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Support Platform: A Diagnostic Tool and So Much More

The Support Platform is something right out of Fantastic Voyage!! You know, the 1966 movie with no one you remember — except Racquel Welch — where a bunch of scientists in a submarine are minituarized and injected into a man’s body in order to find and remove a blood clot. Well, the Support Platform is just like that, except here small Java programs are injected into the J2EE Engine in order to automatically diagnose and report problems. The tool, released to the public in NetWeaver 2004 SP Stack 13, was the brainchild of Avishai Geller, who noticed that support staff were asking the same questions to customers over and over — like, “What version of the portal are you using?” or “Can you send me your log files?” — and it was not so easy for customers to supply the information. So Avishai built the Support Platform, which makes life simple for everyone.

How the Support Platform Works

The Support Platform is built around plug-ins — small, simple Java-based programs that analyze the system and return results. These plug-ins are deployed to the J2EE engine, and administrators can run and view the results in the Support Platform user interface. Perhaps what makes the Support Platform so good is that plug-ins are so simple to write. A set of diagnostic and reporting plug-ins come with the Support Platform, but developers can easily write their own. Access the Support Platform on your system by entering the following URL (substituting your server name and port number, of course): http://:/sp After logging in (you must be in the Administrators group), you will get the following window: image There are two user interfaces. One for deploying and managing the plug-ins (Administration), and the other for running plug-ins and viewing the results (Main). The Main window (shown above) lets you select one of the deployed plug-ins, and then run it on a specific cluster node or on all nodes. You can download the results to an Excel file, or save the results in the Support Platform and then run the plug-in again.

What is a Plug-In?

A plug-in is a single Java class, packaged in a JAR file with an XML file that describes the name and class files of all plug-ins in the JAR. There is an add-on to NWDS, available via download, that makes it easy to create Support Platform projects. The following is how a Support Platform project looks in NWDS: image Pretty simple so far. The plug-in class (myPlugIn, above) implements IPluginAnalyzer, which requires you to implement four methods, only one of which is critical — analyze(). This method is where you perform whatever diagnostics you want, and create the results to be displayed. The following is an empty implementation: image That’s it. One of the optional methods is fix. This lets you create code to be run in case an error result is found and you want to give to the administrator who is running the plug-in the option of fixing the problem. There is also an extension of the IPluginAnalyzer interface, IPluginAnalyzerConfigurable, which you can implement instead in order to enable an administrator to configure it before running. There are other features — like making one plug-in dependent on another, or comparing results from the different cluster nodes, or changing the way the plug-ins are displayed in the tree. For full documentation, see SAP NetWeaver Support Platform on the Help Portal.

Different uses

The Support Platform was so innovative, it came in second place in February at an SAP developer conference that highlights many of SAP’s latest innovations. The tool is being used by SAP support to make it easier for customers to supply the information for diagnosing problems. The Support Platform comes with plug-ins for reporting the portal and J2EE version numbers, the available disk space, or whether the portal is running at all. Development groups are also using it, for example, to test connections to databases and other applications and to obtain data about the development environment. And plug-ins exist for creating reports that provide key data for portal administrators. Next week, I will describe some of these Content Reports that are shipped with the Support Platform.

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    • I have a question in to the developers, but why couldn’t you use the PRT tool located at System Administration –> Support –> Portal Runtime –> Deployment Overview, which lists all the deployed PARs and version numbers.
      • We want to collect the version information into a file, which can be downlaoded from the portal and send to us.

        Do you know how we can get the PAR version information with a portal java application?

        • There is a PRT API to do this — it is what the tool uses — but it is private and not exposed. One suggestion was simply to go, via code, to the file system and open up each PAR and check the manifest file, which is where the version information is taken from.

          I also heard that there was a plug-in as part of the support platform that provided this information but it is no longer delivered. I will check what is the status of this plug-in.