SAP Automation combines migration and innovation: continuous integration and deployment
When it comes to automation, the universal open source solution Ansible can offer crucial support. No company can avoid IT modernization, and when it comes to ensuring success, open source-based hybrid cloud platforms, integrated end-to-end architectures and automation technologies are essential.
Even SAP users cannot avoid this trend. When modernizing, their key goals are simplicity, agility, productivity and innovation, alongside more basic concerns such as optimizing IT costs and “keeping the lights on.” Unfortunately, they must undertake this modernization at a time when there is a dramatic shortage of skilled workers.
The biggest and most pressing challenges in the digital transformation of SAP workloads include migrating to Hana and S/4 and modernizing applications with a cloud-ready, cloud-first approach – while being mindful of the “keep the core clean” strategy. This strategy recommends – or even requires – a migration of previous custom SAP developments (which can number into the thousands) to a new architecture and platform that supports the development and operation of SAP applications with native cloud technologies.
CI and CD
Key aspects to consider include agile integration, CI (continuous integration) and CD (continuous deployment), containers and microservices, and the use of programming languages in addition to or as a replacement for ABAP. Beyond the “keep the core clean” approach, the SAP concept of side-by-side extensions is also important, as it enables companies to implement end-to-end processes much more easily, agilely and quickly.
This also makes it possible to integrate non-SAP systems into the SAP landscape. But only with automation in all stages of modernization will the necessary scalability of such approaches be achieved: self-services, provisioning, integration and much more at the push of a button.
Hybrid cloud platform as the target architecture
So what exactly should a future-proof IT environment offer? The basis of a modern SAP landscape requires Linux as the fundamental operating system, an infrastructure certified for different platforms, high availability and automation. Understanding your target architecture early on is crucial for successful modernization. If a company wants to truly address innovation issues rather than just “lift and shift,” they cannot avoid using new platforms, frameworks, applications and technologies.
The trend is clearly moving toward integrated hybrid multi-cloud platforms and cloud-native applications. These will be one of the key topics for the future of the SAP world as well. The SAP ecosystem is being modernized toward a hybrid cloud architecture, and SAP users will increasingly use a service mix of on-premises, private and public cloud environments from hyperscalers – for both SAP and non-SAP workloads.
In addition, connecting structures such as DevSecOps are becoming the dominant deployment pattern, as they are the most dynamic driver of innovation. But how can a company implement these projects without delaying migration by years? The key to success lies in carefully selecting proven methods and technologies in order to take advantage of synergies in the early stages of the projects.
The core strategic tasks for SAP customers can be divided into the areas Run, Extend and Simplify. “Run SAP” refers to certified use of hybrid cloud infrastructure, which is the basis for secure operation, scaling and management of traditional and cloud workloads in all environments. “Extend SAP” includes cloud-native development, which means the design, deployment and management of any application in any environment. Finally, “Simplify SAP” encompasses management and automation, i.e. the simple and seamless management of platforms and automation across hybrid environments, from deployment to daily operations.
Automation is the cornerstone
A central pillar of a future-proof, agile IT landscape is end-to-end automation. End-to-end means that automation extends from provisioning all the way to maintenance and operation of an entire IT stack. In other words, the automation projects currently undertaken in enterprise IT are not enough. In many cases, these projects involve only the automation of individual IT silos, for example in areas such as servers, networks, applications, containers or the cloud. But automation within individual silos does not eliminate silos, it merely automates them. The goal must therefore be holistic end-to-end automation of business processes, even across traditional IT boundaries.
The Ansible framework, currently one of the most important open source IT projects worldwide, plays a fundamental role. Ansible supports automation of processes across servers, storage devices, network devices, services, containers, clouds and even “non-IT” functions. This can include provisioning and configuration management, or application deployment and orchestration. Since this involves the automation of mission-critical areas, companies should always employ an enterprise solution with support. Red Hat has just the solution with Ansible.
Ansible Automation Platform
Using the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform gives companies the ability to automate the entire IT landscape with a single solution, all the way up to the SAP environment and security infrastructure. In other words, the goal of Ansible is to automate everything everywhere for everyone, that is, to automate everything for all possible use cases. Specific examples of the Ansible deployment spectrum include the automation of the standard installation process for Hana – exactly in accordance with the requirements in the SAP Notes – as well as the optimization and automation of NetApp NFS storage.
On top of the base Ansible technology, Ansible allows organizations to easily incorporate automation into existing tools and processes using RESTful APIs and a self-service portal. The central feature of the solution is the use of playbooks to call modules, which are written in the easy-to-understand YAML language. Specifically, Ansible brings together disparate playbooks and roles into a single workflow. Each IT area, department or even partner and supplier can contribute their competencies to corresponding playbooks and modules, which are then integrated into complex processes. The modules are developed by the community, hardware and software vendors or Red Hat, and are provided in bundles known as collections. In total, over 130 certified and maintained content collections are currently available through Red Hat Ansible, covering numerous use cases across the IT landscape, including automation in SAP environments.
The Ansible Automation Platform offers extensive benefits to SAP users: Automating entire workflows with a single tool enables companies to reduce administrative overhead, eliminate potential mistakes from manual activities, and do away with repetitive tasks. The result is a much more reliable and stable infrastructure, many more use cases, and rapid rollout of environments. It is these automation workflows that drastically accelerate all stages of modernization and ultimately help to reduce costs.
Ansible and SAP
When considering Ansible for SAP, there is one key point that should not be overlooked: The use of Ansible is not limited to infrastructure or pure maintenance activities in the context of deployment, installation or provisioning, and network, storage or security automation. Housekeeping in ongoing SAP operations is also a key aspect, i.e. the automation of processes in SAP applications themselves. Automations in SAP are carried out directly from Ansible, for example with the administration of rights, the creation of users, the reading of system data or even the execution of processes. This is particularly useful in the preliminary project before the actual migration, in order to analyze and consolidate systems. Overall, there is no doubt that more and more companies will be using Ansible on a larger scale as a framework for IT automation. One subarea of this will be the automation of SAP workloads, which will further enhance SAP modernizations for the long term.
Automating SAP workloads with Ansible
Day 1 operations focuses on deployment, provisioning, installation, setup and configuration (customizing for existing SAP customers). Selected day 1 use cases at a glance:
- Activation of S/4 and Hana system replication
- Creation of a high-availability Red Hat Enterprise Linux Pacemaker cluster in the application and database layer
- Activation of Red Hat Insights, a managed service for detecting, analyzing and resolving potential security and configuration issues
- Migration of SAP workloads from Suse Linux Enterprise Server to Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Day 2 operations focus on “keeping the lights on,” maintenance, housekeeping and optimization.
- Selected day 2 use cases at a glance:
- Setting up and deleting new application servers
- Starting and stopping SAP instances
- Updating instances
- SAP kernel upgrades
- Kernel parameter changes
- Database and operating system patching
- Database backup and restore
- Expansion of resources (CPU, memory, hard disk space)
- Cluster management
- Proactive problem solving for SAP servers
- Maintenance of SAP servers with almost no downtime
This is the fourth part of a five-part series! If you would like to read the fifth one, click here.