In the past I blogged about disruptiveness of SAP NW 7.31, then about poor quality of SAP NW 7.31 SPs: I found out that from SP4 to SP8 there have been nearly neither deletions nor development of new objects but many changes.

Now I want to leave statistics and want to talk about my own experience because at the moment this makes me feel a bit helpless. This is my story: I have to downport an application to a system with a lower SP level of NW 7.31 and got into trouble. As a consequence in the last two weeks I decided to install 43 OSS notes to fix some problems in SAP_BASIS. Then I found out that the problems have not been solved, instead they shifted to another SAP_BASIS application and I let install another 17 OSS notes in one day and still not everything is fixed. So I opened OSS notes and tried to find out workarounds and finally everything seems to work but the time schedule of the project got into trouble as well as the costs and work life balance of the team. This is annoying and some questions come to my mind which I try to discuss in the following.

Are low SP levels still a good starting point for new Ehp implementations?

In the past I thought that an upgrade to an Ehp possible as soon as the software is general available. Before using new applications and functionalities of an Ehp I looked carefully on the number of OS notes and then decided whether or not to use them. At the moment this best practice is not that useful: even former mature software can become buggy. For me SP8 is a good starting point and you have only to apply a little number of OSS notes but SP4 and SP5 are a nightmare.

Are SPs patchable?

The answer to the question is simple: of course they are in theory – but in real life? As I wrote above I decided to implement more than 40 OSS notes and depended notes. To overcome all problem another 150 OSS notes would have to be installed but I learned that some OSS notes require manual development that are described on 15 or more pages. This is far too risky and takes too much time to apply.

Is Upgrade an Option?

Most annoying have been the discussions with SAP Active Global Support: I was told to apply all notes (although I consider this as not manageable) or to apply a new SP. But this is not possible after my experience of the last deletions: an SP can be so disruptive that it can influence the already developed and perhaps productive applications on the system. It is my experience that an upgrade requires intensive tests and I can do this only at the beginning at a development cycle.

If upgrade is not option you have to install OSS notes – and this is the main topic of my blog: what did I learn about the quality of OSS notes.

OSS Notes should be externally Released

In many cases I found out that many OSS not are not externally released. In this case your search for a solution fails, you have to open an OSS message and wait for the response. But there are other reasons why search for OSS notes fails which I describe in the following.

OSS Notes have to contain meaningful descriptions of the Problem they solve

Many of OSS notes don’t contain concise description of error so if you have a dump often you don’t have the chance to find an appropriate note.  Many OSS notes of NW 7.31 describe that parts of an application are buggy or still in development. Let me give you an example: WDA Unified Rendering has trouble and there are many related notes. In some cases Service Portal links to SCN Wiki which is really cool: http://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/WDABAP/Unified+Rendering+Notes+-+Which+one+to+apply. Unfortunately there is no explanation about the problems the OSS notes solve – think of file upload in WDA for example or other problems with the UI. Perhaps this is explained somewhere but SAP should create a knowledge base article –and most import- link to it from the wiki and OSS notes.

Single OSS Notes as Hotfix Collections can be Fatal

There are many notes which have the character of hotfix collections and this is annoying since above mentioned problems of missing problem description is endemic here. There are only some texts like “this note contains many improvements and minor error corrections” which is not really helpful.

OSS notes should be easy installable

So far I discussed only bad OSS notes – now let’s look at the ugly ones. Some of them are not automatically downloadable and instead they require manual corrections. I have seen OSS notes that require 15 pages of manual corrections which is quite error prone, takes time is a nightmare for basis administrators which sometimes have somewhat limited development skill. So dear SAP AGS, please release note that are easily installable.

OSS notes should be self-contained and should have not much Prerequisites

The ugliest OSS notes are ones which have many requirements. The trouble with prerequisites is that the installation effort is too big especially if manual corrections are necessary. Moreover I’m forced to install additional notes which might be problematic because of test effort, unwanted side effects, sometime bigger changes if optional additional features are enabled  and so on.

