Compared to the early days of SAP R/3, there has been a huge increase in the breadth and depth of capabilities offered by SAP solutions. Applications for SCM, CRM, SEM, and PLM have been extended or added to the core SAP ERP system, leading to the creation of the SAP Business Suite.
At the same time, the technology platform has undergone its own evolution. Consider the relatively simple Basis system, and then look at the powerful integration capabilities available today from SAP NetWeaver: business intelligence, process integration, user integration via portal technology, mobile applications, and many more.
With all of these applications and capabilities, the chances increase that you'll have various releases at work in different SAP Business Suite systems, and in the various SAP NetWeaver systems that support your business processes. But if you're like most SAP customers, you're probably not upgrading everything simultaneously — and you don't need to. In fact, SAP is encouraging companies to take an iterative approach to updating their system landscape.
So how will your current business processes run when they operate on different releases? How do you know all the pieces will continue to work together after an upgrade? How do you ensure that your upgrade strategy plays by the rules so that everything still works together?
SAP offers resources to help answer these questions and identify incompatibilities — everything from published release strategies, to a compatibility matrix, to master guides for specific products and their releases. This article summarizes the key considerations and resources to help you ensure optimal interoperability across systems — even with various applications, support packages, and release levels at work — so that you've got a good sense of the "rules of the game" as you strategize your upgrade path.
This article covers the technical dependencies of the SAP technology platform and its impact on customers' systems. In this article, "system landscape" refers to the production landscape and production systems only. Further considerations are required — but are beyond the scope of this article — when it comes to your development (DEV) and quality assurance (QA) systems.
Also out of the scope of this article — but a critical issue in any upgrade plan — is the optimal structuring of SAP systems into multiple hosts, application server instances, and other stand-alone components like routers and gateways. As with any upgrade strategy, you need to review multiple factors — performance, availability, capacity management, and scalability — for structuring your landscape; see my Take Note! column "You Can Achieve High Availability in Your Current SAP Landscape" in the January-March 2006 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com).
For additional advice, see my previous column "What Should — and Should Not — Be Running on the Same System in Your SAP Environment?" in the October-December 2007 issue.
To maximize interoperability between the systems that support your business, SAP NetWeaver aims to provide independence concerning support packages and releases of cooperating systems.
For example, one way that companies will benefit from the latest SAP NetWeaver capabilities is by setting up systems that offer centralized shared services for various connecting systems. Just as you might have HR shared services that support all departments in your organization, you can also offer SAP NetWeaver technology — self-service portals for example — to your CRM, ERP, and SCM systems through a single, centralized SAP NetWeaver portal system1.
In a configuration like the one in Figure 1, the central system typically offers one of the following capabilities, which are then shared among various connecting systems (for more on these capabilities, see www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/netweaver):
Despite upgrading the central SAP NetWeaver system and having different component releases, the new landscape continues to provide services to connected systems
- SAP NetWeaver Portal
- SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence
- SAP NetWeaver Mobile
- SAP NetWeaver Master Data Management
- SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (SAP NetWeaver PI), previously referred to as SAP NetWeaver Exchange Infrastructure (SAP NetWeaver XI)
- SAP NetWeaver Development Infrastructure, which developers use for managing design-time objects, building components, and distributing components to downstream (QA and production) systems
- Adobe document services (ADS) for merging Adobe forms with data from SAP applications and for creating PDF documents for printing and distribution
- End-to-end solution operations (made up of SAP Solution Manager, which includes central parts of SAP NetWeaver Administrator and the system landscape directory), which you need in order to set up, run, and monitor a system landscape with its various systems and applications
- SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment (SAP NetWeaver CE), which offers strong capabilities to create and run composite applications on top of existing application systems, leveraging exposed enterprise services
So for a company running these capabilities, what happens when it upgrades only one of them to the latest version of SAP NetWeaver? In Figure 1, you can see that existing systems continue working after the upgrade of a central system. Most SAP NetWeaver technology scenarios will support "full compatibility" scenarios like this one.
|The SAP NetWeaver Master Guide is your first point of reference before starting detailed planning for an installation or upgrade of any SAP NetWeaver systems.
To uncover potential issues in your own landscape, though, you first have to correctly identify and understand which systems are already at work in that system landscape. In doing so, keep two things in mind.
First, different releases cannot be mixed within a single system. You have to know exactly which release you are running for each capability. Generally, your system's application server (AS) is what determines the overall system release. The language runtime (ABAP or Java) also plays a key part in determining the system release (see sidebar).
Second, be sure to account for various releases of applications and SAP NetWeaver at work within your system landscape. If you're like the large majority of customers, you have a different upgrade frequency of SAP NetWeaver as compared to your application systems2 (see Figure 2). There are also different speeds of innovation for SAP products and, as a result, SAP customers might reflect different release cycles among SAP NetWeaver hubs and application systems.
