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Thursday, February 25, 2016

SAP on ASE (Sybase) - 10 Lessons Learned

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Continuing my SAP on ASE theme (see my other post on 10 positive points of SAP on ASE), I’m going to document the 10 best lessons I learned during the migration and implementation of SAP on SAP ASE (formerly Sybase).
Hopefully these will be useful to any implementation or migration project you may be undertaking.

1 Compatibility with SAP Business Suite
SAP provide SAP ASE for two groups of end-user; standalone use, or use with SAP Business Suite.
The SAP Business Suite is the name given to the suite of software packages such as ERP, BW, CRM, SRM etc.
Due to the 2 distinctions, there are always two delivery channels for the SAP ASE software binaries.

Certain software revisions of SAP ASE are certified (supported) for use with SAP Business Suite products, therefore you should always check if your use case is supported and that you download the relevant software version.

You should also ensure that you validate the information within the SAP notes, to ensure that it is relevant to your use case.
In some situations, there are SAP notes specifically only valid for SAP ASE in use with SAP Business Suite products.

2 Download the Latest
In my experience, the version of SAP ASE will make a big difference when considering the implementation project.
You should consult with your account manager to ensure that you plan to be on the latest release and patch level of SAP ASE possible for your deadlines.

The SAP ASE patches are released very frequently (I’ve seen 3 patches within 6 months); which usually contain some major fix for a possible data corruption scenario.

3 Stay Current
Revisions to the SAP ASE software are performed rapidly.  The software stack is small and no minor fixes (binaries only or single binary fixes) are performed, so plan to patch the database at least once every 3 to 6 months minimum.  If you fail to stay current, then you could face issues staying supported with other compatible software areas (such as SAP Replication Server).

A lot of the SAP notes will be updated to recommend the latest revision (usually for some major issue).
It has been known for a revision to be delayed dramatically (by months) only to be superceded almost immediately by a later revision.

So called “hot fixes” have also been seen, whereby the current revision receives an additional increment in between the previous and the latest.  Usually this is only a stop-gap to fix an issue on a previous revision because the latest revision changes that functionality in a more intrusive manner (with respect to the code lines).

4 Ensure Server Parameters/Config
The configuration parameters of the SAP ASE database is performed against one core SAP note.
The SAP note has a rather messy layout and can be complex to digest manually.
Still, this is a required task and changing the parameters to those recommended by SAP is a must, since the out-of-the-box configuration is never really optimal or potentially even unstable (again refer to the SAP notes).
To ease this task, the method of checking these parameters (providing you’re SAP Netweaver revision is high enough) is through the DBACOCKPIT transaction.
Whilst this allows you to easily configure and apply the settings, it should never negate a manual review of the parameter settings.  Plus, you may just learn something ;-)  .

5 Confirm Statements with Your SAP account manager
Sometimes, I have come across erroneous support statement within the SAP notes or the help.sap.com website help pages.
This is potentially due to the two revisions of the SAP ASE software prevalent.  Sometimes the SAP ASE standalone community forget that SAP ASE can run underneath SAP Business Suite.

Therefore, if you see a SAP note stating you’re not supported if you do “X” or have “Y” installed, query it with your account manager.  It may not be relevant to your use case.

6 Set Relevant DB Parameters
Sometimes the parameters listed within the single SAP note (for that specific SAP ASE release), will be specific to SAP BW, or SAP ERP.

Since it’s entirely possible for you to be using the BW component heavily, inside your ERP system, you may wish to apply the BW related parameters (the old OLAP vs OLTP).
Therefore, you should double check the SAP note containing the SAP ASE recommended parameters, and not just blindly apply it.

7 Rigorously Test
It’s fairly simple and requires little effort to patch an SAP ASE database.
For this reason, you should expend the time saved, by testing.
As an example, I experienced an issue whereby I patched the SAP ASE software to a later revision, only to discover during a SAP system copy task, that a minor bug in the later software revision prevented the copy process from working.

In the end, after nearly a week of working on the problem (I immediately raised it with SAP also), I found (not SAP) that there was a workaround to get it working.
I also went on to note that the issue was later fixed in a later SAP ASE revision.

Therefore I decreed that, as part of upgrade testing, some of the standard internal department processes would be tested prior to upgrading the core systems.

8 Always Check the Bug List
As a follow on to the previous statement, you should check the bug listing of the next revision with eagle eyes.
You may not be experiencing a specific issue, but it could save you from potential corruption or getting into an unfixable situation.

Currently the SAP ASE bugs are not listed in individual SAP notes, but generally in the Release Information Note for the next revision (once it is solidified).
In addition to the RIN, there is one core SAP note for each SAP ASE release (e.g. 15.7 or 16.0) in which the up and coming revisions are noted.
Check this regularly.

9 Configure Your Own Housekeeping
One small shortfall in the SAP ASE software, is housekeeping.
The log files for the database, jobserver and backupserver do not rotate until the SAP ASE instance is restarted.
You may wish to keep these files tidy and compressed with your own housekeeping scripts.

There are also a couple of recommendations for retaining certain files such as the last configuration file, the dump history file and an export of the sysdevices table, on a separate file system (a bit like the old SystemV export of the partition table), just in case of a restore scenario.

10 Performance Tune Backups / Restores
Out-of-the-box the performance of backups and restores is adequate.
However on a 1.3TB database I saw backups (within 1 stripe only) taking in excess of 4 hours (to a DataDomain appliance).

By simply spending 2 days to performance tune, by adjusting just one SAP ASE parameter, I was able to reduce this by 1.5 hours (~30% improvement).

This will also be a future blog article as it was such a simple but effective task.  Don’t accept the out-of-the-box settings.

Make sure that you test the restore capability and also ensure that you allocate adequate disk space for emergency backups (dumps) to disk (if you’re planning to backup to a third-party tool).

Make sure you watch out for future ASE articles for additional lessons-learned scenarios.

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