New LRS Interface for SAP Cloud Solution
It’s been a while since my last Blog article, so I thought I would put pen to paper again to break some news regarding LRS solutions for SAP printing.
As many of our readers are aware, LRS has been certified for the SAP BC-XOM Interface for many years now. Enterprises that run SAP are some of our largest and most demanding customers, as they generally have many time-sensitive print jobs that directly affect their business processes.
LRS’s VPSX software is highly regarded in the SAP customer community, as it allows such enterprises to improve critical business processes that rely on print. Recent LRS enhancements have further improved value, and customers can use VPSX software to centrally define SAP printers across their entire SAP Landscape, significantly reducing the time SAP Basis administrators have to spend on print-related tasks. Together with the standard LRS benefits like device independence, just-in-time formatting, and help desk empowerment, our new SAP print management capabilities have led to the adoption of VPSX software across all major industry sectors and computing platforms on six continents.
But it is no time to rest on our laurels. SAP is moving forward with new offerings in new environments, and one of these is their solution that runs in the public cloud. As always, we strive to keep pace with important changes like these.
Up until now, LRS’s SAP integration has relied on the SAP ABAP stack, which has the SAP SPOOL component to interact through BC-XOM with SAP systems. However, SAP public cloud offerings don’t have SAP ABAP; they only support SAP Java stacks, and therefore have no SAP spool. Which means there is no BC-XOM interface available for LRS software to communicate with the SAP infrastructure.
SAP has therefore released an interface called S4HC-ES-PRINT-OMS. Along with its two communication scenarios (0466 and 0467), this interface allows external EOM (Enterprise Output Management) systems to interface with SAP Java Stack-only systems in the cloud.
In the past, LRS did not see its traditional customers using SAP public cloud offerings, as they generally preferred an “any-premise” private cloud solution. However, rapid response requirements and the availability of new solutions in SAP’s public cloud have changed this radically, as have constant pressures to improve RAS (Reliability Availability and Service). Accordingly, many Enterprise customers now have SAP public cloud solutions as a part of their SAP landscape, so LRS needed to take action.
One important detail: when discussing these SAP cloud solutions, we are not simply talking about S/4 HANA (ES) (Essentials), but also SAP DMC (Digital Manufacturing Cloud), which is the “cloud” version of SAP ME (Manufacturing Execution).
We are also asking SAP if we can extend use of this interface to standard on-premise SAP ME systems as well. Why? Because the current on-premise solution forces use of a CUPS system on each SAP MES system for printing. Many of our customers do not wish to run CUPS instances for obvious reasons.
The News You’ve Been Waiting For
The good news is that LRS will soon offer a new licensed product that will be certified for S4HC-ES-PRINT-OMS, and that solution should service both 0466 and 0467 communication scenarios. We hope to begin beta testing in August of this year with an existing customer who has expressed interest. Going forward, we will also consider requests from other companies who want to join the beta, especially if they are using or intending to use SAP DMC.
So what is the difference between communication scenario 0466 and 0467?
In essence, the 0466 scenario is a polling set up. The customer will need to install our SCP0466 feature on top of their existing VPSX system, and a Windows service will be created that “polls” the SAP public cloud API end point every 5 seconds. If data exists on the “Queues” that have been associated with the specified communications user, then that data will be downloaded.
When using the 0467 scenario, SAP will send a request to a customer-specified endpoint (usually the VPSX server) whenever new print is available on a queue for a specified communication user. In this case, our customer will set up our SAP0467 feature on top of an existing VPSX installation. This SAP0467 feature monitors the Internet for those incoming notifications from the SAP public cloud and then quickly collects the output when requested. Most customers will likely use a reverse proxy to realize this connectivity.
The print downloads are optimized through use of the multiple item transfer API. This gives optimal throughput, especially if you are using many print queues, have large print jobs, or have many time-critical small print jobs (as is likely in SAP DMC systems). Fortunately, I can confirm that a single system can make many hundreds of jobs per minute available for printing.
Regarding performance, it is not best practice to use a single queue for both small, very urgent print jobs and huge, non-urgent print jobs. Rather, you should use two separate logical queues if you need to do that and utilize our “Hold” facility, so you can manually schedule those large jobs.
At the moment, the metadata our solution receives from SAP is a bit “thin”. This will, of course, improve over time, but even at these early stages it is possible to request finishing options through queue attributes. For example, you can force monochrome, staple/punch, duplex, simplex, and media selection by use of LRS’s “filter” technology, which allows us to insert manufacturer-specific PJL statements into the print stream at PRINT time. This considerably reduces the complexity of the solution, as standard print queues can be used rather than separate print queues for each different printer manufacturer. We are also able (through injecting additional metadata at print submission time) to fully enable Enterprise VPSX features like pull printing by dynamically adding the required user information to print jobs.
What output formats can be expected from SAP cloud? Well, the usual PDLs that ADS can create. These include PDF, CAB, Datamax, HP PCL 5e, HP PS, PCL 5c , PCL 5e , Intermec, Lexmark T644 PCL 5e, Lexmark T644 PS, PostScript 2,PostScript 3, Toshiba , XMLDATA, and Zebra. All of these PDL’s can be passed directly to appropriate printers to print. Filters and LRS Transforms can be used to adapt the output. Additionally, SAP can produce PDLs with attachments; these can be in a variety of formats but are generally not print-ready (except for PDF). Examples include Microsoft Office Documents like file types PPTX, DOCX, and XLSX. VPSX customers can of course print these documents as well, provided they have a license for Mobile Connector.
Finally, and at the customer’s discretion, the customer can choose to pass feedback about the status of the print job back to the SAP cloud system. At present, four basic choices are available:
- No feedback
- Simple acknowledgement that data has been received on the spool
- ONLY permanent status feedback
- All available status feedback
It will be interesting to see if customers have environments where there is value in passing feedback to the cloud front end.
I am looking forward to working with our first beta customers, as it is their feedback and help that really unlocks the full potential of our software. My own testing has shown that the solution is highly performant and very stable, and the functionality offered should be exactly what is required for our customers to address their business challenges. Let’s see what else we can learn during the beta period.
LRS will also announce, via press release and on our website, when the new product is certified and generally available. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us if you wish to join the beta by emailing us firstname.lastname@example.org. Going forward, this solution will automatically be available to all LRS Managed Service offerings as well. It’s an exciting time for enterprise cloud computing, that’s for sure.