IT Automation: Management of Background Job Processing with SAP Solution Manager
An important capability of efficient and effective operations and a conditio sine qua non for intelligent enterprise and digital transformation is automation management, aka background job management.
The concept and toolsets are by no means new, the author remembers his sessions educating audiences at SAP TechEd a decade ago. Time to reflect recent implementation projects and provide the latest updates.
Background Job Management
Background Job Management enables job requests, planning, execution, and monitoring of IT automation of background jobs in an SAP-centric system and solution landscape. It comprises several sub-processes to establish one standardized, formal, end-to-end operations standard:
- Requesting, changing, and deleting background jobs
- Documenting background jobs
- Scheduling background jobs
- Monitoring and alerting re background jobs
- Analyzing and visualizing background jobs.
To keep total cost of operations low and to run an intelligent enterprise, IT organizations require an efficient and consistent background job management process. This includes at a minimum a central background job documentation including its life cycle management, the integration with Request Management, Event Management, Incident Management, and Scheduling Management (including the technical integration with a special purpose central scheduling software product if available), as well as the capabilities for job monitoring, alerting, reporting, and analytics.
Business Benefits of Background Job Management
Automation of background jobs
- reduces the cost of operations for background job processing (financial perspective): labor costs are reduced i.e. resources are freed for value added activity,
- implements a more effective automation management process (business perspective): job request processing is simplified, and the degree of automation is increased,
- stabilizes the governance of background job management (IT perspective): business disruptions are reduced,
- improves error handling for automation management/job management by mapping to the OCC concept and processes (OCC perspective): time to error resolution is reduced and process steps for error resolution are documented (if not automated).
Process Flow of Background Job Management
The end-to-end process flow as visualized below neither provide details (i.e. supported job types, system types, technology types, etc.) nor process variants (request new/change existing/retire existing). It also does not outline additional tools, functionalities, and capabilities which SAP Solution Manager 7.2 offers to complement background job management, esp. enhanced scheduling support via Gantt Charts and scheduling assistants, improved job monitoring framework extensibility by offering BAdI support for new job types (e.g. ABAP jobs for SaaS, customer specific job types, etc.), Microsoft Excel based Job Document Mass Creation and Maintenance or activation of job controls in the managed systems (redirect users to the central Job Management process when trying to schedule or change jobs using scheduling transactions). It provides a general understanding of this Operations Standard only.
Here’s a recap:
“Job Request” is used in a formal process to request the scheduling of jobs. This sub-process includes approval/rejection, documentation creation/update and monitoring (re-)configuration/ (re-)activation for the background jobs/IT automation. Business users (Run, aka Ops) or project members (Build, aka Dev) create basic or detailed job requests when they want to have a new job scheduled, an existing job changed, or an existing job retired. Job requests undergo an approval workflow, handled by ITSM of choice, i.e. either in SAP Solution Manager 7.2 itself of in any other software product.
“Job Documentation” stores all job relevant information like job description, contact persons, error handling, further attachments and much more in dedicated documents. This sub-process creates and maintains the background job related solution documentation documents and facilitates their life cycle management with built-in status management and validation checks.
As mentioned earlier, the job documentation document is the central artifact(!) of this Operations Standard. It allows the central management and documentation of background processing of your entire system and solution landscape and use this documentation for various purposes. A selection of business and technical properties of background jobs are job steps, corresponding system (aka logical component), business requirements, job priority, responsible organization, scheduling parameters, monitoring and alerting configuration, error-handling procedures/alert reaction procedures, authorizations to run the programs in background etc. Import of background job data from managed systems as well as mass maintenance/creation of job documentation is supported.
“Job Monitoring/Alerting” allows monitoring and alerting of jobs. This sub-process uses metrics like status, duration, start- and end-delay to provide transparency for subject matter experts (SMEs) and the Operations Control Center (OCC). Technically, background jobs are becoming monitored objects configured as monitoring objects in SAP Solution Manager 7.2, which collect job runtime data (metrics, key figures) in your managed systems and reports it back to SAP Solution Manager 7.2.