SAP customers' upgrade frequency (2007 findings)
Once you understand the system releases at work in your landscape, you can then begin to ask:
- How will upgrades to SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and 7.1 affect compatibility with earlier releases?
- How will introducing support packages affect compatibility between applications and the
- What will future enhancement packages for SAP NetWeaver do to the compatibility of my systems?
As you consider which system release you are running, remember that SAP systems are built on either AS ABAP or AS Java — or both, in some cases. Every application inevitably has tight, local dependencies on the underlying application server, including the language (ABAP or Java) runtime and many other class libraries and utilities. (See my column "What Should — and Should Not — Be Running on the Same System in Your SAP Environment?" in the October-December 2007 issue of SAP Insider.)
For example, the Java Standard Edition (Java SE) and Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) versions are governed by specifications of the Java community; there are some slight incompatibilities between successive versions of these Java editions that cannot be completely hidden from the applications
running on top3.
To answer these questions, it's helpful to understand SAP's own playbook for its release strategy and its implications for SAP NetWeaver upgrades.
The "ground rules" have been published in a September 2007 SAP white paper, which is available at http://service.sap.com/releasestrategy (see sidebar at bottom right for excerpts). The basic rules can be summarized as follows:
Rule #1: Ensure multisystem interoperability. Central SAP NetWeaver systems should be able to serve multiple systems in parallel — such as several SAP ERP systems connected to a central portal system.
Rule #2: Ensure support package interoperability. Concerning the support package levels of central SAP NetWeaver systems and the systems connected to them, there should be no dependencies. The only exception is the fact that new functionality requires a minimum support package level (which is typically defined when a new product gets released).
Rule #3: Ensure downward release interoperability. Central SAP NetWeaver systems should be downward compatible regarding the cross-system interoperability of their releases. That is, after an upgrade to a higher release, cross-system scenarios that worked with a lower release should continue to work (although further customizing or configuration might be required to bring existing processes back into operation).
With these rules in mind, if you want to upgrade one of your central SAP NetWeaver systems to version 7.0 or 7.1, the first place to look for more information is the SAP NetWeaver Master Guide, where you can find details for any specific upgrade action (see http://service.sap.com/installnw70). The guide includes a release compability matrix (see Figure 3), a color-coded matrix that allows you to check information on how central SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and 7.1 systems and various connected systems fulfill the interoperability rules defined above. For example:
|Control activities are manual and take up
too much time
|GRC management effectiveness is difficult
to quantify and measure
|GRC management is fragmented at a departmental, divisional, or regional level, making it difficult to attain enterprise-wide business transparency
|Necessary information is contained in complex and heterogeneous IT landscapes
Surveyed companies were asked to rate GRC challenges
- For release 7.0 of a central SAP NetWeaver PI system, there are no known restrictions to the interoperability rules with an SAP Business Suite system.
- An SAP ERP 6.0 system can use a central ADS system without restrictions to the interoperability rules — as long as the ADS system has applied at least support package stack 12 of SAP NetWeaver 7.0.
- You can even use a central solution management system running on SAP NetWeaver 7.0 to monitor an SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1 system without restrictions to the interoperability rules.
You can use the matrix by checking your central shared service system (the left-hand column) against your connecting system (the top row) and determining your status as follows:
- Green: Full interoperability — There are no known exceptions concerning the interoperability rules for central SAP NetWeaver 7.0 systems and connecting systems based on SAP NetWeaver 2004 or SAP NetWeaver 7.0. The rules should fully apply.
- Yellow: Interoperability with some restrictions —There are known restrictions concerning the interoperability rules for central SAP NetWeaver 7.0 systems and systems based on SAP NetWeaver 2004 or SAP NetWeaver 7.0 that are connected to those central systems. Review the corresponding notes (not included in Figure 3) in the Master Guide to check the interoperability of your specific case.
While SAP will try to remove those few known restrictions as the technology evolves, there are currently no guarantees that this can be accomplished — an important consideration as you review your own adoption roadmap for SAP technology and applications.
While the interoperability matrix and the rules above focus on SAP NetWeaver 7.0, they also apply to the current capabilities of SAP NetWeaver 7.1, the latest release — in particular for the release's process integration and mobile capabilities.
Both capabilities are downward compatible with the respective 7.0 version capabilities, so the interoperability with the connected applications would remain intact after an upgrade.
In addition, with SAP NetWeaver PI 7.1, note that Java code deployed on top of SAP NetWeaver PI 7.1 may need to be adjusted to Java SE 5.0/Java EE 5.0 (see remarks on Java dependencies in the discussion of application servers, above). To learn more about the new capabilities of SAP NetWeaver PI 7.1, including how to publish enterprise services to the UDDI v3.0-compliant Services Registry it provides, please see the SAP NetWeaver Unleashed column in the January-March 2008 issue of SAP Insider4.
