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Following the transition to SAP Business Suite, configuration changes are usually no longer feasible once production has begun. Ideally, any required changes should take place during scheduled maintenance. However, maintenance inevitably impairs operation and results in direct as well as indirect costs.

HP's new change alert service is exactly what companies need to successfully face the challenges of configuration changes.

No time for downtime

To minimize any detrimental impact on operations, maintenance windows need to be kept as short as possible. In e-business environments, which often necessitate 24x7x365 operation, there is virtually no time for maintenance.  Furthermore, because of interdependencies among complex applications such as R/3 and SAP Business Suite, there is only enough maintenance time for performing changes. However, in contrast to the deployment phase, maintenance during the production phase does not allow for verification and validation, rendering the production system vulnerable and failure prone.

Configuration changes and high availability

Changes may lead to failures, which, in turn, result in enormous costs. That's why it is absolutely imperative to identify and track changes. Failures can be caused by unintentional changes as well as by planned changes that, in spite of having been performed according to plan, result in failures due to interaction with other components that were unknown before the change.

HP service engineers know that, even for experts, it is impossible to fully maintain the consistency of a system without the right tools. This is because:

  • The complexity of a system grows in pace with the number of configurations and resources.
  • Interdependencies and interaction between modules are not fully understood. The failure of a component may impair overall functionality.
  • Specific resources may be used in specific (rare) situations only, thus only providing limited experience.
  • Long periods of time between cause and effect make it hard to find the root cause of failure.
  • Spurious symptoms are tricky to diagnose

Even high-availability environments (reflecting the mission critical nature of R/3 or SAP Business Suite systems) may fail. High-availability environments are equipped to keep operating in the event of a hardware failure. However, a change of file access permissions may cause an application to go down for days. High-availability environments are no safeguard against file failures on the application level.

HP's Change Alert Service

Faced with this challenge, HP service engineers have developed the HP Change Alert Service. This service uses a software tool, a node consistency monitor. Combined with expert skill and knowledge, these tools help prevent change-induced failures. Applications such as SAP Business Suite have reached levels of complexity that rule out the purely manual monitoring of changes. HP's Change Alert Service continuously monitors the readiness of a node to minimize outages.

The node consistency monitor is a software solution that tracks all changes to the environmental conditions of an application in a node and that triggers alarms by predefined rules. Every day, this software solution monitors thousands of parameters of a node, a middleware, or an application and checks these parameters for changes. Unlike an event notification system, the node consistency monitor provides additional information on possible root causes of a failure.

The node consistency monitor supports:

  • Detecting hidden, potentially hazardous changes; triggering alarms before failures occur; identifying changes to configurations or hardware resources of the operating system, middleware, or applications of a node.
  • Tracking and logging changes over time. Updated change reports are generated on a daily basis.
  • Providing active troubleshooting support by validating changesScanning for changes by specific criteria (for example, up to the most recent reboot).
  • Ongoing documentation of node history in a continuously updated log
A practical example

During normal application use, on a node in an SAP R/3 production system, a file containing definitions for the NETV2 Listener of the Oracle database, has been inadvertently deleted. This error is unnoticed because this file is only read at startup; it is not needed while the R/3 system is running.

However, because this file is missing, the application cannot be restarted once it has stopped. Event notification systems would fail to detect any problem at this point because the problem would not yet have had any impact. Due to the time between the root cause (inadvertent deletion) and the effect (application failure), there is no apparent link between effect and cause for analysis and troubleshooting.

During normal operation, the node consistency monitor checks all conditions related to the execution of an application daily, including the presence of all critical configuration files and changes to the contents or to the access permissions of these files. No later than one day following an event, these checks would issue an error message, letting the operator remedy the problem before vital services are affected.

HP Change Alert Service pays for itself

HP has a wealth of expertise managing SAP environments for a large number of customers (including SAP itself), as well as in-house at HP. Our have first-hand experience in facing the challenges of change. The node consistency monitor lets HP service engineers help maximize the uptime of R/3 or SAP Business Suite systems, fulfill service level agreements, and facilitate the tasks of systems administration personnel. 

This service quickly pays for itself by reducing costs through:

  • Minimization of change-related system failure
  • Faster troubleshooting in the event of any failures that may occur in spite of proactive support, thus reducing the duration of any outage
  • Reduced need for skilled human resources associated with troubleshooting
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