How Do You Better Manage Systems and Improve Resilience?

How Do You Better Manage Systems and Improve Resilience?

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Organizations today need to keep their business solutions up and running, and infrastructure providers have been focused on activities that help organizations accelerate implementations and reduce both planned and unplanned downtime. However, enterprise landscapes can often be complex to both implement and maintain. This is particularly true for SAP landscapes where there are often multiple systems, multiple instances of those systems, and connectivity and integration that must remain functional.

But beyond the issues of implementation and configuration, system complexity can often cause issues to develop over time. When an update is performed, or a patch implemented, or a system configuration changed, small issues can accumulate in the system that can often remain unnoticed until they accumulate sufficiently to cause a problem. This can occur even when systems are initially configured using best practices. The challenge that organizations face is in finding and identifying these issues before they cause problems.

Responding to Resilience Challenges

To learn more about these challenges and what organizations are doing to address them, SAPinsider sat down with Sherry Yu, Director of SAP Success Architect at SUSE. Yu has experience working with many customers who are running their SAP systems in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP environments and has particular expertise with high availability and systems running in cloud environments.

According to Yu, one of the first solutions to these challenges relates to validating the environment. This is important at any stage of a deployment but is particularly relevant as an organization approaches a go live. “When an incorrect configuration is identified in the production environment at the last minute, that can cause a serious delay to the SAP landscape,” says Yu. “Validation based on best practices and configuration guidelines is critical for a system that is about to go live.”

Beyond validating systems that are completing a deployment is the need to be able to continuously monitor SAP landscapes. This includes the back-end database, the application, the servers on which those are running, the network, and even the infrastructure. This is especially true for systems that are running in a cloud environment because those environments can be more complex and require a level of insight to be able to discover issues at the infrastructure level.

Lastly there is a need to be able to identify drifts in configuration. This requires a different sort of monitoring on a live environment because configuration drifts may not have any impact until a specific event occurs like a failover. This is a more difficult challenge to address as there are very few tools in today’s market that can help an organization identify and address these sort of configuration drifts in a high availability cluster, but they are essential for the uptime of an SAP environment.

System Administration Concerns Can Add More Complexity

Beyond the challenges already discussed, Yu says that system administrators may face additional concerns related to network and system management. “Many companies today combine the journey to SAP S/4HANA with a move to the cloud. In doing this they face several common challenges. The first is that ramping up cloud infrastructure for a high availability environment requires in-depth knowledge of both the cloud platform and network security. The second is that there are often too many requirements to follow, especially for high availability configurations.”

Anyone familiar with the deployment of an SAP application knows that there can be dozens or even hundreds of pages of SAP Notes that need to be checked. And these SAP Notes can often lead to and endless chain of other notes. You can start with one, and then end up having to read through several more to determine whether they are relevant to your specific application and configuration. These challenges can sometimes make the configuration difficult for even an experienced system integrator.

But a misconfiguration during deployment has the potential to fail which may result in an outage instead of preventing the outage as expected. This can be extremely frustrating and time consuming for organizations as they can delay the project schedule and require additional resources to remediate the risk involved. And in worst case scenarios they may cause disruption to the business.

Another potential concern for sys admins is that of having a clear understanding of the SAP landscape, and which systems are for which SAP services. Failure to identify this correctly could result in the wrong patch being applied to the wrong system. An example Yu provides is that there are different requirements for an SAP HANA system than an SAP S/4HANA system or an SAP NetWeaver system.

Addressing the Challenge

SUSE is helping organizations address this challenge by creating a new project called SUSE Trento which is based on open source technologies. SUSE Trento starts by detecting and then mapping all the solutions in an SAP landscape. This includes the SAP services, the host they are running on, whether the server is on-premise or is running in the cloud. It then works to validate the SAP landscape based on best practices gained from years of experience managing SAP landscapes.

This type of solution is extremely valuable for organizations as it can help validate the configuration of solutions like a cluster pacemaker. SUSE is able to leverage their experience as the developer of high availability solutions for SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP NetWeaver to leverage best practices to help customers correct configuration issues. This type of solution can not only help during the deployment phase but can then be used to monitor the environment post go-live.

Organizations need solutions that will help with continuous monitoring of system configurations and ensure that the correct team member are alerted in the event of a potential change or issue occurs before it can cause an impact. But just as important is the capability for system administrators to have overview of all the SAP services running in their landscape. This makes it easier to identity production, test, and development systems, and can streamline maintenance strategy.

An example of where this provide value is in a situation where the specific processes necessary to function in a failover get interrupted. In these instances, a network hiccup can sometimes cause communication between these processes to stop so that, if a failover is required, it is not triggered. With something like SUSE Trento monitoring these processes, they can be restarted before an administrator even realizes that there has been an interruption.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

Organizations need solutions that help alleviate many of the manual or repetitive tasks that are required to keep their systems running. Leveraging technologies that can help achieve this can allow limited resources to focus on more critical tasks. This is where solutions like SUSE Trento can help not only with the deployment and management of systems, but with accelerating deployment in new landscapes like the cloud and with streamlining operations. But what should you do regarding your own system management?

  • Verify system configurations regularly, particularly after deploying patches and updates. Even when initially configured correctly, system configurations can change over time due to the implementation of either system or solution packages. While these changes may seem minor, and may not appear to impact the day-to-day performance of applications, small configuration changes over time can accumulate until overall system performance is impacted. Regularly verifying configurations and comparing them to SAP Notes or best practices is vital in ensuring continued system performance.
  • Create a comprehensive map of your SAP landscape and architecture. SAP environments can often consist of dozens or hundreds of systems. Keeping track of which systems are which can make it easier to know what systems are used for when making determinations about testing and patching. Systems containing SAP HANA, or another database or data repository, may require different patches than those running business applications. Knowing which patches need to be applied where, and more importantly which do not, can help not only streamline operations but potentially avoid misconfigurations.
  • Explore technologies and solutions that will help you streamline and automate system monitoring and configuration. Solutions that can help you both validate that systems are initially configured correctly and ensure that those configurations remain correct over time are extremely beneficial. Just as important are those that can help map your environment and provide a better understanding of which services are running on which systems as that can streamline patching and maintenance. While offerings like SUSE Trento may not be the perfect solution for your environment, exploring and evaluating solutions like this can provide significant long term benefits.

About SUSE

SUSE supports thousands of organizations running on SAP, and has a rich open-source history involving customers, partners, communities, and teams coming together. SUSE’s culture of collaboration made them a pioneer of Linux in the enterprise. SUSE is developing the next generation of technologies to support the market, and to help SAP customers improve their operations.

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