Root Cause Analysis Overview

End-to-End Root Cause Analysis in SAP Solution Manager offers capabilities for cross system and technology root cause analysis. Especially in heterogeneous landscapes it is important to isolate a problem causing component as fast as possible and involve the right experts for problem resolution. With the toolset provided by Root Cause Analysis this is possible with the same tool regardless of the technology an application is based on and it allows a first in depth analysis by a generalist avoiding the ping-pong game during an analysis between different expert groups.

Customer's heterogeneous IT landscapes running mission critical applications have become increasingly complex during the last years. Finding the root cause of an incident in those environments can be challenging. This creates the need for a systematic top-down approach to isolate a component causing the problem. The approach must be supported by tools, helping customers to do this as efficiently as possible. End-to-End Root Cause Analysis provides tools that support customers and SAP in performing a root cause analysis across different support levels and different technologies. The basic idea behind Root Cause Analysis is to determine where and why a problem occurred.

A typical example (see the below figure) is a problem where an end user experiences a problem while maintaining his bank account data in the corporate portal, the cause may be on the client PC (e.g. browser), in the network or somewhere in the server environment, which itself might comprise different instances of varying technologies. In this example the client request in question first hits a SAP NetWeaver Portal (based on SAP AS Java), then reaches a SAP ERP System (based on SAP AS ABAP) via a RFC call and finally results in a SQL statement which retrieves information from the ERP database.

Figure: A typical scenario for Root Cause Analysis

The performance problem or functional defect might have occurred in any of those systems. SAP's root cause analysis tools help to identify the specific system part, which has caused the error.

When such an issue occurs that affects the customers productive solution the central goal of the customer's IT team is to provide an immediate corrective action (workaround), which restores service operations as quickly as possible and which affects end users minimally, a complete solution to the issue at hand by isolating the area of concern.

Additionally, with respect to operation, SAP's root cause analysis tools are designed to reduce the number of resources in each step of the resolution process. An IT generalist with core competence in root cause analysis, who involves a Component Expert, are mostly enough to investigate an issue and nail it down.

Therefore, Root Cause Analysis offers tools for each task in cross-component (end-to-end analysis) and component-specific analysis. Per definition, a cross-component analysis involves several systems or technology stacks, whereas component-specific analysis deals with one system or technology stack.

Overall, Root Cause Analysis works towards simplifying the problem resolution process with-in an IT environment and reducing the total cost of ownership. Benefits SAP's tools for Root Cause Analysis are:

  • Ensured continuous business availability – Root Cause Analysis helps to accelerate the problem resolution process.
  • Reduced costs for support experts - The targeted top-down approach of RCA supports a one step dispatching of issues from an IT Generalist to a Component Expert.
  • Reduced license costs - Supporting RCA Tools offered by SAP are part of the standard maintenance contract and come at no additional fee.
  • One safe access channel to all systems – Root Cause Analysis provides one safe and central access channel to the customer's landscape. If required, an investigation is continued on the system in concern using a predefined support user, who is only assigned read-only rights.
  • Collected data is displayed in unified views, thereby abstracting data from the underlying technology stack. This approach supports the structured top down analysis approach, as generalists and experts start investigating at one common point.
  • Empowers the customer to solve problems himself - Nobody knows the customer's landscape as well as the customer himself. E2E Root Cause Analysis provides expert tools which enable a customer to quickly solve problems, thereby reducing overall resolution time.

All tools and applications are available in the Root Cause Analysis Group of the SAP Solution Manager Launchpad (see teh below figure).

Figure: SAP Solution Manager Launchpad

Root Cause Analysis Tools

All the End-To-End tools available in SAP Solution Manager are built on the same infrastructure and follow a common navigation approach.

First, the infrastructure: Data is collected from the managed system using multiple channels. For ABAP based systems a direct communication channel from the SAP Solution Manager system towards the managed system exist with the RFC connections. For all other system types data is collected via CA Introscope. Introscope is an essential part and available free of charge in the so-called Right To View (RTV) license. This allows customers to use the SAP delivered instrumentation and dashboards without having to buy a separate license.

In addition, the Diagnostics Agent is used to collect additional data, like files from the file system, for all system types.

