The Walt Disney Company has been using Solution Manager for years now, and it certainly has its pros and cons, according to David Hull, SAP Platform architect for the company and longtime Basis and database administrator.
“There’s a lot of functionality, and you’ve probably heard people describe it as a mile wide and an inch deep,” Hull said. “We kind of look at Solution Manager as a buffet, and I maintain a list of the Solution Manager functionality that we have not yet implemented and may be of benefit to use.”
Because Solution Manager -- SAP’s set of application lifecycle management tools -- contains so much functionality, what to begin with can be challenging, and it’s going to vary depending on where an organization’s pain points are.
Consultants say they’re seeing more interest in implementing the Solution Manager ChaRM functionality -- Change Request Management and Change Control Management. Change Request Management details the person who approved the change to the code in an implementation or upgrade, who should test the change, and the documentation behind approvals. Change Control Management deals with the more technical aspects of physically moving those changes from development to QA and from QA to production, according to Ajay Vonkarey, SAP Solution Manager lead for Alpha Sirius.
Customers are also finding value in Solution Manager’s live blueprint/process model. When companies initially implemented SAP, the implementation team developed a requirements specification (SAP calls them blueprints) that documented what the system would look like.
This specification often became a paperweight once development started, according to Phil Avelar, SAP practice lead for Advanced Solutions, an SAP consulting firm. The problem is that a year later, that document is not accessible, nor will anyone take the time to read it. Solution Manager provides a repository for all of this documentation.
“I believe this can have a long-term ROI for very little added time investment and can be done as a part of a maintenance effort without a separate business case,” Avelar said in an email interview. “The quick payback is in making the process available widely. Business rules, key decisions -- they are all there. I can't tell you what a difference this makes when performing support or performing the next initiative.”
Disney leverages Solution Manager functionality for IT service -- for historical reporting on application and server statistics and performance metrics. One thing that SAP has done very well is that Solution Manager has some BW cubes in it, Hull said. The data that comes in from the monitoring systems gets put into these data warehouse cubes within the Solution Manager system, allowing the customer to do reporting off BW cubes.
Hull can look at a report and, if he wants to see a different view, right-click on it and add a drill-down metric -- say, a server name or portal activity. He may, for instance, be looking for the data for sizing efforts, trying to validate what’s in place and seeing what the utilization is in order to size hardware for peaks in application usage.
“I can slice and dice the data within a BW reporting interface,” he said. “It’s not rocket science to be able to drill down. But of all the monitoring tools that I use, none of that has reporting capability. I’ve used that every day.”
It’s important to keep in mind that it can take a while to get things turned on and configured properly, Hull said -- something SAP itself admits.
For instance, Disney needed a tool to monitor its SAP Java-based applications -- the point of entry for most of Disney’s 13,000 users. The vast majority use the time and expense applications, which are accessed through the SAP Portal.
But it learned it couldn’t simply do this in Solution Manager. CA Wily Introscope, a Java monitoring tool, needed to be installed in order to support the Java-based systems. But there’s very little information on how to install it, configure it and utilize it. After having SAP consultants set it up in the first place, Disney had to have CA come in and provide some level of reliability in the configuration of Introscope.
While it was a challenge to get the application to the point where it’s been useful, Disney now relies on it for monitoring and troubleshooting the Java applications.
“It’s fairly critical to be monitoring those Java apps,” Hull said, noting that he is looking for a tool that gives him the ability to correlate activity across ABAP and Java, and he’s not aware of any such tool yet. “Solution Manager is the application that would be a good candidate.”