged application. Even modest customizations can lead to a chain of dependencies that inhibit taking advantage of new features and functions in SAP software, or upgrading SAP software cost effectively in the future.
    • Reuse pre-built SAP integration

    • Even organizations with significant alignment with SAP rarely use SAP for more than 60% of their total business automation needs, according to IBM practitioners with extensive experience in SAP projects. This fact makes the enterprise integration of large-scale SAP implementations a key success factor of the overall SAP transformation program. The goal of the reference architecture is to provide a blueprint for using market-leading IBM technology for large-scale SAP integration into the enterprise.
    • Use best-in-class technologies when extending beyond the SAP domain

    • In cases where data or processes need to extend outside of SAP, use industry-leading, application-independent software technology. IBM software portfolio is unique in the industry when it comes to providing a comprehensive selection of middleware system technology to complement SAP systems in heterogeneous environments. IBM software provides organizations with consistency, scalability, reliability, flexibility, and asset reuse for the application software infrastructure needs across all application domains throughout the enterprise.
    • Use open, well-established standards

    • Standards-based implementation of integration logic greatly reduces the chance of vendor lock-in. It also increases the availability of tools that easily connect with the solution and provide support for development, monitoring, and testing.
    • Use pre-built software capabilities provided by IBM

    • In many cases, IBM software provides enterprise capabilities that are more robust than the corresponding capabilities in SAP software,such as Business Process Management, MobileFirst, Enterprise Integration, DevOps, and Enterprise Content Management. IBM Software enables organizations to enhance and extend existing SAP capabilities into a heterogeneous enterprise environment, such as Business Analytics and Cognitive Computing. In other cases, IBM Software capabilities do not exist in SAP systems. A key point is that IBM Software excels when adding SAP systems to a heterogeneous enterprise as another service provider.

    Solution architecture

    Figure 2 shows a services view of the IBM Reference Architecture for SAP.

    Figure 2. IBM Reference Architecture for SAP (Services view)
    • Business architecture is the primary link between business and IT. Business architecture defines artifacts, standards, and principles that are used as a trusted source by executives, architects, and developers to align enterprise initiatives and solution content with business strategy.
    • Information architecture provides guidance, templates, and reusable artifacts and information services from which to build information deliverables for a specific enterprise solution. The information architecture is composed of enterprise information model, trusted data sources, and enterprise information services, including Master Data Management, Enterprise Content Management, and Business Analytics. It defines the business objects, processes, and data, and establishes their inter-relationships at different abstraction levels.
    • Application architecture: The heterogeneous enterprise includes SAP and different types of non-SAP applications.

    Figure 3 shows an application integration view of the IBM Reference Architecture for SAP based on two federated technology domains, also known as rings.

    Figure 3. IBM Reference Architecture for SAP - Inner Ring/Outer Ring Architecture

    The Inner Ring is the SAP technology domain and includes applications, technology, and integration purchased from SAP and SAP business partners. The Reference Architecture is designed to encourage the use of SAP middleware tools and technology within the Inner Ring, but use robust application-independent technology whenever data or processes move into the Outer Ring. In this way, SAP customers can achieve optimal efficiency, maximum flexibility, high reliability, and the least amount of risk during large-scale transformation projects.

    The Outer Ring represents the entire technology domain outside the cluster of SAP applications. The Outer Ring includes olderapplications, packaged applications from software vendors other than SAP, non-SAP applications hosted in the cloud, and all other shared software infrastructure system technology.

    The key to the Outer Ring is the reuse of common, enterprise-class, application-independent, software infrastructure across the heterogeneous IT landscape. IBM provides the best channel to building this layer of consistency, resiliency, and flexibility of software infrastructure, rather than acquiring the various software components from different vendors, and dealing with incompatibility issues.

    Usage scenarios

    Many usage scenarios demonstrate the value of extending SAP core business functionality with IBM software. For a representative list of usage scenarios, see IBM Software for SAP Solutions at This section provides only one example based on SAP archiving and IBM Enterprise Content Management for SAP.

    The core use case for ECM is a document-centric view on information, focused on the need for unified and immediate access to all information relating to business transactions that are represented in the SAP system. IBM extends the core capabilities of SAP to handle documents through their ArchiveLink and Content Server interfaces. This extension provides significant extra business value, with a strong focus on information integration between SAP and non-SAP systems in typical heterogeneous IT landscapes. This information comes in a wide variety of forms of documents, and originates from various sources within and outside of the SAP system.

    Along the dimension of the information source, documents can be classified as:
    • Inbound documents, referring to all documents that originate from outside the SAP system, such as purchase orders, invoices, and all kinds of written inbound correspondence, resumés, and legal documents.
    • Outbound documents such as business reports, outgoing correspondence, and pay slips.

