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Why end-to-end visibility is key to turning SAP monitoring headaches into a business advantage

Gregg Ostrowski

The shift from traditional monitoring to observability is critical.

Gregg Ostrowski, Executive CTO, Cisco AppDynamics

For most businesses, SAP is an integral part of their operations, allowing organizations to ensure goods and services are delivered to customers around the world. From frontend to backend, numerous business applications depend entirely on SAP to run their most critical business operations.

But as IT environments grow more complex and dynamic, and the speed of business continues to accelerate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for IT teams to manage availability and performance both within SAP applications and beyond. Limited visibility into SAP environments and their dependencies on third party applications can make effective troubleshooting and mean time-to-resolution (MTTR) extremely challenging. And this ultimately leads to outages and loss of revenue.

Against this backdrop, it is imperative that organizations reassess their approach to monitoring their SAP environments. They need to evolve their strategies to optimize availability and performance of applications both inside and outside of SAP and observe the health of key business transactions in real-time.

Challenges to SAP monitoring

Currently, many organizations still deploy a multitude of tools to monitor dependent systems, or have a siloed tool monitoring SAP, one that is completely independent of the rest of their IT stack. This fragmented approach means they’re unable to correlate business performance to their SAP landscape.

Organizations that rely on SAP’s NetWeaver Platform need to be able to see the entire production landscape, whether they’re on-premises, hybrid cloud, or cloud only. But the reality is that few monitoring solutions recognize SAP’s proprietary programming language, ABAP, so technologists struggle to get visibility down to the unique line of SAP code.

Another issue for many businesses is that they’re manually correlating SAP performance data to business events on an ad-hoc basis, or just doing it after business problems occur. Troubleshooting becomes extremely time-consuming as IT teams need to manually sift through logs which consequently means an increase in MTTR. Furthermore, as dynamic environments create an explosion of additional data, this approach simply won’t scale.

Even where businesses can monitor and measure performance in this way, it will only ever allow them to respond to issues. They’re unable to prioritize key business transactions because they can’t determine which issues pose the greatest risk to customers and the business — so IT teams are stuck in firefighting mode, trapped in war rooms rather than focusing on strategic priorities.

Single source of truth

Businesses need a single source of truth about their SAP landscapes and how they’re driving the performance of the entire business.

This means ensuring they have deep, end-to-end visibility that provides a comprehensive topography of their entire IT landscape, including both SAP and non-SAP applications. This allows technologists to see and understand upstream service dependencies — as well as user experience — within SAP. With tailored dashboards, they can evaluate the overall health of a system — for example, application server, HANA DB, key background jobs, IDocs, PI systems, and more — while getting access to real-time mapping of business transactions across distributed SAP systems.

In addition to this holistic view, IT teams need a solution that can understand proprietary ABAP code issues at a granular level so that developers can easily pinpoint the root cause of issues. Being able to analyze each specific line of ABAP code is essential to troubleshoot problems and correlate them to application performance issues. This level of visibility creates more stability within the application environment, enhancing technologists’ ability to reliably meet IT, business, and customer expectations. 

Beyond this, organizations need to move on from piecemeal and heavily manual methods of monitoring SAP and non-SAP apps. Trying to recreate issues is not always possible. Not only is this approach time-consuming, but it also increases the risk of ongoing performance issues, which can impact end users and erode the bottom line.

Dynamic baselining 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 artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to proactively evaluate transaction health as well as address emergent issues.

Once organizations have this level of proactive functionality, they can allocate 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, month-end close, product launches, and other business activities.

This is especially important when migrating to SAP S/4HANA, or moving the SAP landscape to the cloud, as it provides real-time performance metrics before, during, and post-migration. This helps technologists to proactively address issues as they arise and reduce downtime of the migration itself, identifying bottlenecks and revealing possible downtime windows. It enables IT teams to complete faster root cause analysis and reduce MTTR.

Taking a proactive approach to monitoring

Organizations should be aiming to get the full end-to-end visibility their IT teams need to operate in today’s dynamic IT environments, and looking to generate the real-time performance data that they need.

The shift from traditional monitoring to observability is critical. Many organizations are already on this journey and understand the importance of a solution that not only provides full visibility and integration across the SAP landscape, but also connects the most critical components with real-time business context.

With full visibility, teams can start to 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 the business forward. When evaluating the health of business operations like ‘Order to Cash’, it’s critical to identify where potential problems may be brewing. Technologists need the ability to drill down into the issue and determine what’s causing the latency, prioritize steps for remediation, and quickly get back to normal.

As tech stacks grow more complex each day, and business reliance on SAP processes continues to grow, organizations 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 ensure they are able to visualize IT performance and correlate this data with real-time business transactions, using the power of AI and ML to identify, prioritize and resolve issues based on business impact.

The organizations that can make this shift will excel at serving their customers and protecting their bottom line. In parallel, they will be well-placed to take advantage of new cloud-native technologies that are critical to accelerating innovation and driving business growth.

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