by Michael Zarges, Director, CRM Solution Management, SAP AG
Michael Zarges joined SAP in 1998 as a developer. In 2001, he started working with the IPC and especially the process of product configuration as a consultant. He is now part of the customer project management team in CRM Solution Management.
Michael holds a master’s degree in industrial engineering. You may reach Michael via email at editor@CRMExpertOnline.com.
Copyright © 2005 CRM EXPERT
Reprinted with permission of WIS, publisher of CRM Expert.
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The latest release of Pricing and Configurator (IPC), available in October 2005, offers a new Listing Engine that helps you determine whether to allow or exclude certain products for a specific customer. It also has a radical change in its technology layer that leads to greater system stability for users and easier implementation for the technical team.
The latest release of Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC) that comes with mySAP Business Suite 2005 features both functional and technological changes. I’m going to describe its capabilities and explain how the update affects your end users and your technical team.
IPC is a mandatory component of mySAP CRM and mySAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) that has been available since Release 2.0B for certain scenarios. IPC consists of a set of Java engines that, among other things, manipulate product pricing and allow you to carry out pricing and configuration regardless of whether you are connected to the Internet. IPC, for example, lets users interactively customize products (e.g., personal computers) online in a company’s Web shop and compare prices of these items and their options.
With this update, the IPC engines run on a new enterprise-scale infrastructure — the Virtual Machine Container (VM Container), which is part of SAP NetWeaver 2004s. With previous versions, any crash of the IPC application impacted many users at the same time. With the new technology, that situation becomes more unlikely as application errors are limited to a single user session. In addition, the full integration with SAP NetWeaver 2004s makes it easier to maintain/monitor the IPC because it allows the same people to support both the CRM system and the IPC.
Standard Java architecture makes it hard to provide robust and scalable application servers. SAP has therefore developed a groundbreaking new architecture for Java applications which applies long-standing knowledge of ABAP application servers to the Java area. The IPC is the first component to make use of this new architecture as of the 2005 release.
If you or your technical team would like more information on the technology involved in the IPC and how it relates to the new architecture, see the sidebar, “The Technology Behind the New IPC,” below.
Now I will describe its Java engines, which include the Listing Engine, a new capability available only with mySAP CRM. The fundamental aspects of pricing and configuration — in essence, the actual business value of the IPC — remain the same.
IPC is not just a pricing machine, but rather a suite of Java engines that, among other things, manipulate product pricing in a broad sense (they also help you account for free goods and in some situations for taxes).
The most important components of IPC are:
Sales Pricing Engine (SPE):
This component is the single source of pricing for all sales and procurement channels. SPE bases pricing on product, business partner, or hierarchy and other criteria. You can apply pricing conditions at the header, item, or detail level. SPE supports discounts, surcharges, rebates, volume-based pricing, tax determination, and price overrides — all on a percentage or on a value basis. You can also use SPE for integrated pricing for procurement in mySAP SRM.
Free Goods Engine (FGE):
You can utilize FGE to determine free goods of the same or another product (for example, “buy two, get three” or “buy this printer, and you’ll get a complimentary pack of paper”). Free goods are based on condition technique. (Technically, the FGE is part of the SPE.)
Sales Configuration Engine (SCE):
SCE is the single source of product and service configuration information for all sales channels (E-Commerce, Enterprise Sales, Field Sales, Interaction Center) across sales representatives, business partners, and customers. The SCE typically uses mySAP ERP master data. An adaptable Web user interface (UI) based on JavaServer Pages (JSPs) allows for interactive configuration. As of mySAP ERP 2005, you can also deploy the SCE in ERP. Thus, you can use the same engine and JSP UI in mySAP ERP and mySAP CRM.
Transaction Tax Engine (TTE):
You use this engine in scenarios in which you do not employ standard condition techniques to determine taxes. The TTE clearly sepa- rates the complex task of taxing from pricing. The special condition type 0TTE links both together. For example, you must use the TTE with CRM Billing. TTE provides sophisticated taxing algorithms including interfaces with external companies such as Taxware and Vertex.
Listings Engine (new in 2005):
Listings Engine, available only with mySAP CRM, is technically an extension of the pricing engine. Listings Engine helps you determine whether to allow or exclude certain products for a specific customer (e.g., in a sales order). The consumer products industry frequently uses this engine that is based on condition technique for flexibility and performance-specific contracts between suppliers and merchants. For example, when you go shopping, you’ll notice that you can’t get every product in every store. The Listings Engine enables the linking of R/3 listing/exclusion records to mySAP CRM instead of having to maintain partner/product range (PPR) as happened in previous releases.
Although you use IPC to determine listings and exclusions, it is not part of pricing. The IPC is now a generalized condition engine rather than only a pricing engine. Before mySAP CRM 2005, people who used listings/exclusion in R/3 needed to maintain equivalent PPR records CRM. This need disappears with mySAP CRM 2005.
In previous releases, IPC ran on its own Java server. It was a separate logical (and often physical) instance with load balancing, session management, and sometimes its own database. Installation, patching, sizing, and monitoring happened outside the main business application system. In certain scenarios, the IPC DataLoader replicated master data from the main application system. Remote Function Call (RFC) connected the IPC to a back-end system.
Unfortunately, installing this external Java server sometimes turned into a problem for CRM projects. Companies simply wanted to use pricing for their orders, but now they were challenged with technological questions (e.g., how to set up, tune, and monitor this component).
The VM Container combines experience from decades of enterprise-scale applications running on ABAP with the Java world. (Java was originally designed for Web applications and embedded computing.) The kernel contains Virtual Machines (VMs) for both programming languages. SAP developed a special VM for Java to support the specific needs of an enterprise application.
The VM Container offers:
• SAP kernel technology (work processes, transport system) which manages Java coding just like ABAP coding
• In-process Java-ABAP communication that is much faster than remote RFC
• User isolation, so an application crash is limited to one user
• Monitoring and alert capabilities fully integrated with SAP Basis
However, this does not mean that VM Container “translates” Java to ABAP. IPC remains a Java program; it uses the same runtime base as an ABAP program. VM Container is not a J2EE Container and does not contain an Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) Container, so you still need a separate SAP J2EE Engine. As in previous releases, the SAP J2EE Engine uses JSP-based IPC Web UI for product configuration
You should acquaint yourself with the fundamental aspects of the VM Container such as monitoring whether it is up and running correctly. You can find relevant technical information for administrators regarding the VM Container in SAP note 853711. You can also go to www.sdn.sap.com and search for “VM Container” for white papers about the VM Container.
You should also be aware that the IPC engines are now part of the Application Platform (AP); they are no longer CRM components (with the exception of Listing Engine). The AP Engines are upgraded to a new Support Package when you upgrade your system to the newest SAP AP 7.00 Support Package (see SAP note 844817). Furthermore, SAP made some changes in the way pricing user exits and variant functions are structured and loaded into the system. You can refer to SAP notes 809820 and 870201, respectively, for more information about these changes. SAP discontinued IPC Server, IPC Dispatcher, and IPC DataLoader with mySAP Business Suite 2005.
As of October 2005, a Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler (which accelerates the execution of byte code in the Java VM) is not yet available for all platforms. IPC runs without a JIT Compiler, but significantly more slowly, which could prevent its productive use. For more information on supported platforms and JIT Compiler/VM Container, see SAP note 853050. Eventually, SAP expects to provide a JIT Compiler for optimum IPC performance for all platforms SAP NetWeaver 2004s supports.