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Managing the lifecycle of a company’s SAP estate is no easy task. Along with the usual long list of servers, the workloads they host are typically critical to most of the core business processes. This means any downtime affecting those servers is a high priority issue that must be solved immediately to avoid monetary losses for the company.

Historically, maintenance tasks on SAP servers have been performed manually. For example, applying OS patches required a very detailed plan involving extensive research about applying packages, the list for patching servers, the right order to do it if there were dependencies, etc. Once the plan was finished, the SAP administrators had to agree on a maintenance window with the Line Of Business (LOB) and then perform the patching and subsequent tests to make sure everything went ok. In many cases, human error resulted in some servers ending up with different patch levels, which could lead to massive issues affecting normal SAP operation.

Fortunately, automation has become more and more widespread in the SAP world. Automation can be used throughout the whole lifecycle of the servers hosting SAP workloads, from their deployment (Day 1 Operations) until they are retired (Day 2 Operations). 

Red Hat Insights is an SaaS solution that automates mainly Day 2 Operations (although it can also be used to define server images with the needed configuration and deploy them) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) servers. It is included in all subscriptions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for SAP Solutions and has a rich database of domain expert recommendations for many workloads, including SAP. Thanks to that, it can perform predictive analysis and prevent potential issues before they occur. 

Here are four aspects that are very important for SAP servers, which are the subject of this analysis by Principled Technologies.

1. Ensure recommendations are applied to SAP servers

SAP servers, specifically those that host SAP HANA, need to follow many recommendations from SAP and the OS vendor (keep in mind that SAP HANA can only run on two Linux distributions: Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise). Red Hat Insights includes rules so that all the RHEL servers follow the SAP and Red Hat recommendations that enable good performance of SAP HANA (since it is a very resource-intensive database) and that detect unsupported and uncertified configurations. 

The analysis by Principled Technologies shows that SUSE’s lifecycle management solution, SUSE Manager, does not include a similar functionality, so administrators would need to manually check to ensure that all servers have all recommendations applied.

2. Configuration drift

Red Hat Insights has the ability to instantly detect any difference in the configuration of one or more servers in the SAP estate that deviates from the baseline defined by the administrators. This establishes that there are no differences in the packages and versions installed in all the servers that host a particular SAP system or between production, test, development, and deployments. The analysis mentioned earlier shows that Red Hat Insights significantly reduces the time to detect drift configuration compared to SUSE Manager. This enables administrations to save time by discovering and addressing potential issues earlier.

3. Compliance to policies

In addition to creating a configuration baseline for the SAP servers, being able to define policies for them is a great benefit to administrators, especially if this can be done from a graphical interface that also provides a dashboard so that all the hosts stay compliant to those policies. Red Hat Insights can reduce the time administrators typically spend defining and managing compliance by about 30%, and the analysis by Principled Technologies shows that Red Hat Insights requires less time to do this than SUSE Manager does.

4. Vulnerability, bug fixes, and SAP HANA patches

Red Hat Insights also detects any vulnerabilities documented as Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) that can potentially affect RHEL servers, as well as known exploited vulnerabilities, and suggests the application of released bug fixes. This pertains to the OS domain, but Red Hat Insights can also warn about potential issues related to the installed SAP HANA related packages and suggest an update for them.

It is important to note that Red Hat Insights not only detects all these potential issues, but in combination with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, it can trigger remediation playbooks that will make sure they never take place. This interaction of both solutions is now even more effective since Red Hat Insights is one of the possible event sources for Event-Driven Ansible.

Conclusion

The role of the system administrator is transforming from performing mostly maintenance tasks to something much more specialized, defining strategies to provide a much better quality service to the LOB.

Automation plays a pivotal role in this transformation, as it frees up the administrator’s time to design better and more resilient solutions. This is particularly beneficial in the SAP domain, where systems are critical and complex to manage. 

Red Hat Insights greatly benefits the management of SAP servers as it:

  • Reduces the time needed to address issues derived from failure to follow best practices by 75%
  • Reduces the time to solve configuration drift problems by 92%
  • Addresses compliance issues in 29% less time than other vendors’ solutions

À propos de l'auteur

Ricardo Garcia Cavero joined Red Hat in October 2019 as a Senior Architect focused on SAP. In this role, he developed solutions with Red Hat's portfolio to help customers in their SAP journey. Cavero now works for as a Principal Portfolio Architect for the Portfolio Architecture team. 

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