Performing mySAP.com Component Installations : Leveraging Installation Documentation, Tools, and Approaches

4/14/2013 7:35:20 PM

SAP has provided us with an enormous amount of product- and component-specific documentation. Much of it is quite good. Even in the best of cases, though, to install an end-to-end mySAP solution you will still require product documentation (or very deep experience) relevant to your entire SAP Solution Stack. I find this to be especially true at the OS level—even the best SAP Basis consultants will run into a brick wall the first time they try installing a mySAP component on an operating system with which they are unfamiliar. With a background primarily in Windows-based SAP installations, I speak from experience, as I remember well my first installations on Red Hat Linux, SuSe Linux, Tru64, and HP-UX.

There is less of an implementation challenge at the database layer, surprisingly. SAP has integrated the mySAP/database installation process quite well, leaving little to be deduced during the actual installation. That explains why my first Oracle, DB2, Informix, and SAPDB installations for SAP were much less traumatic than the Linux one.

In all cases, though, to successfully prepare yourself for an SAP installation means doing your homework. There is a lot of documentation to read; doing otherwise means there will only be even more to read, though, as you try to dig your way out of a failed install. In the pages that follow, I will share with you all of the background reading, preparation, and planning you need to do, to get through the installation process quickly and accurately.

Do Your Homework

I cannot tell you the number of otherwise intelligent SAP consultants I run into who still feel compelled to learn “the hard way” and try installing an SAP product without the benefit of doing their homework. If one thing is true of an SAP installation, it’s that it is fraught with potential pitfalls and late hours. In the best case, an “easy” end-to-end manual installation still takes a full 24–32 hours, or three to four business days. This can easily stretch to more than a week, and even longer, though, if too many incorrect assumptions are made or shortcuts are taken. Consider the following points:

  • Not all installation processes are the same, or even similar. In some cases, you might be asked to install the database layer first, for example, whereas in other cases you might need to start by installing the SAP Central Instance. It all depends on the component, the operating system upon which you are installing it, the specific RDBMS being implemented, and whether the system is a Unicode or non-Unicode version (see the Note that follows this list).

  • Preparation and planning differs between different releases and products, and is also OS- and database-specific.

  • Prerequisites will differ as well. With each new release of a mySAP.com component come not only new OS and database minimum requirements, for example, but also minimum releases related to other mySAP solutions, enabling technologies, and so on.

  • Post-installation tasks are not only critical, but differ between releases, too. This underscores the importance of fully completing an installation such that it may actually be useful to the functional configurators and ABAP/Java developers who need to get to work themselves. Leaving a new mySAP installation without setting up the transport system, or tying it into another required system, for example, is akin to wasting time—the end result is simply not useful to anyone.

Thus, doing your homework equates to reading the various installation guides and product documentation relevant to your mySAP solution. I cover these resources in detail next. If you are not fond of reading, I suggest that you find someone to do it for you, or maybe find another line of work.


Unicode refers to the encoding system for characters used in a computer. Unicode unifies all characters of all character sets (languages) into a single encoding scheme. Thus, all letters, numbers, and other characters in a Unicode system are uniquely represented by the computer; each maintains its own unique numeric representation. Doing otherwise requires transforming between different encoding schemes running on different computers, and therefore represents a potential risk in terms of data loss or corruption. In SAP, non-Unicode systems use characters that are represented in binary with only one byte, whereas Unicode systems represent characters in binary with two or four bytes. See SAP Note 79991 or http://service.sap.com/unicode for details.

SAP Master Guides

For complex mySAP offerings like SRM and CRM, SAP publishes a “Master Guide,” which provides general information related to architecting and installing these multiple-component solutions. Because of this, SAP describes these documents as “Central Overview Documents.” And they are some of my favorites, especially when I am tasked with installing a solution with which I have had little or no previous experience. For example, the CRM Master Guide for 3.1A includes the following valuable information:

  • Getting Started, which includes prerequisites, information on tools and topics relevant across the solution, a history of changes to the mySAP offering, relevant SAP Notes, and so on.

