Welcome!

Artificial Intelligence Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, William Schmarzo

Related Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Java IoT, Microservices Expo

Artificial Intelligence: Article

Finding the Flaws of the Whole, Not Just the Flaws of the Parts

Why automated analysis and measurement is a must for SAP systems

The Visible and the Invisible in SAP
It would seem like the last thing we need in SAP systems is more metrics. Automated solutions that investigate, monitor and track ERP systems are common, so why are major corporations increasingly employing automated metrics for SAP systems?

Like all systems that span the enterprise, SAP systems suffer from the "six blind men and the elephant" problem - each man is able to envision his own part of the elephant, but putting together a picture of the whole animal is a problem. It is this "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" view that SAP developers need to get their arms around.

In what has become an all too frequent post-customization scenario, SAP developers are called to fix a transaction performance problem. Usually they find that availability is great, there's nothing wrong with the code - no odd changes - but somehow latency is in the tank. So what's wrong?

Some recent research on this very issue looked at 30 customer installs at large installations at Fortune 1000 companies with a lot of customization. The study looked closely at how database calls are handled in these installations.

The result was startling - 80 percent of the database interactions were being improperly handled. Large packet sizes, too much chatter, improper error handling, loops in queries and lapses in connection handling were prevalent. These problems caused periodic and significant business disruption. As we know, intermittent problems are the hardest to trace and fix because if you can't replicate it, you can't see what to fix - it's the kind of problem that traps you in the office on a Sunday until 3 a.m.

How does this kind of thing end up happening with such alarming frequency? After all, no ABAP developer worth his or her salt would ever do such things and no database admin would be caught dead writing inefficient queries. It must be those darn six blind men!

Figure 1: A Typical SAP Ecosystem

The blind men are the symptom caused by three types of complexity:

  1. Technological Complexity: A typical SAP install has a large number of interconnected, customized components, with dependencies spanning from the GUI to the database layer. Business transactions cut across applications, functional roles within IT, business processes and business divisions. No single developer or even team of developers can comprehend the system end to end. Changes have ripple effects that are difficult to predict and control. None of these is by itself a bad thing, but together they make it very hard to get a sense of how the system is working as a whole to accomplish its critical business tasks.
  2. Process Complexity: Because the system crosses organizational boundaries within and outside IT, it runs into different processes within these groups. Each process demands a unique skill set for the people involved, and has its own timeframe, maturity level, inputs and outputs. It is inevitable that when seen as one large "super-process," a lot falls through the cracks because no one person or team has the complete end-to-end view.
  3. Governance Complexity: When you add organizational and reporting structures to the process complexity layer, you get governance complexity. This is about the hierarchies of authority and influence that manipulate the processes. The result is a highly scrutinized business-critical system that outruns technology, process, and governance boundaries. In such situations, one team's priority may not be another's, resulting in an inability to see the end-to-end view.

As we see in the next section, this fragmented view of the systems causes all the typical problems that beset ERP systems.

Structural Visibility of the Whole System
Inability to capture the end-to-end view leads to the usual problems people cite with ERP systems - escalating maintenance costs (over and above the 18% license cost) and nagging performance and stability problems. The root causes of these problems are hard to discern, but they have become almost clichéd and yawn inducing in their recurrence...

What people who cite these problems don't realize is there's nothing any individual developer can do (other than what they're already doing) to fix these problems. It's not what I do or what you did - it's what happens when we put together what a couple of hundred of us did at different locations, on different parts of the system, at different times, under different deadlines.

It's like the deficit. You didn't cause it and there's nothing you alone can do to reduce it. It's the result of thousands of things coming together to add up to something enormous that's beyond the control of any one person or group. Nevertheless, it could harm us all, so what can we do?

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, what we need is structural visibility into how the parts come together to create the whole. In the case of an ERP system, you need measures of two levels of quality: the software's architectural quality - the structural quality - and the quality of coding practices and level of compliance with security standards - the implementation quality. These measures are essential for catching business disruption problems early before they become too expensive to fix.

