What is our primary use case?
Our primary use case for it is as an integration tool. We've got lots of systems. We are a service company in warehousing and transport and we've got a lot of customers. We are a 3PL company so we do transport for a lot of the big retailers. All of this has to be integrated. We've got small applications running everywhere, so any data which flows through from one application to another requires SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS).
Warehousing is our major function. We get orders from our clients, retailers that you know. Some of them use EDI, some use API, and some use web services. They come through our system and they get formatted into our standard warehouse management system, which is Manhattan. Order information has to be formatted in the Manhattan XML format.
On the transport side, there are different applications. We have Freighter which does the load planning and then there is route planning which is a separate application hosted by Paragon. The route planning information goes from the orders which we received to the Paragon system, and the orders also go to Freighter for load planning.
In addition, there is information from the warehouse system that has to go back to our big retail customers, such as stock received, dispatch confirmation, receipt confirmation, and any stock adjustments. There are different types of interfaces which go back and forth between our customers and our warehouse management systems.
There is some B-to-B integration and then we have application-to-application as well. For example, the warehouse management system might talk directly to the transport system, which is web-service or API-driven. Sometimes they can't do it themselves, so SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) will step in to capture the data from the warehouse management system. It will do the API service to communicate with another system and get the results and push them. So it acts as a gateway for everything coming in and out of our company, a secure gateway.
Many of our customers still use file transfer, so we use SFTP a lot. Most of the interfaces are migrating to web services, SOAP or API. Those are the latest but we still have a lot of SFTP used.
It is hosted by us, internally.
How has it helped my organization?
It helps in communications. It's the only gateway between our client systems and any internally-hosted or cloud-hosted systems. SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) acts as an interface between them. It provides a lot of benefits to our customers. If SEEBURGER were to go down, our company would be in limbo.
It's a very vital system. We are dependent on it because we have hundreds of major customers, all of which are big retailers. Without SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), their orders and other communications may not go to the warehouse. There might be manual processes but that would be very hard.
What is most valuable?
It's been a good tool so far. It's helped us do things which we were not able to do. Most applications nowadays are third-party applications which require data in particular formats and there are restrictions on them. We can't modify third-party applications. The best we can do is use SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) to massage or reformat the data from one format to another and say, "Okay, if you want it this way you will get it this way."
That's what SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) has been good at: communicating between two applications, changing formats and using the required protocols. Some might have applications which are very old and they can't do more than FTP or SFTP. With SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) we've got that flexibility. We can have one site communicating in an old FTP or SFTP style, or via file transfer. And with other applications, we could have API or a web service call or some other protocol used to send information. SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) acts as an intermediary between them.
What needs improvement?
We wanted to use API. We were told that in 6.52 we could use API management. Later on, we found that API management wasn't that completely integrated into the 6.52 solution, and if you wanted to have the whole API suite you might have to go to 6.7, the latest one.
We are waiting for that. There is talk that next year we might try to migrate to 6.7. Migration is not an issue on our side, but it's the customer migration which takes a lot of time. That involves a lot of concern and hard work because we have to have the customers onboarded as well and they need to do some testing. It's always really hard to get the customers to find time for that.
For how long have I used the solution?
We started using it in 2009.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It has been quite stable. We haven't had any issues after getting the system up and running. It has run very well. Maintenance is also very good and support is also okay. They've got a lot of screens and other things which help. There are proactive error notifications so we can see what's happening. It has a nice front-end screen which monitors all the adapters. If there are any issues on anything, we can see them on one screen.
We never have problems, as such, with SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS), but we had issues which were related to the network or the machine or the database not working, getting full, or going down. But as far as the software is concerned, we haven't had any major issues. We have had minor issues which were immediately looked at and rectified by SEEBURGER.
We have a DR system for SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). It's all saved if something goes wrong. We have multiple data centers so it's not been an issue. We have never had any major downtime.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The scalability depends on the price - which suite you're getting. At the moment, the version we are on, which is 6.52, is quite scalable because it has one adapter engine.
Their architecture includes an admin server and an adapter server so you can just add more servers by adding licenses to it. If we want to scale up, we just a few more adapter engines into it; it's just adding a virtual server and more functions to it. It's not a big issue. Its scalability is very good at the moment. The software installation is not a big issue. So once you install it, you can just attach it to the existing architecture.
We have a lot of end-users sending files: FTP, SFTP, web services, or HTTP; and there are other services like AS2. We have about 75 to 80 customers and they interact with us with a file or data transfer.
