By Travis Stonebraker and Matthew Costello

SAP system performance is a common topic of discussion in the world of consulting, and as consultants, we are usually tasked with identifying and assisting with the solution to challenges causing a system to run slowly or inefficiently. We’d like to take some time to lay out and discuss some improvements that can be made in infrastructure, implementation, and work process to increase the speed of a slow system, or how an inefficient process can be improved. In part one, we’ll focus on infrastructure.

Architecture is a crucial area where making improvements can drastically alter performance in regards to system infrastructure. Specifically, the biggest increase in speed would be related to the content and cache server locations and setup. As a best practice, it is recommended that a company have one content server and one cache server at each of their site locations. For a single site location (site “A”), a content server’s job is to store all of that sites file data, while the cache server at site A assists in making the content store information from sites B, C, etc, readily available to site A. Properly configuring these servers to communicate with SAP and each other drastically speeds up communication between business units within a company that has many site locations.

In a nonoptimized environment, accessing large, globally located content could take anywhere from minutes to hours. Creating a cache server alleviates stress on the network for repeat viewing of content and speeds up access time exponentially. When content is updated, cache content is refreshed. To automate cache content updates based around logical rules and access control rights, CIDEON Ahead Manager automatically refreshes caching activity upon check-in or status change. When either a check-in of original files or status change of an existing document information record event occurs, the CIDEON Ahead Manger creates a cache request at all cache server locations. When engineers or business units want to access this information, they are able to access the data faster as the logic applied anticipated their future need and placed the content accordingly. The CIDEON Ahead Manager tool can also be used to relocate documents from one storage category to another. This is beneficial for external business partners collaboratively working together for editing purposes or for security purposes.

In addition to the system architecture, general network configuration and application server configuration can help squeeze more performance out of existing system setups. For instance, simple increases to the timeout duration settings for a systems users can help prevent lost time and data occurring due to automatic log outs, or when a connection is severed due to extended response time during a large query. The use of load balancing in an SAP system is also an easy way to speed up a user’s communication with the system. Load balancing utilizes application servers to increase the number of pathways that users PC’s have to connect to SAP. More pathways means more bandwidth for users.

Another way for users to increase speed with the system architecture is to update indexing relating to size, storage quality, number of distinct values, and growth history. The number of records and the way indexing of information occurs on the table can increase or decrease the searching activity. If you use transactions like CV04N to search for a document information record in SAP, changing some values in the table could mean more efficient searching. There are quite a few technologies that changed in the transition from ECC to S4 Hana that increase speed relating to indexing. If your company uses TREX to index content today within original documentation like text, office, or pdf files then you know some of the maintenance requirements of this indexing system. With the Hana cloud platform there is an option to enable indexing without the need of TREX servers thereby eliminating the maintenance.

Firewall configuration is also important to consider. If a strict firewall setup is in place on users PC’s, communication can be blocked or slowed, hindering performance. The same holds true for network devices. If one router blocks communication users can be rerouted to other paths over routers not configured for the larger load. These devices can become quickly overloaded and sluggish.

Some challenges that could seem like firewall configuration issues could actually be domain name server (DNS) configuration issues. There are instances where translation from IP address to domain name occurs, and vice versa, and is necessary to access anything on the network from shared servers to websites. Propagation of fixes can take 12-36 hours to disperse on a network and sometimes there are static values that are located on an individual’s machine. This is important to remember since access to SAP and access to content within SAP could be an issue if the computer cannot communicate properly with the other network devices.

Our next post on SAP Optimization and Performance Tuning will focus on implementation with a subsequent post on work process. To skip ahead and get more information on all three areas today; visit our YouTube channel for the recorded version of our live webcast 3 Key Areas to Improve SAP Performance for Discrete Manufacturers.

In the meantime, let us know if you have specific questions on performance tuning.