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Shoot first, and ask questions later. It’s a staple of old Western movies. You hardly even see a bad guy jump out from behind the saloon, and the good guy has already taken him out. How did he move so fast? How did he know that was a bad guy? How did he have such good aim? How did he get that cool hat?

The answer? It was all in the script, of course. The good guy was told where and when to shoot. (Sorry if I ruined it for you)

It’s an analogy to what I hear regarding Solution Manager:

     “It’s buggy.”
     “It doesn’t even work.”
     “It’s a mile wide and an inch deep.”
     Bang, bang, bang.
     “Have you actually tried to get these things working in Solution Manager?”
     “Well, no.”
     “That’s OK. Don’t bother. Shoot first. Ask questions later.”

To butcher paraphrase Clint Eastwood from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I’ve never seen so many tools wasted so badly.

Solution Manager has been positioned by SAP as the central administration point for it’s suite of applications. It is the one server that is intended to manage all of the other SAP servers in the environment. This should not be surprising, most management software vendors architect their solutions such that a single tool can be leveraged across the entire managed environment.

What makes Solution Manager unique here, is that SAP requires customers to use it. They don’t require customers to use all of it’s stated functionality mind you, but SAP have implemented functions such as application licensing or support access in Solution Manager and your managed applications won’t run without it in place. I’ve heard much complaining about this, but I can’t say that it bothers me, because Solution Manager has other functionality that I want, so I’m going to use it anyway.

Still, I can empathize with the complaints about non-working or buggy functionality. It is certainly frustrating, especially once you’ve deployed something, to find out not only that code doesn’t work, but that the code has caused gaps in your data, for example, which is something you can’t fix after the fact.

Why not complain myself? After all, I can complain with the best of them.

I would start off by pointing out that Solution Manager is free. You can argue it’s not free because you pay SAP licensing and maintenance fees, and with that consideration nothing is truly free. However, I’m guessing Solution Manager wasn’t part of the value proposition for your company any more than it was for mine. So if your company was able to perform a positive cost justification on SAP licensing and maintenance without Solution Manager being part of the equation then, the way I look at it, it is free.

(And, by the way, I don’t consider the argument that there are hardware costs associated with it, since you’ll have that no matter which tool you choose – Solution Manager or other. Nor do I consider the argument that a lack of tools is a valid solution, either. But that’s just my own personal opinion.)

Not only is Solution Manager free, it comes with licenses covered by SAP for third-party add-ons like Wily Introscope, BMC AppSight, Redwood Scheduling, and others. What other vendor provides all of this functionality, from their own developers and from partners, at no additional cost? I can think of other enterprise-class software vendors that don’t provide any such functionality at all. Not even recommendations for management tools, for fear of offending other partners. Or if they do, it may be very expensive. And still buggy.

But let’s just look at a sampling of what other vendors do provide.

I’ll take database platforms for starters, because databases are a logical point to have a central administration server, since you are likely to have multiple database servers (just like I’m sure you have multiple SAP servers). Besides, databases are one area where I have some background, so I feel comfortable starting there.

In the spirit of this blog, I’ll cover the good, the bad and the ugly.

Most SAP customers run Oracle as their database of choice. Oracle provides Oracle Enterprise Manager – quite functional on its own in the free version, but if you purchased your Oracle licenses from SAP, there’s more. SAP extends the free functionality by adding for you the Oracle OEM Managment Packs which provide significant enhancements over the free version from Oracle, not to mention over what SAP applications can do A Tour of the DBA Cockpit: Overview

Although I have not had much hands-on interaction with SQL Server in a decade, Microsoft provides SQL Server Management Studio which I hear good things about it. It certainly has many capabilities for administration of SQL Server databases, and can manage those capabilities centrally. Although I can’t speak directly to any drawbacks it may have for SQL Server shops, even those responsible for it often suggest MS can do better, so smart guys like that, I am inclined to take their word for it.

