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Information Lifecycle Management Can Seem Daunting — But It Doesn't Have to Be

by Tanja Kaufmann and Helmut Stefani | SAPinsider

April 1, 2011

SAP is rolling out the new SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02. With it comes improvements in usability, automation, and predelivered content. To understand how these improvements can help your company more easily implement an information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy, this article takes a step-by-step look at the role the improvements will play in two key ILM scenarios: retention management and legacy system decommissioning.
 

Companies can no longer ignore the fact that their complex system landscapes cost them time and money. But even while businesses realize that the time has come to move their data into a slimmer, more efficient storage center and shut down their legacy systems, there is still some hesitancy to take on what many see as a rather scary transition.

For help in this endeavor, and to make the process less daunting, many companies turn to information lifecycle management (ILM) tools. In previous columns,1 we’ve explored this ILM concept and discussed some of the features of SAP’s own ILM solution, SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management, the first release of which was shipped with SAP ERP 6.0 enhancement package 4. Now, based on our experience with the first release, SAP is rolling out a new release with enhanced features and functionalities. This new release is currently planned to become available by the end of May 2011 as part of SAP ERP 6.0, enhancement package 5.

With the new SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, customers will get af more sophisticated ILM solution with substantially improved usability, enhanced automation abilities, and even more predelivered content. Of course, the new tools we explore here will only be helpful if the company has agreed on what data it wants to work on and how it wants to manage it.

To better understand how these improvements can help you more easily implement an ILM strategy, let’s look at the role these improvements will play in two key ILM scenarios: retention management and legacy system decommissioning.

New Features and Functionality for the Retention Management Process

Retention management deals with managing both the amount of time and the place in which data is kept, and spans the entire life cycle of the information.2 This process resembles the data archiving process, except for the following steps (each supported by the new ILM functionality) that provide a great deal of automation and control over the entire retention process (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 The areas marked with a check indicate new or enhanced functionality within SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02

Step #1: Create or Maintain Audit Areas

To set up parameters — like retention length and reason for retention — around your data, you’ll first want to set up an audit area (see sidebar). With SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, you can use a special function to copy the SAP-delivered audit area template to your namespace and then modify it as needed. A good example is the TAX audit area (see Figure 2), which comes with several tax-relevant objects already assigned to it. You can add or subtract objects based on your specific requirements. 

Figure 2 Several pre-assigned objects delivered with the TAX audit area

Step #2: Set Up Policies and Maintain Rules

Once you set up your audit area, you can use the policy engine, called the Information Retention Manager, to create retention policies and rules. These policies are based on the audit area parameters and can later be used to route the data to specific areas in the archive. The policies will also be used to assign an expiration date to the data.

With SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, you’ll see a newly designed user interface for the Information Retention Manager, with improved usability and a more modern look and feel that make it more intuitive. In addition, you’ll find new functions, such as one that will allow you to import or export a set of policies and rules. This function is useful if you want to reuse policies in other systems, for example. Another new piece of functionality is the overview function, which gives you a complete view of all policies and rules per object.

For example, consider the tax policy and its three associated rules shown in Figure 3. You can see in the top header row that we are working on a policy under the TAX audit area for the object covering purchasing documents. Let’s look at a few specific items in this figure:

  • The “Object in Audit Area” indicator is checked off (see red box); this means that this object has already been assigned to an audit area — in this case, the TAX one.
  • We have created three retention rules for three different plants. Note that you can create as many rules as you’d like for each policy.
  • We have entered the retention time per unit in years, although users can choose whatever unit of time they’d like.
  • For routing purposes, we have assigned each rule a storage system — in this case, MAXDB.
  • Once you set up the policy, you can change its status and set it live (see blue box).
Figure 3 A policy and its related rules as seen in the Information Retention Manager

Step #3: Archive and Store Data

With SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, this step is very similar to any traditional archiving process, except that it has gotten easier. In the past, when you archived your data, you needed to carefully determine the selection criteria for archiving. Now, the data is selected and even routed automatically based on the rules you set up in the previous step.

In the archive hierarchy in Figure 4, you can see how the rules are reflected. For this policy, all archive files created for object mm_ekko (part of the TAX audit area) are automatically routed under the corresponding folder in the hierarchy (in this case, the “ln1” folder for the SAP system, as shown in Figure 3). And, since the policies you set up in the previous step include retention time, the system will calculate an expiration date for your data when you archive that data.

Figure 4 The archive hierarchy view of the selected resources

Note: When preparing data for destruction, divide the tasks of creating the work list and actually running the destruction; this helps prevent mistakes.