  • A CRM Software Component Matrix, of which I am a big fan. SAP’s software and technical matrices help you identify the specific versions of products and other technology layers that interoperate well with the mySAP product (CRM in this case). The SAP-required CDs necessary to install the mySAP solution are also noted in this section.

  • Technical Information, covering individual components such as E-Selling, Field Sales, Interaction Center, Customer Service and Support, Field Service and Dispatch, Marketing Management, and so on.

  • Detailed set of Appendices, which address complementary products and also point you in the right direction to obtain more detailed documentation.

I have found the master guides to be more than simply valuable—they help me to build a rapid knowledge foundation in a solution. That is, they provide the high-level overview information necessary to understand how a solution or product fits into the mySAP “big-picture” scheme of things. But at the same time, these guides are “deep” enough to keep me from having to waste a lot of time surfing the Net when time is at a premium. Thus, I enthusiastically recommend them as a precursor to the more detailed information that is only found in SAP’s product-specific Installation Guides, discussed next.

SAP InstGuides—Traditional Installation Guides

For each mySAP component or technology solution, SAP AG publishes a standard installation guide, referred to as an InstGuide, and makes these guides available over the Web at http://service.sap.com/instguides or via CD-ROM-based media. Master guides are also made available through this same URL, as are other guides, installation documentation, customer letters for new-product introductions, and more.

Generally speaking, InstGuides come in two varieties:

  • Detailed New Installation Guides. These installation guides are specific for each OS, database, mySAP component, and release. For example, you can download an installation guide for installing SAP Business Information Warehouse 3.1A on Windows 2000 Server, for SQL Server 2000.

  • Upgrade Guides. These are specific to a certain set of releases of an SAP product and database. Common guides include those that walk you through an upgrade from R/3 4.5x to 4.6x, or 4.6x to Web AS 6x, for instance, leveraging an Oracle database platform.

Installation guides are built around best practices for installing mySAP.com components. And they are detailed! Really detailed, in fact, to the point where nearly all of the pre-installation, installation, and post-installation tasks necessary to make a mySAP.com component ready for developers are included in a single document. Anything not explicitly explained in the InstGuide usually references a link to the SAP Service Marketplace, or points to a specific location within an online help resource.

Addressing Pre-Installation Tasks

Perhaps fully a quarter to a third of an SAP InstGuide is dedicated to the tasks and activities that must be performed before the SAPinst tool is ever actually executed. Pre-installation tasks cover:

  • Pre-reading, including the need to look through other documentation published by SAP or in some cases other vendors, SAP Notes that need to be reviewed, and more.

  • Installation Planning, including minimum or recommended specific hardware and software requirements that support the particular mySAP component to be loaded, and considerations related to the database (like physical disk layout), SAP directory layout, use of the Multiple Components One Database (MCOD) approach to installation, and more.

  • Installation Preparations, such as checking your file system, validating network/domain infrastructure, optimizing the OS (reducing the size of the file cache in Windows environments, for example), checking/modifying the kernel (UNIX only), creating OS users and addressing user rights/permissions, sizing swap space or pagefile, selecting an SAP System ID (SID) and host name, copying specific installation CDs to disk, installing a Java Development Kit (JDK) to support SAPinst, and more.

After pre-installation tasks are performed, you are finally ready to run SAPinst and install your SAP system.

Post-Installation Tasks

Just like pre-installation tasks, post-installation tasks are plentiful and take up a lot of space in each InstGuide, too. After a mySAP component instance is installed, you still have much to do prior to turning the new system over to developers and programmers. The InstGuide is useful in this respect, covering post-installation tasks such as obtaining and applying the software license, setting up single sign-on, installing and configuring the transport management system, setting up printers, planning for background jobs, applying support packages, and more. And each InstGuide also includes a number of handy how-to’s, such as how to start and stop the SAP system, how to log in to the system, and how to install online documentation and additional language support. It also details how to perform a client copy, and even addresses some basic operational tasks, like performing a backup. 

Custom Checklists and Recipes

As I have mentioned a number of times elsewhere, custom installation checklists, or “recipes,” prove invaluable to a Technical Support Organization throughout the life of an SAP system. A good recipe will cover the solution-specific characteristics unique to your particular installation, and therefore provide value far beyond that provided simply by InstGuides and Master Guides.