As for the mobile capabilities that come with SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1, there are several considerations.
- All back-end scenarios supported by SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.0 continue to run on SAP NetWeaver 7.1.
- SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 needs to run on its own separate SAP NetWeaver system.
- Due to major architectural changes between 7.0 and 7.1, an in-place upgrade is not possible. For example, the SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1 only requires an ABAP stack, and earlier releases also required a Java stack. Therefore, a two-system switchover setup is needed for the duration of the upgrade5.
A full matrix for SAP NetWeaver 7.1 will be published in connection with the consolidated shipment of SAP NetWeaver 7.1, planned for late 2008.
You've likely heard much about the enhancement packages that offer ongoing extensions to SAP ERP. Now SAP plans to deliver enhancement packages for SAP NetWeaver releases 7.0 and 7.1 as well.
Rest assured, though, that these enhancement packages will not change the interoperability rules introduced above. In fact, they are designed to ease upgrade planning and minimize the impact of system change by clearly separating functional enhancements and technical corrections.
The following excerpts from the September 2007 white paper "SAP's Release Strategy for Large Enterprises" highlight the basic ground rules SAP has set for its deliverables.
"The SAP release strategy assures integration between releases of SAP NetWeaver, SAP applications, composite applications, enhancement packages, and content shipments. Integration is the precondition for stable cross-application scenarios and offers maximum flexibility for continuous improvement."
"The first release of a new SAP application can be integrated with a defined set of releases of other SAP applications. A follow-up release usually supports at least the same set as its predecessor, as long as the application releases within this set are in mainstream or extended maintenance."
"All previously used business functions in your scenarios will still be available after an upgrade of an SAP application, unless otherwise indicated within the master guides available from in SAP Service Marketplace."
"To take full advantage of the new or enhanced business functions that extend the original scope of your scenario, you may be required to upgrade more than one SAP application within your applications landscape. Typically, you need to upgrade only the SAP applications on which new scenarios rely."
The same interoperability rules that apply to new releases apply even more to enhancement packages installed on top of that release. However, since the overarching purpose of enhancement packages is to introduce some new scenarios (or new versions of scenarios), note that these scenarios may still have dependencies on new releases or enhancement packages of other participating systems — even while old scenarios are supposed to continue to run as before.
For these new scenarios, be sure to look at the respective documentation, especially at the scenario and process component lists (see http://service.sap.com/scl). These lists narrow the gap between the business view and the technical view of SAP products. They show you which application components are needed to realize a business scenario or process, as well as which business scenarios are possible with
a given set of application components.
Your system landscape needs to be flexible enough to take an iterative approach, adapt to new generations of applications and integration technology, and still protect current solutions and process investments. SAP's goal is to support the continuous evolution of customer landscapes to enable this kind of "innovation without disruption."
Customers are encouraged to take a step-by-step approach rather than to plan for dramatic, one-time, landscape-wide changes. Therefore it is important to understand the direction — and also the boundaries — regarding interoperability.
The SAP NetWeaver Master Guide is your first point of reference. It will be continually updated, so always consult it before you start planning the installation or upgrade of any SAP NetWeaver systems.
||"What Should — and Should Not — Be Running on the Same System in Your SAP Environment?" by Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz in the October-December 2007 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com)
||"The New View on SAP NetWeaver 2004s — Or, Where Have All the Components Gone?" by Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz in the April-June 2007 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com)
SAP NetWeaver Roadmap by Steffen Karch and Loren Heilig (SAP PRESS, http://store.sapinsider.wispubs.com)
|Dr. Franz-Josef Fritz (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a Ph.D. in mathematics and 30 years of experience in all areas of IT. Workflow and business process management have been particular areas of interest for much of his life. He has worked at SAP since 1993 as Program Director and Vice President with responsibility for the Business Process Technology and Internet-Business Framework departments. Since 2003, he has been responsible for several areas within SAP NetWeaver Product Management.
4 “Service Provisioning in ABAP: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Service with SAP NetWeaver PI 7.1” by Sindhu Gangadharan and Dr. Susanne Rothaug in the January-March 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com). Other major new capabilities, only available with this new version of SAP NetWeaver Process Integration 7.1, include the Enterprise Services Repository, additional WS standards (WS Reliable Messaging, WS Policy, WS Security, and SAML), and high-volume support (local processing in the Adapter Engine and message packaging). 5 For details on how existing SAP mobile customers can migrate to SAP NetWeaver Mobile 7.1, please see the Mobile Matters column by Karsten Strothmann and Thomas Heisner in this April-June 2008 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsideronline.com).