On April 25th, 2017 I attended our local Northern California ASUG Chapter quarterly meeting hosted by our friends at Varian Medical Systems, and the hot topic was S/4HANA which is also a hot topic for many other chapter meetings around the US as well as upcoming 2017 SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG event. Customers, partners and SAP discussed business process simplification, performance, or staying on the innovative edge, while some expressed concerns about the complexity or enormity of the change. It was good to have SAP's Best Practices group (formerly known as the Simplification group) there as they presented a session: SAP S/4HANA 1610 Trial Systems: How to Use and Explore Key Business Processes and Innovations. They covered materials generally available in this blog (which admittedly I didn't read when I got started): https://blogs.sap.com/2016/12/22/sap-s4hana-1610-fully-activated-appliance-create-your-sap-s4hana-1610-system-in-a-fraction-of-the-usual-setup-time/
We've already taken the journey in the last month to explore S/4HANA on Azure, and will write a little here about our experience from a technology walk through, not a functional discovery. Why on Azure? We've had lots of experience on AWS as both a technology partner and also running our Production workload there. Recently IT-Conductor also joined the Microsoft startup ecosystem through the BizSpark program, so it's time for us to explore the platform alongside our partner OZSOFT who is a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider. Several customers have also asked us to integrate our monitoring of SAP on Azure, so we set out on a mission to explore S/4HANA, Azure, and IT-Conductor monitoring which we expect to be fully functional.
S/4HANA on Azure
The fastest way and probably most economic way to get started with S/4HANA would be on a public cloud platform such as AWS and Azure. Here are some key points:
- Start with the SAP S/4HANA Trial page: https://www.sap.com/cmp/oth/crm-s4hana/s4hana-on-premise.html# and make sure you download the Quickstart and Demo Guide
- If you're not already an Azure customer, you'll need to sign up at https://portal.azure.com (there is a 1-month trial credit of $200 USD)
- For Azure online training, you can access https://openedx.microsoft.com/ and if you have experience with AWS, you may find "Microsoft Azure for AWS Experts" a useful course to start with
- If you plan to start the entire stack of S/4HANA best practices applications, you'll need to request Microsoft Azure team to raise the Limit on number of cores (from default 20 to at least 30 cores). Do this from within Azure Help + Support section and request category Subscription Management
- Create separate virtual network (vnet) if you want to start instances inside a network with custom configuration rather the SAP CAL Default Network. This may allow you to have VPN connection to your on-premise network
- Keep watch of your Notifications: to check on your remaining credits (updated daily), it would be nice if they could update more frequently, but this is the same as AWS cost reporting.
SAP Cloud Appliance Library (CAL)
This is where SAP provides the best practices trial systems as images that can be instantiated at a supported public cloud partner. This helps you with pre-configured systems and using some automation to deploy your own copies of them in your virtual private cloud. Here's what you'll need:
- Visit https://cal.sap.com and create an account. You can use a personal account or a corporate account such as your S-user ID to login, find the solution, and activate it. There are free trials as well as paid subscriptions, so if you use a corporate paid subscription, you must use the authorized ID to logon.