Dear AGS, I appreciate if you recommend to install other notes but I would like to have control over the OSS notes I want to install. I don’t want the UI to be changed to get my background jobs running. Please avoid unnecessary prerequisites.

The Quality of early SAP NetWeaver SPs is a Mess and the Root Cause

One message of my blog should be clear: the root cause of all problems I discussed in this blog is the poor quality of some SPs of SAP NetWeaver. And I made really bad experience in at least four different applications within AS ABAP that have been released for years so it’s definitely not the problem of edge development or single development teams. And SAP has to get better here.

The poor software quality of SAP NetWeaver is a challenge for SAP customers and for SAP Active Global Support. I would appreciate if SAP AGS would try to release better OSS Notes and I tried to explain what kind of notes I would like to see.

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14 Comments

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  1. Ivan Femia

    I’m agree with you, sometime OSS notes are a nightmare.

    So difficult to find the right one and in some cases very time consuming to implement.

    I hope that the Automated Note Search Tool ANST will solve this issue in some how A new application that makes it easier to find SAP Correction Notes

    What I also don’t like is the OSS Support, because sometimes you ask for a bug resolution and they randomly propose you a set of OSS notes that has no relation with your problem and don’t solve your issue, but it causes you a time loss…

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Thank you for this hint. So far I considered ANST only as useful in ERP environment but I will check it out for SAP NetWeaver, too. By the way, there are other approaches which should make the system behaviour more transparent and SAP already discussed this with SAP Mentors – I think Gretchen Lindquist and I will blog about this if those features are available.

      I really appreciate those approaches but they don’t solve to root cause which are quality issues in SAP standard software. Only with a good quality and good trouble shooting tools customers have the chance to reduce TCO of their SAP solution and can invest in new solutions.

      Best Regards,

      Tobias

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      1. Tom Cenens

        Hi Tobias

        It does sounds like SolMan could potentially help out here as well through business process documentation – business process change analyzer – automated testing amongst other scenario’s / functions.

        I agree though, SAP notes can be troublesome and SP stacks can result into small nightmares. My customer is testing everything first on a sandbox copy of production because of the unreliability of the SP stacks that come out.

        I’m not eager either to jump into a new SP stack straight away. SolMan 7.1 SP10 is coming but I’ll wait it out for a good amount of time (unless I can place it on a sandbox) so it can become stable first.

        Best regards

        Tom

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  2. Gretchen Lindquist

    Tobias,

    If I didn’t know better, I would suspect that you have been lurking here on my GRC 10 project, because you have described almost perfectly my experience with OSS Notes during this migration project.

    I don’t know if you are familiar with this English expression, but I would say that  “the jury is still out” on whether or not a low SP is good (meaning that it is an undecided point). The conventional wisdom with GRC has been to go with the latest SP and stick with it when you ever get it to work. We started our sandbox at SP11,  but we had to put in so many individual OSS Notes that we took DEV to SP12. Now what we have seen has been that bugs were identified, fixed in a later SP, then broken again in SP 12. This makes it very difficult to identify which one is the “go to” SP level.

    I also agree completely with your comment about the unclear descriptions in the Notes, which result in doubts as to whether or not the Note is really addressing the symptoms observed.

    So count me among the frustrated customers disappointed with the quality of SPs and Notes.

    Thank you for raising this sensitive but important topic.

    Gretchen

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  3. Uwe Fetzer

    Hello Tobias,

    replace SAP_BASIS with Solution Manager and your blog would fit exactly to my experience 😉

    Hope you see you in Amsterdam!

    Uwe

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    1. Tom Cenens

      Hi Uwe

      SolMan is often worse in terms of the number of SAP notes to apply and the speed at which new ones get created 🙂 .

      Best regards

      Tom

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  4. Martin English

    The ‘obvious’ answer is to stay away from the leading edge (aka bleeding edge), but if the product has been released, it should be a lot more reliable than the issues that you’re having (It’s not as if NW7.31 is the latest release anyway).

    The real issue is that the IT team (Project Managers, Developers, Administrators etc) get caught in the crush between poor quality assurance of released software from SAP, and the want / need of the business to get their hands on the latest features. If the customers find another way to get the same features quicker and more reliably, sooner or later enough of them will move to the other way and SAP will suffer.

    I would rather see SAP get the QA before this happened.

    hth

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Hi Martin,

      I don’t speak of “bleeding edge” products like SP 0 of NW 7.40 on HANA which we tested, too. For those products there are customer validations and rampups that ensure quality in productive environment.

      I blogged of application components we are using since SAP Release 4.6C. Only one component was quite new but yet officially released in NW 7.02. And this is what is really frightening: even in stable products changes produced trouble – this shouldn’t happen.

      Cheers,

      Tobias

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  5. Nicolas Busson

    Hello Tobias,

    Interestingly I had a discussion with Alyson Munroe a few days ago because @SAPSupportCE sent a tweet saying they were looking for customer feedback on SAP notes, KBA, etc. So I responded and shared my experience. In my case I didn’t complain about the OSS notes quality, but I’m sure Alyson will appreciate to get your feedback.

    Cheers,

    Nicolas.

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    1. Tobias Trapp Post author

      Thank you for this information. Of course I would like to give feedback to @SAPSupportCE.

      One important topic is the whole process of error notes because so far AGS processes emphasize isolation instead of collaboration. Let me give some examples:

      • SAP customers that are SAP certified Competence Centers sometimes have a “budget” of OSS notes they can open. If they open too much OSS notes that don’t get to a certain support level they lose their certification status. This makes collaboration sometimes difficult.
      • In my opinion SAP AGS should work more closely with SAP development to reduce the number of prerequisites of an OSS note. Perhaps a role of a DevOp could help.

      I have to admit that I don’t know much about the processes at SAP AGS but I think the balance of isolation and collaboration can be improved.

      So far I only complained about software quality and mused process improvements but I think I should also mention that both at SAP AGS and SAP development the people are passionate about software quality and are helping customers and I’m very thankful for the support I had. But although the support from AGS and development was sometimes extraordinary many things can be improved and I mentioned some aspects in this blog.

      But the main problem is the software quality and spped may be the reason: SAP created many solutions in too short time and speed causes accidents as we know from traffic.

      Cheers,

      Tobias

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      1. Nicolas Busson

        That was exactly some of the points we discussed with @SAPSupportCE actually: collaboration. Because I often end up creating OSS customer messages to notify SAP about inconsistencies in the delivered customizing, or “limitations” that are not documented anywhere (which should be considered a bug, but that’s another story), or OSS notes that are talking about a software version in the symptoms but fix another software version in the correction instructions etc… and each time I’m provided with the same answer: “that’s how it goes, kindly confirm the message”.

        I’m holding no grudge on anyone, as I’m sure there must be some sort of KPIs that pressurizes the people answering my messages. The problem is that the result can be sometimes unfortunate: if you want to take a small break, check this 30 seconds video that I sent to @SAPSupportCE as an example. Now check OSS note 1923645 that has been released to deal with the problem 🙂

        Nick

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  6. Samuli Kaski

    I confirm that SP4 for NW731 is a nightmare of applying notes, de-implementing notes because applied notes break existing functionality, implementing custom functionality to avoid system bugs, etc. That’s the case at least if PLM is in the scope. Anyone planning to go live with SP4 or even earlier, don’t. Even SP5 would be better, SP8 is the minimum I would choose.

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  7. Damean-BF Chen

    Very well said, I too was in NW731 SP4, and face with some issue with enabling NWBC and related capabilities. Not only is the OSS “Fixes” introduces more bugs (the infamous “WDA Unified Rendering“); and my attempt to undo the installation via “Reset” just make things goes further down hill from there. At the end, I have to resort manual compare and check to get things back to normal again.

    For Pete sake, did another do any testing before releasing these “fixes”. At the very, very least, please make sure that “Reset” properly restore the code change to things as is.

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