Landscape Descriptions in General – Why They are Important and What Makes a Good One
Landscape descriptions are what you need to find your destination – when traveling or when addressing systems in application life-cycle management. Let’s take the example of a map, which is, indeed, a landscape description. The following thoughts might sound simple but might help to better understand the whole approach.
Scale and Detail and Connection to Reality
First important thought: A map is not 1:1 in scale – this wouldn’t be of much use. Any landscape description only shows those things that are probably important for you, while the ordinary meter is shown in fractions of an inch. On the other hand, things like an important building often are shown in 3D place in a city in a size that is hundreds of times bigger than in reality. Some things, even important ones, are missing on the map even if they exist while others may be pure invention.
Figure 1: A map of the world as shown in earlier time. In this very simple, map much detail is missing, so it’s obviously not derived directly from reality, but it’s important to note, that this will still help you find City B when traveling from City A.
A landscape description in the SAP Solution Manager is not fundamentally different. Of all the tons of data in your landscape, merely some system metadata are shown, some very important connections and parts are shown.
Landscape descriptions are not the reality, but can help you find your way in reality.
So even if a map is only a description of reality, you use it to plan real steps. When Columbus set out for his famous journey, he had a new idea of a map in mind – but he failed to find India, due to an error in the scale he estimated. (He was lucky enough to find a whole new continent, but chances are you wouldn’t be as lucky when relying on a map of insufficient quality.)
A map is not the reality itself: even if it is very easy to draw or erase the blue line that symbolizes a river (not being a river) on a map, this will not create or dry out any river in the countryside (or landscape); but if you’re standing at its banks you’d better be prepared or if you’re thirsty and looking for water it’d better be there. So even if the map is not the reality, it should correspond to reality as exactly as possible.
In early descriptions, impressions of people like Marco Polo that have been traveling for years gave a rough picture of directions to travel and what to find. This is much better than nothing but far from optimal.
If you take the Google map, you will find a much better representation of reality. Why is this? The map has been acquired in an automated process, mainly stitching satellite pictures together, I guess.
The result, which is much better than the map put together by manually drawing the map based on stories, can then, be enriched with additional data you need, such as continent or street names.
You can open a map in Google (http://maps.google.com) and zoom out completely. You’ll get a virtual figure 2 – this cannot be shown in a static view, because being updated regularly is an important part of it.
Virtual Figure 2: A modern map of the Earth presented by Google. This much better describes reality, but still, what’s shown in the middle depends on the point of view, it’s still flat – for convenience, admittedly –, and “North America” or “Europe” was added – helpful, but not to be found in the real landscape – and zooming-in does not make Asia bigger.
What has been said about maps applies to the landscape description of the SAP Solution Manager, too. Try whenever possible, to read data from the landscape itself instead of creating them manually, to because you will make mistakes in your manual description. You will still not get reality, but a better picture of it. Also, you can combine different types of data in your description, enriching automatically gathered data.
Deriving data directly from reality is the best approach available to get a map. It does not help to change your landscape description to change the landscape, but changes in the landscape must be reflected in the landscape description. Additional info can be added.
Even if you see a small street on Google’s map, it might have been replace by a highway or washed away by a flood (and, much more likely you’ll find this effect on any printed map). So regularly checking the description – especially when travelling – is a good idea. For this, automated processes are much better than manual rework. So pictures updated all 24 hours directly from each satellite would help you even to track the state of any volcano when travelling to Iceland.
Also this effect can be seen in the IT landscape and the SAP Solution Manager: Systems start and shut down, or get new software versions. All this is important to know when using this landscape, so regular updates definitively are as important as for traveling. The tools you need to retrieve data automatically are available.
Using automatically and regularly retrieved data is the best approach to know the current state of any landscape.
How-to Travel Safely in the IT-Landscape
An experienced traveler will use the best map he or she can get. As in a map used to guide your journey, your IT landscape description must be correct, showing the data you need in the state the systems actually have. Knowing that you can easily create an incorrect map should make you be even more carefully when working on your landscape description. Any error made here will make your journey cumbersome, difficult or even fail.
To help you make yourself familiar with the entities you need to know as being important, the tools needed to automate your landscape description creation as much as possible, and the steps you need to perform. To learn more, follow the links provided on the landscape description page at the SDN:
Figure 3: A symbolized IT-landscape with Technical Systems, SLD, and SAP Solution Manager
Any effort invested in understanding and improving the landscape description using tools and best practices to automate the collection of information will pay off in all processes you need to manage in your landscape.
You’ll find the blog posts and links to tools and application dealing with them on a dedicated page called Landscape Management Process in the SAP Support Portal.