And, last but not least, we have DB2. Since my company happens to be running DB2 on AIX, I should provide a link also for IBM’s free equivalent to OEM and SSMS except, well, one doesn’t exist. Optim Performance Manager (the replacement for the former DB2 Performance Expert) is an option for monitoring DB2 databases. It just recently came out, but SAP does not license that or DB2 PE, and let’s just say that Blondie is going to need quite a lot more than the bounty on Tuco’s head to afford these tools.

But SAP is not a database platform, so what about other application vendors? I can think of two other very large software packages, which shall remain nameless since I’m sure most of you are already familiar with them, that I’ve had very recent experience with.

I was an adjunct resource on an implementation of BI and Enterprise Planning software recently – very large software purchase from a very large vendor. How was their management/monitoring tool? I’ll let you know if they ever come out with one. For that matter, I’ll let you know if any third parties ever start supporting them, because none do currently, even this vendor’s own in-house monitoring and management vendor brand.

Additionally, I offered assistance on troubleshooting with another software package for order processing. I was in a meeting and asked a vendor representative what tools they offered to assist with this effort. He very quickly informed me that there were sufficient tools on the market to troubleshoot most issues, and seemed incredulous at the suggestion that they should provide even best practices on such tools, much less to provide tools of their own.

So I’m inclined to cut SAP some slack. I’m not a fanboy. It doesn’t do everything I want it to do. Heck, it doesn’t even do everything they say it will do.

But the real reason I’m not “complaining” is that, for the functionality for which I’ve deployed Solution Manager such as Earlywatch Reporting, Root Cause Analysis, GRMG, Central Performance History, Introscope, etc., it may not be pretty, it may not be complete, but it works. And where I have suggestions or issues, I will raise those through appropriate channels. For those that have been around SAP a long time, Solution Manager is like an old R/3system – it’s complex to get it working, but once you do, it keeps working.

Bottom line, I believe a sound strategy for the use of Solution manager is to know what it’s good for and what you can rely on it for. You can get much of this information from the SAP community, including some of the SAP Mentors that regularly provide webcasts on this very topic. Then, follow that advice with a sound testing strategy of your own.

That’s like someone telling you where and when to shoot, pointing out who the bad guys are, and even giving you the script (aka: documentation). Be the good guy, and use it well.

Once you’ve gotten the sage advice and done the research to come up with a list of functionality you might be interested in, use it for that. If you don’t want to because you have tools that are bought and paid for, or internally developed, then that’s fine, stick with those. (But much of the functionality that Solution Manager provides, no tools exist to match)

I’m guessing that, sooner or later, those other tools will stop working or at least cause you difficulty as you upgrade your SAP technology stacks. Solution Manager, on the other hand, will stay right along with that technology, of that you can be certain.

But lastly, and this applies not only to Solution Manager, but to all areas, consider that, especially in public, it’s fine to criticize, but try to balance that with positives. You can relate what it does well for you so that others can learn from your experiences, or you can simply make recommendations for improvement. I think we’ll all be better off then.

And, as Blondie (Clint Eastwood, not Deborah Harry) said, I’ll sleep better knowing my good friends are by my side to protect me.

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12 Comments

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  1. Olivier CHRETIEN
    “What makes Solution Manager unique here, is that SAP requires customers to use it.”

    That is the main problem. As a customer, I want to make my own choices. I get very grumpy each time that I have to validate the download of support packages with SOLMAN…
    When the whole company has decided for a common non SAP supervision tool, it is still mandatory to install SOLMAN…

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    1. Community User Post author
      Thanks for the reply, Olivier. Have you ever looked at the functionality that SolMan provides that is not even available in other tools? Some very nice stuff there that makes the required part of it seem less annoying. For me, at least.

      Cheers,
      David.

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  2. Alois Lobmeier
    …but I have no choice – I’m forced to use the SolMan – if I like it or not. The time one has to waste to validate the download of support packages could rather be used for other (more valueable) work !
    Not sure about the statement “I’ll sleep better knowing my good friends are by my side to protect me” – so far I have not seen the SolMan protecting me from something – for sure not from time consuming, sometimes even painful additional workload in the anyhow busy working day of an SAP Administrator…….
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    1. Community User Post author
      Thanks for the comments, Alois.

      My apologies for the wording, the “friends” comment was referring more to those in the community that can guide and assist you along the way.