Second, the navigation: All the tools share a common principle. You start with an overview which shows you the most valuable information in a condensed format. Which data finally gets displayed is defined by a timeframe selection. More detailed information is always available with a drill down. Most of the data presented in the tools is stored in the BW system which is integrated in SAP Solution Manager. The whole data extraction, aggregation and deletion process is managed by the so-called Extractor Framework (EFWK) and no manual interaction is needed. The EFWK also has an integrated resource control to ensure that neither the Solution Manager nor the managed system are overloaded with the data extraction. Also, the housekeeping is managed by the EFWK, so that the data growth keeps at a passable level.

  • End-to-End Workload Analysis: If a customer faces a performance problem, E2E Workload Analysis might be the tool to start with. Solution Manager regularly collects performance information of each system and makes this data centrally available in the Solution Manager Work Center RCA. The Workload Analysis allows to identify general performance bottlenecks such as sizing problems, or problems which affect all users who are using a particular system.
  • End-to-End Trace Analysis: End-to-End Trace is a tool for isolating a single user interaction through a complete landscape and providing trace information on each of the involved components for one interaction only, starting with the user interaction in the browser and ending with data being committed to the database. Identifying long running user requests within a complex system landscape is the most common use case of E2E Trace Analysis, but you can also identify which functional errors have occurred during the execution of one request. These exceptions (like a dump) are then attached to the trace. So, the trace can also be used to do functional testing and ensuring that an activity executed in one system does not lead to functional errors in connected systems during the request execution.
  • End-to-End Change Analysis: If a system behaves differently after a certain date or change, E2E Change Analysis is the first tool to use. It displays changes (e.g. transports and support package updates, profile parameter changes,…) that have been applied to a system within a certain timeframe. The Change Analysis application is based on a central Configuration & Change Database (CCDB). The CCDB provides the foundation for change analysis and change reporting based on daily configuration of system, host and database related configuration data. A Change Analysis can then be performed on all information stored in the CCDB. Furthermore, it is possible to compare different systems and generate a report which contains the results. This approach identifies the problem by comparison rather than by drilling down, which is faster and easier in most cases.
  • End-to-End Exception Analysis: E2E Exception Analysis provides unified access to exceptions reflecting in high severity log entries and dumps. Exception Analysis provides the basis for statistical analysis on exception in the landscape, but also allow to access component specific log and dump viewers directly with a jump-in to the appropriate tool on the managed system.
  • Exception Management: With Exception Management, you can monitor critical single exceptions (ABAP dumps, Web Service exceptions ...) as well as mission critical components and/or instrumented process flows.
  • System Analysis: In case of non-ABAP based systems, the CA transaction trace can be used to identify which part of a request e.g. in a Java environment caused the problem. CA Introscope is shipped by SAP with preconfigured dash boards, offering dedicated views for the ABAP and non-ABAP based systems. A deep analysis of problems is possible in the investigator mode, which displays detailed performance metrics. Several other system analysis tools as Thread Dump Analysis, Change Reporting and Central Log Viewer are provided.
  • Configuration Validation: Configuration validation determines whether the systems in your landscape are configured consistently and in accordance with your company's requirements. You validate the current configuration of a system in your SAP landscape by comparing it with a target state (system) or an existing system.
  • Host Analysis: With the Host Analysis section of the RCA Work Center it is possible to analyze the most important OS metrics like CPU, memory, paging, network and disk/file system. In addition, the file system browser allows a central read-only access to predefined directories on the managed system without having to logon to the console of the managed system. In the same manner it is also possible with the OS Command Console, to execute predefined, non-destructible commands (like a ping, netstat, iostat and so on). Both tools ensure that even whilst access to the managed system is granted, no change can be made, no business data can be accessed and not harmful commands can be executed.
  • Database Analysis: The DB Analysis summarizes DB Performance Warehouse specific metrics across all supported DB types. This also includes standalone DB's that are connected to the DBA Cockpit within Solution Manager

With SAP Solution Manager 7.2 many enhancements were developed to support Hybrid Solutions. This includes:

  • Retrieval of business-critical exceptions from Applications and Integration Platforms running in SAP SaaS Cloud, SAP Cloud Platform or On Premise. Central handling of exceptions via Exception Management Cockpit including Alerting Integration.
  • E2E Trace for SAP Cloud Platform API endpoints

Availability and More Information

End-to-End Root Cause Analysis is available up to the latest SP Stack of SAP Solution Manager 7.2.

In SAP Solution Manager Configuration general setup steps for Mandatory Configuration contains also the setup of the Root Cause Analysis tools and can be performed as guided procedure.

If you want to know more, please consider the following resources: