Application performance management tools, end-user experience tools, learn how all of these tools can help you ensure SAP systems’ performance and health
Application Performance Management describes the monitoring and management of performance and availability of software applications. APM detects and diagnoses complex application performance problems to maintain an expected level of service.
According to the Research In Action Vendor Selection Matrix:
APM maps the technical process end-to-end, this often includes monitoring the end user's experience, his or her computer, the network, back end infrastructure, operating systems, databases, applications, and in many cases, monitoring all the way to the line code level.
Once a user starts to experience performance degradation, using APM tools, the source of the issue is easily identified. Some APM tools direct DevOps teams to the relevant code or process that is causing the performance issues to enable immediate action.
Given the impactful functionalities APM tools provide, why do SAP technical basis teams spend many frustrating hours (every day!) manually monitoring SAP when they can benefit from APM?
Before digging in to further explore this question, it’s important to acknowledge that SAP is a beast of its own. The underlying technical architecture is extremely unique when compared to most applications. An organization’s SAP ecosystem is often comprised of multiple landscapes, each with a handful of systems and databases, that need to communicate with each other.
Furthermore, each system is comprised of a coding language (ABAP) only used in SAP and is more reliant on a database than standard applications. Add to that a unique architecture, not deployed by software outside of SAP, where nearly zero files are stored on the operating system.
Because of these unique SAP characteristics, the majority of modern APM tools available in the market typically don’t have the capabilities to properly monitor all technical components within SAP. In many cases, when an APM tool declares SAP capabilities, it means the solution offered is focused on different styles of end-user performance monitoring.
Typically this involves using the interfaces and inputs/outputs of the SAP systems, without having visibility into the SAP internal elements, which includes code, jobs, processes, and more.
An IT organization making a strategic decision to only implement an APM solution across all their IT systems will be a great choice for everything and everyone--except for the SAP team.
Some APM tools do a fantastic job recognizing end-user performance noted as Real User Monitoring. For the greater IT organization, RUM is an effective methodology used to easily identify where technical performance issues may reside between the keyboard, infrastructure, OS, DB, application, and so on.
However, if there’s a problem within SAP, these APM tools can only identify SAP as the source of the issue; these tools actually have zero visibility into the code or SAP itself. It becomes a black box for the IT team.
Other APM solutions focus on end-user Monitoring by monitoring transactional performance and may even have some high-level, limited visibility into the SAP ABAP code. This theoretically could give you end-to-end visibility; however, these solutions’ ability to monitor SAP typically ends there.
Both RUM and EUM solutions lack visibility to the other aspects of SAP health such as batch jobs, IDocs, ABAP short dumps, missing tables in the data dictionary, warnings in number ranges, and more.
Proper monitoring of an SAP system requires more than deciphering underlying ABAP code for end-user response time.
Why do SAP technical basis teams remain frustrated after implementing an APM tool?
To start, many SAP technical basis engineers do not consider individual end-user performance one of their main concerns.
This low priority of end-user performance may seem outrageous, but if we reexamine how complex SAP landscapes are, these engineers are typically tasked with making sure the systems are properly communicating, transferring data, properly running batch (background) jobs, and numerous other business-critical underlying components are working as expected--all while being secure from potential outside threats.
For many organizations, these underlying components like background processing (non-end user processes) are deemed more critical than how slow or fast the system responds to their end-users’ requests. It is background processing that is often the true engine that ensures the business runs properly.
If data is not correctly processed or properly transferred between systems, it could result in delays and downtime that could potentially cost the company a significant amount of money.
Recent Gartner research estimates the cost of a system downttime at $5,600 per minute, which extrapolates to well over $300K per hour.
With that said, it’s not as if SAP technical basis engineers ignore end-user response time. Typically, these teams keep an eye on end-user health metrics at a higher level.
With such a high volume of processing taking place, engineers often watch overall end-user response time as a blended average. They may even monitor the overall, blended response time of a single transaction and how that time is averaging throughout the day.
This (or where an end-user is calling to complain) is where the end user's experience EUM & RUM tools come back into play. When end-user performance issues do occur, the SAP technical basis engineers can easily find the root cause and identifying the underlying issues if they’re caused by something happening OUTSIDE of SAP, however, once these tools point to an SAP issue, engineers have to rely on their own expertise to identify the source of that performance issue within SAP.
It may very well be that end-user performance is actually influenced by a domino effect that started from a non-end user issue, which is typically the case with SAP performance issues. By only relying on end-user monitoring, the true root cause may never be identified.
All in all, it’s direly important to understand that the state of an SAP system health should not be solely reliant on end-user performance.
While end-user performance should not be overlooked by any means, there needs to be a direct focus on numerous other technical aspects within the SAP system that are not based on end-user performance. Modern-day APM tools, focusing on EUM and RUM offer deep, valuable insight into these performance metrics.
Furthermore, EUM and RUM tools pair well with SAP technical monitoring APM tools that give true SAP health statuses around ALL aspects of the SAP system, landscape, or ecosystem. If you are considering investing in an APM tool, do your research and get a clear understanding of what it can show you when it comes to assessing your SAP health and performance.
As always, we welcome your views of APM. How do you use it in your SAP landscape?
To learn more, from Syslink Xandria CTO Bernd Engist, take a few minutes to discover the Unique Challenges in Determining SAP Root-Cause Analysis
|APM||Application performance monitoring/management|
|ITIM||IT Infrastructure Monitoring|
|ITSA||IT Service Alerting|
|RUM||Real User Management|
|EUM||End User Monitoring|
Picture credit: Marie Buyens