      And I understand that a lot of people are annoyed that SolMan is required. Heck, I’m still annoyed at this Java thing. But, at some point, we need to move on.

      If it’s more than just a principled objection to being forced to use SolMan, then I (and I’m sure others) would be willing to have a discussion on the objections, and perhaps there would be a way around them. For example, if you just don’t have additional hardware, maybe you could install SolMan on existing hardware, and even an existing database, using MCOD. Or, if the objection is to the functions necessary in SolMan, perhaps there are other transactions to accomplish the same tasks. You could start a thread in the forums, and I would be glad to join in.

      But if it’s just “I don’t want to,” then I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. 🙂

      Cheers,
      David.

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  3. ajay vonkarey
    Dave:
    a blog like this was due for a long time.  AS a Solution Mgr Enthusiast/SME, i completely relate to your points and the feedback from the customer.

    It would have been a greater success, if it was approached or marketed differently.
    Keep up the good work
    ajay

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  4. Alois Lobmeier
    David, you asked me if it is just principled objection I do have. And I have to tell you, that this is not the case. Indeed we have a SolMan in place and my colleague responsible for it, has spent hours and hours to have it up and running and keep it like this. And this is basically already the answer to your question, what are my objections ? I do not see a reason to spend ages to introduce a system, which does not give me any (real !) added value ! Up to now I have – where possible – prevented to use the SolMan and I can tell you, so far I did NOT face a situation, where I was not able to perform my work because of not using SolMan ! So again, why spending time on an additional system, if the same results can be achieved without the SolMan !? Maybe for others the SolMan gives real benefits and those for sure will happily install the SolMan. But the one who do not see/have a real benefit out of it, will continue to dislike the fact that they have to run the SolMan.
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    1. Community User Post author
      Thanks for the input, Alois. I believe that the crux of the issue here is that SAP has done a poor job marketing the benefits of Solution Manager. I think that if you saw value in Solution Manager, you would not be so opposed to spending hours to keep it up, would you say that is correct?

      If so, I would encourage you to investigate how others are using Solution Manager – those that have taken the time to share their experiences such as the webcast I have already mentioned in another comment. I am sure there will also be several sessions at the upcoming TechEd conferences on how you can benefit from Solution Manager as well. If you can attend the conference, or gain access to the recordings when they are made available, I think that you will gain a lot of insight into the product.

      I am also certain that, as the new version comes out in a few months, there will be opportunities to obtain valuable information on the benefits of Solution Manager and associated tools.

      In the meantime, if you would like to start a thread in the forums here:
      http://forums.sdn.sap.com/forum.jspa?forumID=156&start=0
      I’m sure you will get a lot of valuable feedback.

      Cheers,
      David.

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  5. ajay vonkarey
    Alois: I can totally understand your frustration. Few key points:
    1. As David mentioned, the marketing around this tool should have been much better. SAP keeps adding more functions, but marketing it poorly.
    2. the biggest pet peeve – BASIS/Tech team think they own this tool.  It was back in the day, with much more functions the ownership lies with PMO or COE.
    3. It is not easy install and quick setup, as marketed again.  Like any other SAP system  – this needs a champion, a committed budget and an expert team.  Just asking a BASIS guy to install and implement is disservice to them too.

    Hope it helps
    Ajay

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  6. Alois Lobmeier
    Ajay, and if there is nobody else (neither PMO nor COE) interested in this tool ? This is the sad truth in my company !
    There have been plenty of SAP Releases the last 20 years (starting with R/2) – more or less challenging to have them installed. To install a SolMan System I still treat as “just another SAP System”, but what comes afterwards ? Setting up a rather callow piece of software which I do not need, but I’m forced to have it in place although it doesn’t give anybody (in my special case) an added value.
    I still stand for this rule: I have a problem and I’m looking for a tool which can support me to solve the problem. And if I find a suitable one, I will use it.
    Regardless of the marketing – if I have no problem, I do not need a tool !
    This may sound a little bit old fashioned, but believe me, a lot of fashions did come and go over the last 20 years. The one which did stay where the one which did prove their added value in the daily business ……
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