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 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?”
“That’s OK. Don’t bother. Shoot first. Ask questions later.”
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.