A good recipe also promotes my goal of creating repeatable processes, which ultimately saves time when you have little to spare, as in the aftermath of a disaster. And recipes prove themselves valuable in supporting day-to-day activities as well, for example, when you need to restore the production environment in your technical sandbox to re-create a problem or troubleshoot an issue.

In the past, I have created end-to-end custom installation checklists that detail hardware, OS, Database and mySAP component specifics. Rather than re-creating the wheel, however, I used an umbrella approach to documentation, and called the resulting Microsoft Word document a “Delta Guide” (because it brought together the processes discussed in multiple other documents, but only detailed what was missing in these other documents—the deltas—to pull off an end-to-end installation).

A Delta Guide is my own version of a master guide, and may include embedded attachments, though I prefer to reference documents published elsewhere (like a URL on a Web site hosted by SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, and so on). The Delta Guide therefore brings everything together in one place, one master document. The core of the Delta Guide is a Microsoft Word document. It’s the master umbrella, if you will. I provide a short overview of the purpose of the document and illustrate the flow or sequence of events, and then into this document I embed or link to objects like those that follow:

  • A “big picture” document, like SAP’s Master Guide for the particular solution, or a custom-developed guide for a complex mySAP environment. I embed these PDF or Word documents directly into the Delta Guide. Note that a Web link works well, too, but you risk the Web site owner updating or removing the document. To mitigate this risk, I suggest housing the documents on your company’s Web site—the site used by the SAP TSO to support Disaster Recovery often makes the most sense all the way around.

  • A hardware configuration document, detailing the server configuration—server model, number and type of processors, memory configuration, details regarding the I/O busses and what resided in each, and so on. In the case of HP/Compaq ProLiant servers, for example, I might simply embed a “survey.txt” file (which includes all of this data and more, easily created via the HP Survey software utility) into the Delta Guide.

  • A disk subsystem configuration document, detailing the layout of drives, type of drives, RAID levels employed, type and number of disk controller(s), controller configuration settings, cache settings, and so on. Usually it’s possible to “dump” a disk subsystem’s hardware settings into an output file or log. I embed this output file into the Delta Guide, edited to reflect any high-level data that might also prove useful.

  • Operating system installation details, including version and patch levels of the OS, logical disk layout, network configuration details (IP addresses, DNS/DHCP settings, and more), system-wide settings, and so on. Most often, I build a 20–30 page document of screen shots and similar images, and embed this into the Master Guide.

  • Database configuration document, which captures the size and layout of data, log, and executable files, database block, cache, buffer, and other settings, and more. Like the OS details, this is often best captured through screen shots.

  • mySAP Component InstGuide, which walks you through a product installation from an SAP perspective end-to-end. I like to download these PDF documents and embed them into the Delta Guide, along with any supporting technical documents that might be referenced by the InstGuide (like SAP Notes).

  • Other documents that help document the solution, like anything related to a specific solution component or integration vehicle. In the past, I have included details relevant to an SAP ITS installation, EBP details related to installing and configuring Requisite BugsEye and eMerge, and so on.

Smart Implementations and the SAP Configuration Assistant

I believe that one of the biggest things to come out of SAP AG that addresses technical implementations is the idea of a Smart Implementation. Smart Implementations support unattended installation and basic configuration of your mySAP technical solution—not the application customizing that takes so many months or even longer to complete, but the technical installation and customizing that often takes many days per component otherwise.

Smart Implementations can facilitate both planning and installing an end-to-end mySAP technical infrastructure, handling the installation of your unique mySAP components and even configuring and integrating these components into your larger existing SAP system landscape. And Smart Implementations aid you in managing all of this infrastructure as well.

The power of Smart Implementations lies in the following:

  • Connectivity to the Internet gives Smart Implementations access to the information it needs to ensure that your SAP components are mutually compatible, noting different configuration requirements and platform dependencies.

  • The Configuration Assistant, an Internet-enabled tool, facilitates gathering the information necessary to later install and configure your SAP system landscape; your system landscape’s technical infrastructure is set up according to the specifications outlined by the Configuration Assistant.