    All these types of documents are typically a part of SAP workflows, where transparent access to the documents for decision making, approval processes, and other core business tasks is needed. At the same time, many of these documents also play an important role in non-SAP contexts, and a federated view of them is a core requirement. Most of these documents are also subject to strict rules and regulations regarding their lifecycle, ensuring auditability of all business processes and the fulfillment of information requests during litigation. For both these reasons, the document-centric view on enterprise information requires that information is integrated and federated between SAP-centric information and information originating and residing elsewhere in the enterprise IT landscape. This federation and integration aspect extends significantly beyond the core capabilities of SAP document archiving. The IBM Enterprise Content Management product portfolio supports complex scenarios from end-to-end starting with capture and following through the entire lifecycle with these solution elements, among others:
    • Capturing of inbound documents that arrive in paper, multi-function device (MFD), email, and fax form is handled by IBM Datacap Taskmaster Capture, equipped with state-of-the-art adaptive document recognition technology. The ability to efficiently turn paper records into digital form by scanning and making them available to SAP systems as an incoming document is a key ingredient in any initiative for reducing manual paper processing. IBM Datacap captures, manages, and integrates enterprise content while extracting critical business content such as invoice line items, bypassing costly and error-prone manual data entry. IBM Datacap offerings include easy to use customization with high-volume document capture.
    • Linking the captured documents, and archiving them through the SAP ArchiveLink interface is handled by IBM Content Collector for SAP Applications. The documents are stored securely in the IBM ECM content repositories such as IBM FileNet Content Manager, IBM Content Manager Enterprise Edition, or IBM Content Manager OnDemand. Outbound documents, such as business reports and payroll information, are handled in the same manner and archived for future reference. The content repositories have powerful capabilities that can handle high volumes of documents efficiently, organize them in hierarchical structures that match business organization hierarchies, support document versioning and annotations as well as complex metadata from SAP and other sources, and allow for powerful search capabilities.
    • The content repositories such as IBM FileNet Content Manager also supply powerful and flexible mechanisms for handling document retention and legal holds, covering the crucial lifecycle management needs of the organization. These cover both the SAP and the non-SAP environments with common sets of rules.
    • Flexible and efficient access to documents in the archives is provided by the IBM ECM integration platform of IBM Content Navigator, a ready-to-use, modern, standards-based user interface that supports all content management use cases, including flexible viewing technology for a various document formats, collaborative document management, production imaging, and report management. IBM Content Navigator is also a flexible and powerful user platform for building custom ECM applications by using open web-based standards.

    Application Example 1

    An Accounts Payable solution can serve as a comprehensive example for the combination of most of the capabilities in the IBM ECM portfolio, as illustrated in Figure 4:
    1. IBM Datacap captures invoice data, and automatically reconciles it against purchase order data already in the SAP system.
    2. IBM Content Collector for SAP Applications processes the captured documents, stores them in the content repository, such as IBM FileNet Content Manager, and ensures linking to the relevant SAP business objects using SAP ArchiveLink protocol.
    3. Viewing requests for the archived documents during the approval process for the invoice can either be serviced within the SAP GUI or by using the IBM Content Navigator web UI.

    Figure 4. Generic components of an integrated process management

    Application Example 2

    An integrated SAP Human Resources solution can also use IBM Datacap for capturing all relevant documents, such as application letters, resumés, social security documents, and work contracts, and store them in the required hierarchical folder structure inside SAP. This folder structure can then be mirrored in a corresponding, automatically synchronized folder structure on the content repository side. HR personnel can then operate inside the SAP system through the SAP GUI, or outside using IBM Content Navigator to run document search and retrieval as well as triggering of HR-related workflows. In all cases, a unified common view on the complete HR information is maintained.


    Figure 5 shows an architecture overview of the enterprise integration services components.

    Figure 5. Enterprise integration reference architecture

    Several components make up the enterprise integration services architecture:
    • Enterprise service bus (ESB)
    • Extract, transform, and load (ETL)
    • Service governance
    • Reliable File Transfer (RFT)
    • Process services
    • Logging and error handling

    These components work together to provide the capabilities required to connect SAP with non-SAP applications within the enterprise, business partners, and cloud-based applications.

    The ESB component is responsible for providing connectivity and integration logic for transactional interfaces. The primary function of the ESB is to decouple and isolate the application end-points from one another, increasing the flexibility of the system and reducing the overall cost of integration.

    ETL is a term used broadly to refer to the activities required to move large volumes of data between systems in batches. In the context of enterprise integration services, the ETL component is responsible for providing connectivity and integration logic for batch-oriented interfaces for ongoing integration (as opposed to initial data load or conversion activities). ETL technologies are built to efficiently process very large sets of data with internal staging of the data and parallel processing.

    Service governance includes two major aspects: Service lifecycle management and service run time.

    RFT technology provides central configuration and setup, centralized logging and monitoring of all file transfers, and a standard solution with established quality of service (QoS) characteristics for implementing file transfers within the enterprise.

    Process services are technical integration processes that provide advanced integration logic beyond the typical mediation that is provided by ESB components. Process services are typically implemented on a Business Process Management system.

    Related information

    For more information, see the following documents:


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