The following is the first of a two-part series on data archiving, based on two separate Gartner reports. Part 2 deals with best practices for planning and launching SAP data archiving projects.
SAP data archiving is becoming an increasingly critical – and common – part of the SAP landscape, according to a new Gartner Inc. report.
Companies still rely on data archiving as a way to improve their SAP system performance, but other factors now drive archiving efforts, including “modernization” efforts that entail getting rid of older, legacy ERP systems in favor of faster, nimbler ones.
“The case for legacy system decommissioning grows stronger with each passing year,” the report states. “The challenge is what to do with the data.”
Mergers and acquisitions are another reason companies need to archive, according to Gartner.
Companies that get bought may bring significant assets and capital, but they also have different systems and applications that need to be retired and data that needs to be managed or stored, the report says.
“After all, how many HR systems do you need?” asked Sheila Childs, an analyst with Gartner.
Companies wondering whether to archive their ERP data should consider the hardware, software and personnel costs associated with maintaining the legacy system, and the lower performance it can cause, according to Gartner.
Archived data can be put into the new SAP ERP system if needed, Childs said. Companies can also put the data into a flat file on disk or keep it in an archiving system maintained by a third-party system, she added.
The need for more ERP functionality has also led to a greater need for archiving, according to Gartner. The amount of data that SAP systems create typically grows approximately 5%-10% with each successive release.
“As the feature set becomes richer, that leads to more and more metadata fields,” Childs said.
E-discovery and SAP data archiving
Failing to purge unneeded data can also lead to legal concerns, according to the report. For instance, a company may hold on to data for years longer than is legally required, not realizing it’s legal fodder, Childs said.
“If you’ve got it, you’ve got to show it,” she said.
So what’s the problem?
Despite the importance of SAP data archiving, many projects get bogged down because people from different business units -- and using different software applications -- have a hard time agreeing on what to archive and who should have access to the material, according to one analyst.
“It’s hard to get anyone to agree on a plan,” Childs said. “People fall back on doing nothing.”
Suggestions for moving forward
The report also offered some advice for organizations thinking about implementing SAP archival projects. According to Gartner, businesses should:
- Consolidate multiple, large legacy systems into a smaller set of instances when possible.
- Make sure users can still get on-demand access to data from legacy systems in order to respond to requests for items like financial reports.
- Manage data safely via security and access controls.
- Make sure that the data remains readable long after it has been archived.
- Be aware that SAP applications are highly integrated. Customers running multiple SAP Business Suite applications (e.g., ERP, CRM, SRM and SCM) need to consider the impact that archiving is going to have across all applications.
While SAP NetWeaver ILM (information lifecycle management) is SAP’s add-on application for decommissioning and data archiving, a number of third-party vendors also specialize in SAP data archiving, including Allen Systems Group (ASG), Informatica Corp., IBM and OpenText Corp., according to Gartner.
Some companies may prefer going with a third-party vendor like IBM because they already use that company for content management and want to stay with it for archiving. Plus, the price for another company’s application may be cheaper, Childs said.
At the same time, some vendors have begun offering enterprise information archiving (EIA) software, which focuses on archiving information like emails and Word documents. CommVault, for example, offers the ability to archive those types of files as well as data from the SAP system itself, according to Gartner.
One advantage of SAP NetWeaver ILM is that users can archive the data at the individual record level, according to Jim Malfetti, a consultant with the Brandywine Data Management Group LLC, based in Glen Mills, Pa.
“You can keep one document and delete the rest,” Malfetti said. “That is not something that users can do with standard ERP functionality.”