Are you puzzled about all of the acronyms starting with B1i… around the overall B1i-platform having read / heard about elsewhere? Why not having a single and simple product to be used for integration that fits the needs? Well, the answer is, the needs are that distinct that a single product would not fit all of them in a good way – unless it would be a very complex product (and therefore hard to use). That answers why we have a B1iSN, a B1if and a B1BC (what these products are can be read in other articles within this blog site) and whatever else the future will bring.
So, anyone of you uses the product of his choice, but sticking our heads together, no one seems to use B1iP?! Well, this is right and wrong: Anyone of us uses it, but it’s the question whether we’re aware of it, as the “usage” is more or less quite indirect only: B1iP is the technical “puzzle-part” found in any of our well-known “real” products. But what’s so special in this fact so that such a puzzle-part is exposed in such a way to give it an own name (B1iP) instead of keeping it as an anonymous functionality? It’s because of the fact that this B1iP is the defined technical basis for all of these products, thereby making all these products sitting on top of this common platform an overall product-family. Compare this with the automotive industry: A particular brand (or even a couple of brands – see Volkswagen / Seat / Skoda) offers you quite distinct cars basing on the very same technical basis (e.g. underbody, engines, …): Who had believed that Jimbo’s fancy BMW Z3 in the film “Goldeneye” has the same technical basis as a rock-solid BMW E36 Compact? – It’s all about perception …
Whereas marketing has to build the “right” perception in the audience for such an approach, this approach has to offer some real advantages: It leverages a maximum of synergy, progress and quality: A vendor using such a platform approach is not urged to “re-invent the wheel” again and again due to re-use; as a consequence, the time and effort can be spent to bring in new features everybody benefits from. Also, the overall quality and maturity can be brought to its highest level, as the platform proofs itself at many places. At the end of the day, another important aspect of that approach is the improvement in the area of supportability and knowledge transfer: It’s easier / more promising for a guy to know only one engine well than many engines only halfway. Even that you (probably) don’t “touch” B1iP itself (as you also wouldn’t do with your car’s engine – consider myself as an exception here), it’s still of interest to look a bit behind the scenes in order to understand what it means and therefore to figure out what can be done with it (and what not).
Comparing B1iP with the things existing in the “SAP parallel-universe”, it can be said that it is pretty comparable to the R/3 basis-system that sits underneath of all the SAP Suite solutions (SAP ERP, SAP CRM), SAP Business All-in-One and SAP ByDesign (… don’t ask me about further details, as I’m not an insider here!): It e.g. deals about the overall execution control, handles the database, handles the data-transfer to the outside world, hosts the applications and their configuration, provides parallel processing, allows to monitor of what’s going on and provides a programming environment distinct from all of the things you’d be aware of so far (be it Java, C#, VB, …): As the programming language “Abap” is the new sphere of an R/3 basis, so these “BizFlow’s” and “IPO-Steps” are the sphere offered by B1iP: Kiss the other way of programming goodbye, but in turn be empowered to do things you’d not been able to do otherwise that easy. Ugh, you don’t live in the “SAP parallel-universe”? Don’t be shamed, you probably share this trait with the magnitude of the world’s population – it also took me years to be aware of the existence of sth. like the R/3 basis-system. But possibly, you’re a bit more familiar with Bill’s world, and therefore allow me to do another comparison: When anybody writes applications for Microsoft Windows, his most powerful (but also most inconvenient) level of entry would be the so-called “Win-32 Application Programming Interface”: This is the most flexible and rich entry-level anyone can use. No real chance (and absolutely not recommended) to go lower, as e.g. programming something in assembly-language directly towards the microprocessor and hardware (unless you want to provide drivers for hardware, as e.g. video-cards – but even Windows itself is not programmed in assembly language, but – as R/3 – in the language “C”).
So it is with B1iP: If you’re that power-user that you want to squeeze out full control, you directly could program towards it (there is no secret about of how it works, and also, all of its exposed interfaces will be held backward-compatible so that an application once programmed also will run on future versions of B1iP). Also for B1iP, there is one situation when you’d have to go lower: If you want to program an adapter doing some interfacing with anything special in the outside world, you had to use Java (the language B1iP itself is programmed with) in order to do this – the new adapter in turn easily can be plugged to an existing B1iP then. But this is very unlikely to hit you (unless – also here – you’d like to interface some very specific hardware to B1iP, as e.g. POS-terminals, ….): The typical standard connectivity (as e.g. using the Web via HTTP, approaching B1 via DI-API, connecting to SAP ERP via the JCO / RFC-API, writing files to disk …) already is covered out-of-the-box with B1iP.
As a summary, the picture below shows you these “three universes” (R/3 – B1i – Windows) a bit in a comparison at-a-glance (don’t interpret the volume-relations of the boxes as complexity-relations; only their relative heights shall depict a bit the entry-level for anyone).
As B1iP is that powerful, there came up the idea over the years to leverage and use it in the easiest - but still flexible – way as possible. This was the hour when the B1i-Frameworks (B1iSN, B1if) did appear which can be seen as the “.Net of B1iP”, the killer-application that brings B1iP to a broad audience, allowing to unleash all of the power that is in this technology, but this is another story ….
By Karl-Heinz Foerg
Thanks to the B1iBlog guest-author Karl-Heinz Foerg, the chief architect, the guy who assembles this B1iP and a good friend of mine since the good old 80s.