Step #4: Destroy Data

This final step of the retention management process takes place at the end of the information’s life cycle, usually once the data reaches its expiration date. Destroying data is often the scariest step for customers because they’re worried about deleting the wrong data. However, some laws require companies to destroy certain information, such as job applications, cancelled contracts, and prospects that did not become customers, for example. And even if regulations aren’t forcing you to destroy data, at some point you will certainly need to manage those many terabytes of data. You’ll also save money on storage costs by reducing the amount of data in the archive once it reaches its expiration date.

We suspect that part of the fear around data destruction comes from the fact that, for many companies, it is a manual process. Companies may look instead for tools that will help them destroy data in an automated and responsible way. SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02 provides a new function that allows companies to automate data destruction in the archive. (This functionality is offered in addition to the destroy function for database data, which was available in the earlier solution release.)

When you’re ready to destroy data in the archive, you will be offered all eligible archive files, based on their expiration dates. You can then create a work list of files to be destroyed and securely schedule the destruction run using the ILM_DESTRUCTION transaction (see Figure 5).

As an extra layer of security, if you set up legal holds for your data, the system now will not allow you to destroy that data until the legal hold has been lifted (see sidebar).

Figure 5 Destroying data using SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management

New Features and Functionality for the System Decommissioning Process

The process of decommissioning and shutting down a legacy system can be a complex but very necessary endeavor.3 However, with the improved functionality available with the latest release of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management, customers can leverage decommissioning tools that provide more automation capabilities and better usability (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 The areas marked with a check indicate new or enhanced functionality within SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02

Dealing with the Legacy System

In any legacy system decommissioning project, there are two sides of the equation. One side concerns the legacy system, which is “emptied” of its data through different archiving methods. These methods require some ILM tools to help you extract a complete set of data, including data from still-open business processes and metadata. The ultimate goal is for the data to remain interpretable — without the help of that legacy system — after it has moved to the new retention warehouse system. To achieve this, you need to “enable” the data before moving it so that the new storage system will be able to “read” it.

In the first release of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management, the legacy system enablement was done with SAP Notes. In the new release, SAP offers an easy-to-implement add-on for SAP R/3 4.6C systems, which implements all necessary archiving enhancements and programs — enabling you to take snapshots of the data, for instance — so you can extract a complete set of data from the legacy system.

To help customers shut down SAP systems other than SAP R/3 4.6C, SAP plans to build additional add-ons for SAP R/3 4.7 and SAP ERP 5.0, for example. SAP also supports the decom­missioning of non-SAP systems with SAP BusinessObjects data services, which will help you extract and process the data from the legacy system and then map it onto the structure of an archive development kit (ADK) archiving object. These generated objects can then be treated as regular SAP archiving objects.

Dealing with the Retention Warehouse

On the other side of the decommissioning equation is the retention warehouse, a very lean system that hosts the data from the decommissioned system. A retention warehouse system can be set up based on SAP ERP 6.0, enhancement package 5, and SAP NetWeaver 7.0, enhancement package 2, and a certified storage system serves as the archive.4 The retention warehouse system can receive data from several legacy systems, providing a great cost-saving advantage that pays off quickly as you shut down more and more systems. Once a legacy system is gone, it is still possible to run reporting operations on the data in the retention warehouse. And with the following new functionality from SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, managing a decommissioning project and the retention warehouse system is even easier.

Maintaining Audit Areas and Policies

Here, the new concept of setting up an audit area and its associated policies again comes into play. That functionality — particularly for setting legal retention times — is just as vital for system decommissioning as it is for retention management.

Transferring and Converting Data

A key enhancement to the latest SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management release is a new function that combines several data transfer and conversion steps into one easy process. In the past, to transfer data, users would need to move back and forth between the retention warehouse and the legacy system, making it difficult to keep track of what was being done. Now, the only step done in the legacy system is the archive process.

For this process, if you are using a shared storage system, you only need to transfer the archive administration data from the legacy system to the retention warehouse system. It is important to do this so that your archiving sessions can be recognized by the new system. Note that in a system decommissioning scenario, rules are applied differently than they are in retention management.

In the retention management scenario, you’ll need to create the archive files first in the legacy system, which does not have a policy engine. You therefore apply the rules through a file conversion step, which opens up the existing archive files, checks the rules, and reorganizes the data into new archive files based on the rules. The archive files are then stored in the certified storage system. After that, everything can be done in the retention warehouse, including triggering the transfer of the data (see Figure 7).