  • A single implementation tool, the System Landscape Implementation Manager, rather than multiple tools and approaches, is used to install all applicable mySAP solutions. The actual installation process is performed with the SAP System Landscape Implementation Manager, which supports many current and all forthcoming mySAP components and platforms. And this tool also supports installing multiple components in a one-step process, as illustrated in Figure 1. By leveraging the Configuration Assistant’s output file and the latest InstGuides, Master Guides, and other tools, SAPinst can automatically perform complex mySAP-specific and cross-component scenario installation processes, ultimately making for a smooth and repeatable technical implementation.

    Figure 1. The InstGuide for CRM is put to work, preparing for an automated mySAP.com CRM installation.
  • Each mySAP component is automatically configured with “default” values based on experience gained through SAP’s many successful implementations. Unless you override them, each installed system is set up using default values proven over time to be reliable and stable.

It is the SAP Configuration Assistant specifically that enables you to save days of research, installation, and configuration effort. With the Configuration Assistant, you can easily begin planning the design of your specific SAP system landscape and then capture all of this data in an XML-based configuration file. This configuration file feeds the next phase of your Smart Implementation, where each of your identified mySAP components is installed and configured automatically—saving a lot of time later on down the road, too, as common configuration problems are avoided altogether.

The SAP Configuration Assistant is very easy to use, but very powerful as well. Its graphical user interface makes this system landscape planning tool perfect for designing and configuring an SAP system landscape unique to your needs. At a high level, you simply select the applications and components to be installed (limited to Workplace and BBP/CRM), define how these products are distributed across different hosts, and as necessary integrate additional components into the system landscape, as shown in Figure 2. The specific steps are as follows:

  • Define each component, host, and/or scenario to be installed.

  • Specify the database and OS combinations upon which each system will be installed.

  • Provide parameters relevant to each component, such as the SID to be used by the system, languages to be installed, port numbers over which to communicate, and so on (standard installation questions that do not lend themselves to “default” values).

  • Drag and drop software on to your hosts, thus distributing the software.

  • Define integration requirements to back-end systems, which may also include the development of specialized installation scripts for systems outside the realm of mySAP solutions.

  • Define any front-end settings, such as the name and characteristics of logon groups, how load balancing will be employed, and so on.

Figure 2. The SAP Configuration Assistant allows you to allocate mySAP technical components to servers and then save the design in an XML-based configuration file.

The Configuration Assistant is easily installed and executed on any Windows-based computer—I run it on my laptop, in fact. This makes it simple for me to architect, plan for, and discuss what a potential SAP system landscape might look like for one of my customers, and allow me to prepare a conceptual design on an airplane, or change it later from my hotel room, without actually being connected to a physical installation. Alongside my custom SAP sizing tools and lessons-learned from several hundred implementations, it has proven itself in the past to be one of the most valuable “customer-facing” tools I carry.

Using SAPinst for Unattended Installations

The System Landscape Implementation Manager is truly amazing, enabling an integrated and even unattended approach to planning, installing, and configuring each component. If you consider the technical challenges inherent to installing a single product, much less a suite of SAP products—the communication interfaces, intercomponent protocols and network settings, technical configuration of SAP itself, security settings, user accounts requirements, and so on—you will begin to understand the significance of this tool. It’s huge!

The System Landscape Implementation Manager supports two different operation modes—Smart and Manual. Recommended for standard installations, “smart” mode executes a comprehensive set of configuration steps during the installation process in a cookie-cutter, repeatable manner. As a result, the Smart Implementation itself reflects a high-quality, repeatable implementation, and the time required to plan, install, and configure your SAP system landscape is reduced simply because many error-prone installation and configuration data-entry tasks are avoided. This is accomplished by using the previously discussed InstGuides and the Configuration Assistant’s XML-based output file, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Leveraging the Configuration Assistant’s XML output file and other InstGuide data, SAPinst now has the input information necessary to perform an unattended installation.

In “manual” mode, on the other hand, you are granted greater flexibility in making changes to installation and configuration settings, but have to sacrifice speed and probably repeatability of your install because most of this flexibility requires manual entries. And because of this, manual mode does not support an unattended installation or configuration of your SAP components, either.

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