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Within the theme “Operationalizing the Real-Time Data Platform (RTDP)”, I would like to discuss the Remote Database Operations (RDO) service from a customer’s perspective.  Since I have frequently worked with an RDO (previously named REMO) service, I am very familiar with how an RDO service interacts with a customer’s operational environment.

At a very basic level, RDO is an SAP service which is used for remotely managing, monitoring and supporting a customer’s DBA environment.  While this service is not for everyone, I find that it is a service which is generally undervalued or that its benefits are greatly misunderstood by some customers.  To clear up this confusion, I will briefly describe some of the benefits that I believe an RDO service can provide to customers.

For quick reference, I am including a list of the RDO Benefits which are further described in this blog post:

  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Workforce Flexibility
  • Bridged Technical Support
  • Quality of Service
  • Resource Skillsets and Training
  • 24×7 Support
  • Shared Experiences

Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

A key characteristic of a cloud service is that it lowers the TCO for an application or system being managed.  Although the RDO service isn’t technically a cloud service, it does exhibit some very similar characteristics.  For example, an RDO service is immediately scalable (quickly add/remove environments to be monitored), delivered on-demand (workforce flexibility), and uses a cost model which is based on the consumption of resources (number of database instances managed).  And similar to a cloud service, an RDO service lowers the TCO for managed applications and systems by sharing pools of resources.  By using a pool of shared staffing resources to manage a customer’s environment, an RDO service reduces the TCO of the managed applications and systems.  As a result, the TCO of a database environment becomes cheaper as more customer environments are managed by RDO.

The cost of the RDO service is typically reduced further by using RDO services which are partially staffed from developing countries that have a lower Cost-Of-Living.  For example, utilizing the monitoring services with an RDO office hosted in Pune, India may be significantly cheaper than requiring the same services from an RDO office hosted in the United States.

If you want to see if an RDO service will lower your TCO, you will need to compare the cost of the RDO service with that of the cost of employing your DBA Team.  The cost of an RDO service will depend on several factors including the number and type of environments being managed.  Therefore, you will need to call your local SAP representative and request a quote in order to identify your cost for the RDO service.    To calculate the total cost of employing your DBA Team, you will need to add up your direct and indirect costs.  Some of the obvious direct costs include salary, benefits, software tools, desktop infrastructure, and training.  Some of the indirect costs which are not so obvious include the employee turnover processes (onboarding and wind-down), facilities management (utilities, parking and rental space) and management overhead from direct supervision as well as various internal departments that support the employees (e.g. HR).  To put this into perspective, you might expect that the cost of employing a person is about 135-150% of the base salary.  For example, if the base salary of a DBA is $60,000, then the total cost of employing that person is probably going to be between $81,000 to $90,000.

Workforce Flexibility

Arguably one of the greatest benefits that an RDO service offers is the flexibility to immediately expand (or shrink) the number of DBA resources that are focused on solving a particular problem.  For example, if a production issue occurs which has stopped a critical activity, the RDO team can swarm an issue until it is resolved.  They won’t be bogged down when Tech Support requests them to collect information or because they need to sit in on a conference call to report status to management.  Instead, what you’ll find is that several DBAs of the RDO team that were previously focused on lower priority issues and activities with other customers will be recruited and refocused to the critical customer problem that needs attention.

As an experienced professional in the industry, I have seen many customers that associate very high costs to unplanned downtime.  When a critical issue strikes and you are not well prepared, it can cost lots of money.   A benefit that the RDO service provides is the ability swarm a problem, escalate the issue to Technical Support (as necessary) and report status back to management all at the same time.

Bridged Technical Support

Even though Technical Support is a great service, Technical Support Engineers generally do not have direct access to or familiarity of the customer’s environment, at least not like an RDO Service.  This gives the RDO service the advantage to potentially diagnose and resolve problems faster.