Figure 2: Sample End-to-End System Quality Metrics

Moreover, you cannot just measure the individual parts because that fails to take into account how each of them comes together to form the final product. And while an individual may be able to assess the quality of a single part manually, manually measuring the whole product is a daunting and grossly inefficient task, one that no one team member can or should be asked to undertake. Automating analysis of the parts and the whole is a far more efficient means to an end.

Three Conditions an Automated Analysis and Measurement System Must Satisfy
A fundamental fact about software quality that makes it a challenge to quantify is that quality is contextual - you cannot evaluate the quality of an element independently of its environment. This means that any process for measuring the structural quality of the entire system must satisfy three conditions:

  1. It must be automated to avoid falling into the technology, process and governance white spaces.
  2. It must be comprehensive in its technology coverage, yet come in a single package. Not surprisingly, it has to cover the entire system from GUI to middleware, to the customized parts, all the way to the database.  In modern systems, this means it has to cover a multiplicity of languages, technologies and frameworks. This comprehensive coverage must all come together in the same package; if you use a patchwork of tools, you will inevitably fall into the cracks between technology, process and governance boundaries.
  3. It must rise to the structural level to measure quality in the context of the system as a whole. From an implementation standpoint, this will most likely mean that it must produce detailed architectural maps of the entire system - views of the components and how they are connected - and run sophisticated pattern-matching algorithms that are specifically calibrated for measuring quality - performance, stability and maintainability - in the SAP environment.

An example of how to accomplish this is to base automated analysis and measurement of ERP systems on a very detailed understanding of the architectural structure of the system - what the components are and how they're interconnected - by building the architectural model from the ground up in intense detail. Such sophisticated pattern-matching algorithms are then specifically tuned to measuring quality in terms of performance, stability and maintainability in the ERP environment. A top automated analysis platform for ERP systems may have more than 100 pattern-matching rules for SAP. (Note: The number of pattern-matching rules can vary from one ERP to another.) A robust end-to-end automated quality measurement system for the Siebel platform may also have more than 100 rules for detecting patterns and anti-patterns that are critical to system quality, while leading PeopleSoft-specific solutions may need more than 400 sophisticated pattern-matching rules to evaluate the holistic engineering quality of the system).

Regardless of how many rules are in place, it is vital that the platform detects changes between the original core application and the customized application, or between patched and un-patched version of the same application. Along with detailed architectural visibility and objective measures of quality hot spots, such a solution will give IT organizations and system integrators a detailed, practical roadmap for sequencing their development, maintenance and upgrade tasks.

Conclusion
The technological, process, and governance complexity of SAP systems make them very difficult to manage for peak cost and business performance. Furthermore, because the whole system is more than just the sum of its parts, the analysis and measurement must rise to the structural level to quantify and evaluate the structural quality of the system, making an automated analysis and quality measurement system a necessity.

More Stories By Jitendra Subramanyam

Jitendra Subramanyam is Director of Product Strategy and Research at CAST, Inc., in New York City. He is responsible for helping to develop and grow the ecosystem of IT service providers who benefit from integrating CAST into their operations, governance and process improvement programs.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn't require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbui...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
Digital transformation is changing the face of business. The IDC predicts that enterprises will commit to a massive new scale of digital transformation, to stake out leadership positions in the "digital transformation economy." Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, Oct 31-Nov 2, will find fresh new content in a new track called Enterprise Cloud & Digital Transformation.
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, will discuss how given the magnitude of today's applicati...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp emp...
As popularity of the smart home is growing and continues to go mainstream, technological factors play a greater role. The IoT protocol houses the interoperability battery consumption, security, and configuration of a smart home device, and it can be difficult for companies to choose the right kind for their product. For both DIY and professionally installed smart homes, developers need to consider each of these elements for their product to be successful in the market and current smart homes.
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
Join IBM November 1 at 21st Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, and learn how IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Cognitive analysis impacts today’s systems with unparalleled ability that were previously available only to manned, back-end operations. Thanks to cloud processing, IBM Watson can bring cognitive services and AI to intelligent, unmanned systems. Imagine a robot vacuum that becomes your personal assistant th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CAST Software will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CAST was founded more than 25 years ago to make the invisible visible. Built around the idea that even the best analytics on the market still leave blind spots for technical teams looking to deliver better software and prevent outages, CAST provides the software intelligence that matter ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.