SUSE Linux Enterprise Server: The Underlying Structure of a Transition to SAP S/4HANA


For many businesses worldwide, the transition to SAP S/4HANA is in full swing, whether they make a concrete plan or define timelines for their transition projects. And some have even gone as far as completing their transition altogether.


But there’s another side to their story that is not often discussed: the foundation underlying a sophisticated data model, streamlined processes, and ready-to-consume extensions. In most cases, this underlying is built on top of SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE), hosting majority of the SAP HANA database.


The SLE platform has a proven track record for providing exceptional reliability and stability for both on-premise and cloud deployments and directly collaborates with all major cloud service providers. For example, it maintains images used in hyperscaler environments and updates them continuously to put SAP customers in a good position with their deployment projects.


Going beyond the operating system


At SUSE, a comprehensive solutions portfolio is offered – including the Linux operating system (OS), system management, and container-based workloads – to help organizations deliver enterprise-ready solutions based on innovative open-source projects. We invest in dedicated features for SAP customers, especially high-availability (HA) solutions for SAP S/4HANA, SAP HANA, and the Linux-based SAP NetWeaver technology platform.


For SAP customers with SAP HANA at the heart of their ERP system, downtime can be costly and have broad implications on their business operations. In response, SAP and SUSE have joined forces to provide the first open source–based solution to scale up and scale out SAP HANA to run HA configurations to maximize uptime and automate a reliable failover.


SUSE has also introduced features to simplify OS administration for SAP capabilities, such as automatic handling of the SAP Notes tool and performance improvements (for example, workload memory protection). And we continue to improve and enhance these features as SAP develops innovations for its technology stack.


While all these features have been around for years, the world is challenging the velocity, flexibility, and data volumes that modern businesses are expected to possess. Innovations and new technologies appear every day, especially on cloud services that have been strong contributors to the digital transformation of SAP applications. SUSE is also taking part in this journey by establishing strong relationships with cloud service providers and introducing critical innovations.


Into the IT system lifecycle


When considering the IT system lifecycle, there are always two phases:


  • Day 1: Setup, configuration, and go-live
  • Day 2: Ongoing system maintenance, monitoring, and patching


Day one in the cloud, our customers can quickly ramp up, accessing resources and computing. They can order a virtual machine that is accessible within a few minutes and allow their admins to start installing SAP software.


But why not take this capability a step further by automating the deployment of SAP software? SUSE launched a project to achieve this objective about 18 months ago. The goal is to enable our customers to define their SAP software environment, run the deployment without IT intervention, and set up machines in the cloud and advanced configurations such as clustering.


SUSE customers also have access to specific knowledge and best-practice documents to configure their HA stack in the best way possible. For example, we provide step-by-step guidance on optimizing the performance of SAP HANA through a scale-up deployment.


The deployment automation feature also fully automates the HA stack configuration, helping ensure consistency and a setup that is in line with SUSEs recommendations. This concept is also adopted by cloud service providers and system integrators, some of which use SUSE technology in their solutions and other open-source frameworks. (Remember, we are an open-source company and make our technology available to the entire technology provider community.)


For example, we have joined forces with the Microsoft Azure team to support their deployment of SAP software. We contribute code with a focus on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and the SUSE HA stack setup. When SAP software is installed and configured, SAP consultants can customize the SAP system to meet the customer’s needs. They define and implement business objects and processes, then move the system into production.


For day two operations, SUSE has invested heavily into centralized monitoring capabilities to expose critical data generated by machines hosting SAP software. Other open-source software can consume the information, such as a version provided or supported by SUSE and other preexisting third-party monitoring solutions. With this capability, projects, such as Microsoft Azure’s, have gained traction quickly. In fact, the initial development of Microsoft Azure Monitor for SAP solutions relies on SUSE systems as a monitoring exporter.


Fueling the future of monitoring


But innovation around our monitoring capabilities doesn’t end with our collaboration with Microsoft Azure. We continue to deliver additional key features, such as log aggregation and smart alerting. Even more important is the opportunity to merge our monitoring feature with another new initiative: Project Trento.


One of our customers’ most significant challenges is complex OS configurations, especially in the HA stack. Over the last few years, the SUSE Engineering Lab and Services teams have been engaged in situations where customers faced outages due to incorrect configurations in their production environment. Project Trento is designed to address this issue step by step.


Project Trento was born around the concept of configuration compliance of the SUSE HA stack configuration, and its components are based on the customer’s deployment setup and environment. SUSE is turning its knowledge and experience into automated checks executed systematically on SUSE-based systems. If an inconsistency emerges between hosts in a cluster or parameter that is not recommended as a best practice, the admin is warned of the problem’s severity. The system then provides guidance on correcting the problem and moving the system back into a compliant state. Therefore, administrators can have the peace of mind that, for example, a failover will work as expected and not fail due to a mistake – such as a typo in the configuration file – made along the way.


Additionally, Project Trento will check the OS configuration, display checks on SAP Notes, and manage configuration changes on the upcoming version – all of which are accessible in a simple-to-use Web interface. Even with Project Trento available as alpha code, our customers can apply it to their environment and realize considerable value in the first set of capabilities.


The initial version of Project Trento is planned for release by the end of 2021, with plans for more platforms, configurations, and features in future releases.


Supporting the journey to SAP S/4HANA


From our perspective, SUSE’s value is based on our ability to provide the best-possible starting point for businesses transitioning to SAP S/4HANA. And making Linux a part of the effort is the first step toward that experience.


With our on-site team in Walldorf, Germany, we also look to provide the best service to our customers by working and collaborating as closely as possible with our SAP colleagues in development, customer support, and product management.


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