- Associate your CAL account with a public cloud account. Use Wiki instructions to connect the accounts CAL to Azure: https://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/ATopics/FAQ+-+Specific+questions+for+Microsoft+Azure#UploadCertificate
- Test connection between CAL and Azure
- Search solution '1610' for the S/4HANA 1610 Fully-Activated Appliance. SAP's cost is FREE, but you'll incur an Azure charge of about a $5 USD per hour if you keep the solution running or about the same amount if left suspended
- Once you provide the Azure subscription ID, and download the CER certificate, you must use the Azure Classic Console (https://manage.windowsazure.com) not the new portal, to upload the certificate
- When you activate a solution, set your local timezone so if you choose to schedule suspend times, they are the right time, otherwise you may find your time is in UTC and your systems maybe running extra hours and incurring costs
- Use public IP because VPN may not work to the CAL network, and if possible change the security settings before activating to restrict to only IP (like your on-premise public gateway) so it's not open to the whole public internet
- Although it is optional to include the Windows RDP server in the deployment, it's highly recommended as it already has some frontend tools like SAPGUI, BI Design Studio, and the local hosts file has already alias the various virtual hostnames to your instances' IP addresses
- If you did not request Azure to raise CPU limit, you will encounter error when activating the solution
- It seems the solution is only available currently in Azure West Europe Azure region. Although you are supposed to be able to pick custom Network and Subnet to deploy, it does not see them from CAL and thus only SAP CAL Default Network was used, thus your Azure network may not connect your on-premise network to it without first setting up new
- During activation CAL did not prompt to download the SSH Keys for accessing the VM at OS level afterwards, and there was no way to find and download them afterwards on Azure or CAL
- Despite the documentation HANA Studio was not pre-installed on the Windows RDP server
The core we looked at for this deployment is 1610 edition with Best Practices, there is supposed to be a revision SP1 coming out for SAPPHIRE in May. Here are the summary
- The Walkthrough scenarios are detailed Demo Guide
- The technical stack includes:
- SAP S/4HANA 1610 (based on SAP Netweaver AS ABAP 7.51) (S4H instance 00)
- SAP HANA 1.00.112.04 (HDB instance 02)
- SAP NetWeaver 7.50 AS JAVA with Adobe Document Services (J2E instance 00)
- SAP ASE 16
- SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.2
- SAP S/4HANA 1610 (based on SAP Netweaver AS ABAP 7.51) (S4H instance 00)
- SAP recommends Chrome browser but they could not bundle it in the Windows RDP server, so download it onto to the RDP and use it instead of IE which has pesky security features
- If you are accessing the applications directly from your PC, you will need to edit the local hosts file (with admin privileges) and set alias for various hosts used by the configuration
- For trial, the system is quite slow unless you leave it running continuously which can be costly. We left it running for a few hours and it was still pretty slow!
- The Finance demo requires fiscal year change since they likely are still set to 2016, so many Fiori tiles are empty until the change is made
- The SD demo often encountered errors like "Unable to load the data. This can happen if you are not connected to the Internet, or if an underlying system or component is not available."
SAP Monitoring of S/4HANA on Azure
We proceeded to configure the SAP monitoring to see how our cloud-based IT-Conductor can quickly discover and provide SAP performance monitoring of the environment above. Once the systems are activated, it literally took less than an hour to do discovery and monitoring of the SAP S/4HANA on Azure. There are 3 options to monitor the cloud environment:
- IT-Conductor Gateway installed on the cloud, in this case Azure and specifically on the Windows RDP server (or the Linux servers) - this is a 10 minute task
- IT-Conductor Gateway installed inside your corporate network, similar to 1). This is a good option if you'd like to monitor on-prem systems as well, and have VPN or connected your network to the virtual private cloud (Azure)
- Public network via specific IP and Ports
We went with option 1. The configuration is easy and documented on our IT-Conductor Help page: www.itconductor.com/help and below you can see the full stack being monitored within an hour setup without any application agents deployment. Further monitoring is possible for the SAP ASE and the Linux instances, if needed.
Automated software deployment has come a long way with cloud and best practices. This allows customers and partners to quickly assess and consume vendor solutions as quickly as possible to keep up with innovation. With AWS and Azure, this is a very attractive way to start your S/4HANA journey besides the on-premise installation (also available from the Best Practices team via download or Blu-ray).
For 30 days you can go for a test drive, and if you like you can even bring your own license and extend its usage either for Development, Demo, or even the sandbox for your S/4HANA project.
For better management of these new platforms, we recommend continuous monitoring and management. If you don't have tools readily available to use with S/4HANA, cloud monitoring solutions like IT-Conductor are very easy to subscribe to and use.