Three steps to take back control of your SAP landscape

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By Joe Byrne, Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics

Businesses in all sectors rely on SAP to bring together data from across functions in order to seamlessly plan, allocate, and deploy resources across complex supply chains. Numerous business applications depend entirely on SAP to fulfill their purpose to end users, from the frontend — such as e-commerce platforms — to backend logistics related to R&D, manufacturing, supply chain and procurement, and many other business areas. In fact, SAP customers generate 87 per cent of the $46 trillion total global commerce. 

However, as any technologist who works closely with SAP knows, with IT environments becoming ever more complex and the speed of business continuing to accelerate, IT teams need help managing availability and performance within SAP applications. Limited visibility into SAP environments and their dependencies on third party applications is now a major problem for many IT teams, as it is preventing effective and timely troubleshooting. And the issue is exacerbated as enterprise organizations shift their workloads to S/4 HANA and public clouds, adding further complexity. 

IT teams are left trying to manage an increasingly fragmented environment, without the visibility and insights they need to identify and resolve issues quickly, or to understand which issues do the most damage to customer and employee experience. Of course, the potential consequences of this are severe – increased mean time to resolution (MTTR), service disruption and outages, which in turn can lead to a loss of productivity, revenue, and even customers.

An explosion of data in SAP environments and beyond

Most IT teams deploy a number of separate tools to monitor dependent systems, or they have a siloed tool monitoring SAP, completely independent from the rest of their IT stack. This fragmented approach means they don’t have a single, unified view of their IT environments and it doesn’t allow them to correlate business performance to their SAP landscape. 

For organizations that rely on SAP NetWeaver, IT teams must see the entire production landscape, whether they’re on-premises, hybrid cloud or cloud only. But very few monitoring solutions recognize SAP’s proprietary programming language, ABAP, so technologists can’t get visibility down to the unique line of SAP code.

Another problem for many IT teams is that they are still manually correlating SAP performance data to business events on an ad hoc basis, or only doing it after business problems occur. Technologists have to manually sift through logs in order to troubleshoot issues, which is hugely time-consuming and leads to soaring MTTR. And of course, as dynamic environments create an explosion of additional data, this approach doesn’t scale.

Indeed, if the current situation seems challenging, the accelerated transition to cloud native technologies is likely to make things a whole lot worse. Gartner predicts that cloud native platforms will serve as the foundation for more than 95 per cent of new digital initiatives by 2025. Modern, cloud native application stacks are built on highly distributed systems which rely on thousands of containers and produce a huge volume of metrics, events, logs and traces (MELT) telemetry every second. 

Without the right level of visibility into these environments, and the ability to cut through huge swathes of data to understand dependencies up and down the IT stack, within SAP and beyond, technologists will soon find themselves completely overwhelmed.

Putting technologists on the front foot with SAP monitoring

Organizations need to act quickly to address this growing challenge and ensure that their IT teams have the tools they need to monitor and optimize availability and performance within SAP landscapes and beyond. 

Technologists need to get back on the front foot and take control of their SAP monitoring. And to do this, they need to prioritize three areas:

  1. End-to-end visibility of SAP environments and beyond

Technologists need to generate deep end-to-end visibility of their SAP environment, so they can troubleshoot relatively smaller issues before they become major problems. Crucially, as inter-dependencies between SAP and non-SAP applications become more complex, IT teams need comprehensive topography of their entire IT landscape, including SAP and non-SAP applications. This allows them to see and understand upstream service dependencies – as well as user experience – within SAP. 

IT teams should also look for a solution that can understand proprietary ABAP code issues at a granular level so that developers can easily pinpoint the root cause of issues. Determining the specific ABAP program and line of code that is having issues is vital to troubleshoot problems and correlating them to application performance issues. 

It’s also important to visualize availability and performance data through real-time, tailored dashboards to easily evaluate the overall health of IT systems – for instance, application servers, HANA DB, key background jobs, IDocs, PI systems, and more – while getting access to real-time mapping of business transactions across distributed SAP systems. 


2. Real-time insight into service availability

IT teams need to move beyond labor-intensive methods for monitoring SAP and non-SAP apps which are ineffective and morale-sapping. And this means finding a monitoring solution that can ingest large volumes of data from across today’s complex business environments, and convert this data into meaningful and actionable insight, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). 

Dynamic base lining capabilities free technologists from having to manually update static thresholds as priorities change and environments evolve. And, instead of suffering endless alert storms, businesses should look to leverage AI and ML to proactively evaluate transaction health as well as address emergent issues. 

Rapid anomaly detection and automatic and intelligent alerting allow IT teams to take a strategic approach to optimize SAP performance. It allows teams to right-size the investment of resources based on scenarios that are unique to their business and potentially performance-impacting, like high volumes of traffic due to holiday shopping or other seasonal events, product launches, and other business activities. This is especially important when migrating to S/4 HANA or moving SAP landscapes to the cloud, for teams to get real-time performance metrics before, during, and post-migration, helping them to proactively address issues as they arise. 

  1. Business context to SAP performance

IT teams need to be able to connect availability and performance data with insights into the health of the business. This means real-time monitoring of SAP health metrics alongside critical business KPIs, like transaction, customer and user journeys. This enables businesses to focus efforts and deploy resources where they are needed most. 

Technologists must derive business data from SAP transactions, quantify the business impact of technical issues and prioritize remediation based on business impact. 

With a business lens on SAP metrics, IT teams can build business journeys around key SAP processes, like ’Order to Cash’ and ’Procure to Pay’, which provide even more visibility into the processes that drive businesses forward. When evaluating the health of business operations like ‘Order to Cash’, it’s critical to identify where potential problems might come from. IT teams need to be able to drill down into the issue and determine what’s causing the latency, prioritize steps for remediation, and quickly get back to normal.

As IT complexity continues to soar, and businesses become ever more reliant on SAP processes to fuel their growth, IT teams need to take a new approach to monitor availability and performance, one built around full and unified visibility of all IT environments, both inside and outside SAP. They need to be able to visualize IT performance and correlate this data with real-time business transactions, using the power of AI to identify, prioritize and resolve issues based on business impact.

The shift from traditional monitoring to observability is essential. Many organizations are already on this journey, recognizing the need for a solution that not only provides full visibility and integration across the SAP landscape but also links the most critical components with real-time business outcomes. 

By connecting IT performance to business metrics, IT teams and business leaders suddenly have access to rich insights into critical areas, such as understanding the business value of SAP transactions and quantifying the business impact of technical issues and problems. This in turn allows technologists to prioritize their efforts based on business impact and set proactive alerts based on key business metrics.

By making this transition to observability, IT teams can finally leave behind the stress and firefighting that has been so prevalent in SAP monitoring over recent years. Technologists can take a proactive approach to managing and optimizing SAP performance, focusing on innovation and delivering maximum business value. 

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Joe Byrne

Joe Byrne

Joe Byrne is the Vice President of Technology Strategy and Executive CTO at Cisco AppDynamics.