Now if the software being managed is from SAP, then the RDO service will likely also have some of the same contacts into Engineering (Product Development) as the SAP Technical Support team.  As a result, an RDO service will be able to escalate to the appropriate and best resources based on their experience and relationship with the Engineering team.   In addition, the RDO service may also have access to some of the same internal knowledge bases used by Technical Support including Case Management Systems which are used to compare customer issues.  This can sometimes eliminate the need to contact Technical Support altogether and further reduce the time to resolve issues.  Finally, if a bug fix is required to resolve an important issue, the RDO service will know how to properly write the “Business Case” so that the issue, impacts and urgency are understood by all and the bug fix is given the proper priority.

Quality of Service

The RDO service employs a team which is larger than the average customer’s DBA team.  Therefore, the quality of the RDO team isn’t as affected by resource turnover or by frequent shifts in the size or number of database environments supported.  So if an experienced DBA (“Rockstar”) ends up winning the lottery, the business end-users won’t see an increase in unplanned downtime, a slowdown in performance or any other impact to the operations of their environment.

Every customer wants to develop their team and turn every DBA into a “Rockstar”.  Let’s define a Rockstar as a person that has deep knowledge, skills and experience and is highly capable of handling complex tasks or resolving challenging issues.  The drawback is that most customers may have only one Rockstar which could end up becoming a Single Point Of Failure (SPOF).  To counter this issue, a customer should develop a balanced plan to have multiple “Rockstars” if possible.  Unfortunately, Rockstars are also sometimes difficult to keep around as they usually end up demanding a higher salary and special attention.  In addition, the larger companies which can afford to pay the “Rockstars” have already picked out the best and brightest in the industry.  An RDO Service, however, gives the smaller size company the ability to employ several of the best and brightest Rockstars in the industry, especially if it’s SAP database software which is being managed.

Resource Skillsets and Training

When a customer needs to implement software for the first time, they will generally send their DBAs to training.  However, with no experience, managing a new piece of software can still be a daunting task.  If it’s software from SAP, then the RDO team will have been trained and will have real experience.  BTW, this can be especially helpful for those customers that are acquiring software they have never used (e.g. ASE, HANA) but don’t want to retain the RDO service on a long-term basis.

24×7 Support

A typical challenge for customers that require night and weekend support for their environment is in trying to find that special resource or team willing to staff these shifts.  As one can imagine, the night and weekend shifts are less motivating because they provide less opportunity for personal interaction and because there is a strong requirement to adhere to documented operational processes.  The RDO service solves this problem because it is a global service with several offices around the world.  As a result, an RDO office located on the other side of the world is working a typical day shift but is managing and monitoring a customer environment while the customer is at home asleep or spending time with the family.   Although several primary RDO DBAs will continue to generally work similar shifts as the customer, they are also rotated through an on-call schedule to react when customers have issues during the night.

Since the RDO service is a 24×7 service, important problems can also be worked on 24hrs a day.  Work does not need to be suspended when the customer’s day shift ends and then picked up again when the resources return the next business day.

Shared Experiences
It is frequently overlooked that an RDO service is actually an implementation of best practices for managing and monitoring customer database environments.  In fact, customer experiences are often internalized by the RDO team and then obliquely shared with other customers.  For example, one way this is exhibited is during upgrades.  An RDO team will likely already know the devastating pitfalls that need to be avoided during and after a software upgrade.  Scripts which can also be maintained by RDO service and enhanced as customers create new requirements for the environments being managed.  These finely tuned scripts will then serve to improve both the quality and speed at which they execute.

My Next Blog Topic

Well, I hope I have identified various ways that an RDO service can benefit customers that are frequently overlooked or undervalued.  That’s it for this blog post.  To read more information about SAP’s RDO service, see additional blog posts from my colleague Cathy Lanigan which you can find in the Database Services Content Library.  My next blog post will be regarding how the Hardware Evolution is driving Software Innovation.

Now that I have identified some of the customer benefits of an RDO service, can you identify any other benefits I forgot to include?  If you have considered the RDO service before, did you encounter any challenges that prevented you from acquiring the service?  If so, I would like to hear your thoughts.

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