It is our preferred tool at the moment. It's part of our strategy. I don't know about the future, but currently it is the only tool that we are using for interfacing with our various systems. We are still hoping to host most of the system. Most systems are migrating to the cloud, so we don't know yet. There it would an application-to-application connection, so maybe the SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) role might be reduced, but currently it's used a lot.
How are customer service and technical support?
One thing we need is more support. Sometimes we get stuck on the support because they've not got not many experienced people in the UK for the suite. We have modified SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) a lot to fit our organization. We have customized it. Sometimes we find it hard to get support from their side. Most of the time their help has been good from Germany because that's what they are based. They do help but we struggled before, at times.
The second-tier is needed if there is any problem where consultation is needed to go in-depth and see what the issue might be. We lack some good help from the other side on that level.
We had an issue where the customer wanted specific things and we couldn't do it.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We were using IBM Mercator which they now call WebSphere. The move to SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) started because at that time the company wanted to check into systems which could support new interfaces. The system we had was an old system, so we needed to upgrade it. It was a choice the business had to go through but I wasn't involved in the team that handled the selection.
How was the initial setup?
The setup is complex but we get the SEEBURGER implementers to come out, the consultants who do it the first time, whenever we have a major upgrade. Recently, we have tried to do all the service packs ourselves, but if there is a major upgrade - and most probably when we migrate to 6.7 - we require some consulting time from SEEBURGER because there might be a major change in the way some of the interfaces or communication might be working. That might be when we require a lot of consulting time from SEEBURGER, to understand the product and what features it has and what capabilities we can use.
Major upgrades are as demanding as an initial deployment, but if it's just a service pack, it's okay now. They have made it much simpler. Because we are on Active-Active, we can do patching while the service is still running.
Our initial deployment, back in 2009, took about two days. The software deployment only takes a day or so. But we also had to get all the hardware, the machines, and network service. Those took time. But the software deployment and configuration took just a day-and-a-half.
For that deployment, SEEBURGER people did not just do the deployment, they also worked on initial interface development for us. There were new mapping tools and we didn't have any experience with it, so they did that also. We had a contract with them for three months or so to have them do a lot of work for us. They had two or three consultants who basically converted a lot of the old IBM maps into the new SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS)-format maps.
At that time it was a big project because after installation they had to do the maps etc. Everything had been in IBM until that time. They had to replicate that into SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS).
Now that we have more experience and good resources on our side, we do it ourselves. But at that time it took a total of six months, of which three months were for the initial consulting where we had two or three consultants. After that, it was only one consultant.
At that time it was a new thing for us so we were not in a rush. We installed and tested everything and we migrated one customer at a time. We had an old, IBM-based integration tool. The installation was done as a "blank canvas," and then we migrated our customers.
For a major upgrade, we set aside a period of seven days because we've got quite a few systems: a development system, a test system, a UAT or business integration system, and the production system. We go by step-by-step, so the whole process will take a week. On the first day, we'll do the development system and let it run for two days. Then we will upgrade the test system and let it run for two days to see if there are any issues. Then we will go to UAT, and after two days or so, the production system, which might be on a Sunday. It's an issue of timing because we have to get our change-control times allocated, especially when doing an upgrade to the production system.
What about the implementation team?
We generally work with SEEBURGER. Once, when we had a lot of work to do, we did use a Polish company. I don't remember their name. We used them for a short period.
Finding SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) expertise is very hard. There isn't much SEEBURGER expertise in the UK. I don't think many major organizations are using it in the UK. I know they have very big customers in the US and Germany.
What was our ROI?
It's very hard to quantify ROI basically because we don't see the financial aspect it. Our job is to ensure that it is running and that we get the output and whatever is needed from it. But financially, if it was down, the impact might be humongous for our company.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The cost-based model is slightly different now in SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS). They changed the licensing, based on adapters and other things. In the old style of licensing, the whole suite was one license, if I'm not mistaken.
There is the license and then a run-cost.
But that's handled by my team leaders. I'm not into it involved in the cost and related issues.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
They went through the selection process to see what interfacing applications were available in the market.
What other advice do I have?
My advice would depend on the purpose you're considering SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) for. If you are going to use it like we are using it, I would say it is a really good tool. If you have restrictions where you can't change the applications you have - you host a lot of third-party applications and you need to integrate the data between each of those applications, then SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS) is one of the best tools available. There are other tools, but this one is one of the best.
We may look to use the solution’s additional services such as its MFT (managed file transfer).
We have three integration specialists and one team leader for maintenance of the solution. We also have a design lead but he's not entirely dedicated to SEEBURGER Business Integration Suite (BIS); he does design for other things as well.
We have seen version 6.7 and we want to migrate but we have not because migration is a big task for us. It might take some time.
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