SAP applications are highly customized and rely on a complex interconnected system infrastructure with many points of failure that are outside the app itself. When applications fail or response time rises, a blamestorm forms as each department scrambles to prove their system is not the one at fault. Teams need the ability to quickly identify the root cause of poor performance in SAP environments and free up their experts to focus on real work.
This article aims to help you address this need and outlines four mistakes that can be avoided when you use a unified approach to network and application monitoring, commonly referred to as application-aware network performance monitoring (AA NPM).
Mistake #1: Failing to Gain Real Visibility (or Getting the Wrong Metrics) on Application Performance
Without understanding all the seemingly disparate elements that can make up the supply chain, you run the risk of focusing on irrelevant metrics. You have to understand that this is a contiguous system, and utilize an AA NPM solution that monitors your application and infrastructure to provide the holistic visibility that enables you to see when you have a performance issue, understand what the business impact is and where the problem is.
I recently had a conversation with an under-siege chief technology officer (CTO) who was adamant that his company had no performance issues because Solution Manager and SAP were telling him (correctly) that SAP in isolation was operating optimally. But when we went through the different elements that made up the entire application delivery chain, including transport protocols, back-end databases, wireless area network (WAN) optimizers, etc., describing what metrics would help and why, especially when combined into a unified view, the light bulb went on. Just for the record, the issue turned out to be a load balancer.
Mistake #2: Poor Accountability
Knowing you have a supply chain application performance issue in the first place is actually a major problem. I have numerous conversations with customers who can’t answer the basic question, “How do you know you have a problem?” The ones that can answer normally respond that an isolated metric or silo tool tells them everything is OK, but users still complain of problems.
A unified AA NPM solution proactively alerts information technology (IT) teams that an issue exists, identifies what the business impact is, which users are impacted, what process is suffering and which locations are affected. This not only provides the information needed to facilitate optimization, but also, more importantly, where to focus your efforts when solving issues. It also addresses the issue of responsibility. This is the old war-room story in which the responsibility to resolve or report is given to the SAP team, but without visibility into the complete delivery system, they either are not able to resolve or report accurately, or worse, waste countless hours (or even days) trying to pinpoint and fix an issue.
Mistake #3: Reactive Management
Without that complete visibility into application performance across the entire delivery chain—leveraging real-time metrics, and real user data and baselines—supply chain IT teams find themselves in situations in which they can only operate reactively, essentially when the end users call and complain, which in turn sends them blindly into war-room scenarios. Eliminating war rooms may sound like a pie-in-the-sky goal, but it is reality for organizations that light up enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. What were once black boxes are now fully visible, and the person-hours once dedicated to troubleshooting can be used for proactive IT management to deliver improvements and innovations.
Mistake #4: Believing Technology Is the Only Enabler
Supply chain delivery systems are designed and implemented from an IT perspective, often without completely considering the workflow and work practice of the end user. The result is that end users are then forced to operate the system in a way to fit the IT implementation and relying on inefficient workflows. Using AA NPM enables IT to understand exactly how users are interacting and working, including how orders are being executed. This baseline can be used to optimize the entire system and increase efficiency.
More Help Available
For more information specific to SAP environments, visit here, where you will find a host of SAP and AA NPM-related articles from experts with years of experience in solving performance issues.
Mike Hicks is the senior product manager for network performance monitoring at Dynatrace. In his more than 30 years in the industry, he has worked closely with the majority of infrastructure vendors in the area of application profiling, network performance and management. In addition, Hicks has authored two books, Managing Distributed Applications: Troubleshooting in a heterogeneous environment (Prentice Hall 2000) and Optimising Applications on Cisco Networks (Cisco Press 2004).