Background job monitoring and alerting Monitor is integrated with job documentation and recommends covering at least all critical jobs or job chains in the system landscape. For this purpose, 13 job-type specific metrics available to be consumed in monitoring application or alert inbox including notification engine.
“Job Analytics/Dashboards” provide functionality related to monitoring and alerting but represent different use cases. SAP Solution Manager 7.2 offers Dashboard Builder and ST-OST addon Focused Insights for analysis and role-based transparency.
Job analytics aka job reporting allows for the identification of job-related abnormal or suboptimal situations in the system landscape, i.e. the analysis of workload distribution and resource consumption, the occurence of background job cancellations at a specific time, in a specific system, in a specific business process step, etc., and the detection of peak times and low times etc. in order to apply proactive and continuous improvement of the IT automation/background job processing.
All activities are supported by SAP Solution Manager 7.2 with the exception of “Schedule Job/Run Job”. Job Management supports the scheduling from Job Documentation document (including calling supported schedulers seamlessly from within Job Documentation document), but the actual scheduling, release, and management of the job execution is a responsibility of a local (and/or central) scheduler.
More details please find in the SAP Solution Manager 7.2 Media Center. The SAP Solution Manager 7.2 Public Demo System invites interested parties to log on to an SAP Solution Manager 7.2 and try for yourselves.
Implementation Options for Background Job Management
Several implementation options for end-to-end background job management exist at present in SAP Solution Manager 7.2. Some of the options require a very recent Support Package (SP) level, which is always a good practice.
Firstly, we distinguish between an implementation with or without integration with a dedicated central scheduling software system.
- Background Job Management without central scheduler: Background job management information is handed over from SAP Solution Manager directly via interface to the managed SAP systems scheduler, where the job execution is triggered. This option is valid for jobs of type SAP ABAP, and partially valid for SAP BW Process Chains.
- Background Job Management with central scheduler: Background job management information is handed over from SAP Solution Manager to a special-purpose, external, central scheduling software system via Solution Manager Scheduling Enabling (SMSE) interface. Job execution is triggered by the central scheduler in/to the managed system via the respective interface. The presently SAP certified software products please find here.
Secondly, we distinguish between three main options, depending on UI technology (WebDynpro versus Fiori) and complexity (simplified versus comprehensive).
Options 1a/b offer the classic implementation using WebDynpro UI and CRM UI. This is very similar to what has been demonstrated during the last decade at various events. The difference between simple and detailed UI refers to the implemented comprehensiveness of the Job Request and Job Documentation document, i.e. number and type of fields to maintain the properties of the requested/documented object (i.e. the background job).
Option 2 offers a minimalistic implementation, which does not make use of the Request Management functionality (sub-process). Rather, it offers the utilization of central Job Documentation only, with a built-in document status management but w/o a request process management.
Option 3a offers a comprehensive implementation, which is integrated into the request processing (aka processing status management/sub-process) of an ITSM software system of choice and record. The documentation repository (aka the document status management/sub-process) is in SAP Solution Manager 7.2, embedded into its System and Solution Documentation. The overall process is triggered with a request for a new background job/automation, a request to change an existing background job/automation, or the deletion/removal of an existing background job/automation in the ITSM system of choice.
Option 3b offers a comprehensive best practice implementation, which is integrated into the request processing (i.e. processing status management/sub-process) of an ITSM software system of choice and record. The documentation repository (i.e. the document status management/sub-process) is in SAP Solution Manager 7.2, embedded into its System and Solution Documentation. The request process starts in SAP Solution Manager 7.2 as a Job Request form from SAP Fiori Launchpad.
In SAP Solution Manager 7.2, job management and its feature and functions are implemented through a guided procedure in SAP Solution Manager’s Configuration app. The implementation requires several design decisions and numerous integration aspects affecting various business and IT areas, so a well-planned project-based implementation approach is recommended (either traditionally structured or agile). The simple example process below shows a minimum implementation in BPMN notation.
Stay tuned for further articles detailing specific aspects of job/automation management which the author plans in near future.