Figure 7 Using the retention warehouse to transfer archived data

Checking That All Data Was Transferred and Converted Correctly

An important aspect of system decommissioning is making sure that you have identified and transferred a complete set of the data relevant for retention — that is, for example, all the data that you need to “survive” future tax audits. One way to approach this is by performing data analysis before you begin moving it into the retention warehouse. But, you also need to conduct tests to ensure completeness after you’ve moved the data, but before you actually shut down the legacy system.

To support customers in this area, SAP is now offering a check sum function as part of the new release of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management. This function allows you to form check sums before and after conversion to ensure that the data you are moving is complete. Additional functions are planned for coming releases; one function, for example, will enable the creation of check sums based on data that is still in the database of the original system.

Reporting

The upcoming SAP ERP 6.0 enhancement package contains tools and functions that completely overhaul the reporting process. For example, in addition to enabling reporting through SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW), customers now have the option to display data from the archive using a new function called local reporting. This provides a more technical, but just as comprehensive, table-based view of the data. This function also allows customers to pull data in the SAP Audit (AIS) format, which is often requested by financial authorities so they can import the report into their own auditing tools.

To view the data from the archive in SAP NetWeaver BW or through the local reporting function, select the data from the archive and upload it to either tool. The new release of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management makes this process much easier and less manual.

First, you create or choose an audit package template, allowing you to quickly reduce the scope of the data you are selecting. SAP predelivers both business warehouse and local reporting templates, which also include a subscope of the objects contained in the audit area. The audit package template for TAX, for example, contains a selection of objects relevant for a tax audit, based on the audit area.

Then, once you have your audit package template, you can use it as a base to create an audit package. Audit packages make it easy to handle groupings of the data you want to upload to SAP NetWeaver BW or use for local reporting. They also serve as an intermediary step between the archive and the business warehouse, in that they put the data from the archive files into a format that allows them to be loaded into business warehouse queries.

As shown in Figure 8, SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management now offers a completely new function in the form of an easy-to-follow guided procedure to help you create your audit package. These audit packages can be prepared at any time and deleted after use — and this deletion is, in fact, highly recommended in order to avoid data redundancies in the archive.

Another example of new reporting content that works in conjunction with the audit areas is the predelivered business warehouse queries package, which corresponds to the scope of the audit areas and the audit package templates. You can access these queries through a portal launch pad (see Figure 9) and, once you start the query, simply enter the previously created audit package and then execute the query. Additionally, you can even access unstructured documents from within the query by simply drilling down to a specific document in the query and right-clicking to display the corresponding scanned invoice.

Figure 8 A new guided procedure makes it easy to create an audit package for faster reporting
Figure 9 The launch pad through which you can access SAP's predelivered queries for easier business warehouse reporting

Summary

With SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management 7.02, customers can improve their retention management process, speed up and automate their decommissioning projects, benefit from newly designed user interfaces and usability improvements, and take advantage of a wide scope of predelivered content.

And, as we hear from more and more customers about a growing demand for more automated, end-to-end ILM solutions, particularly in the area of system decommissioning, we are confident that the new SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management release is arriving at the right time with the right features to help customers successfully tackle their data retention issues.

For more information, visit the SAP Service Marketplace (quick link/ILM) or see www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/ilm.

Tanja Kaufmann (tanja.kaufmann@sap.com) is a Solution Manager for SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management at SAP AG and has been responsible for product marketing, roll-out and events, and customer engagements. She has accompanied the evolution and success of SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management from the very beginning. Before she joined SAP AG in 2002, Tanja spent several years in Mexico City as coordinator of brokerage firm Acciones y Valores de Mexico SA de CV Casa de Bolsa's financial and economic markets magazine. She holds a master's degree in translation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

Helmut Stefani (helmut.stefani@sap.com) studied applied linguistics at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, where he graduated as a technical translator for English and Spanish. In 1997, he joined SAP, working on the documentation, product management, and rollout of data archiving and information lifecycle management topics. Helmut is co-author and editor of the book Archiving Your SAP Data and has authored several publications on data management, data archiving, and information lifecycle management

 

1 See “Supporting Your ILM Needs from Start to Finish” by Georg Fischer and Tanja Kaufmann in the July-September 2008 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

2 See “Running a System Decommissioning Project with SAP NetWeaver Information Lifecycle Management” by Tanja Kaufmann and Claudia Dangers in the July-September 2009 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

3 See the article in footnote 2 for more information. [back]

4 For more information on partner certification, see www.sap.com/usa/ecosystem/customers/directories/SearchSolution.epx and search for the SAP-defined integration scenario “BC-ILM 2.0.”.

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