Monday, March 16, 2009


SAP is a huge, mysterious, expensive animal.

In my very private opinion it is probably the worst ERP system you can buy today. Hence, most whiteshirts will choose it.

To compensate for the fact that it's old and silly technology, it's also exceedingly expensive. Introducing SAP to your company is the only reliable way to tell whether your company is so financially strong that it almost resembles a monopoly.

But what I really hate about SAP is that it removes people from the Oracle database field. I think most of us have experienced the following scenario:

A colleague or a bunch of colleagues are selected to help implement SAP. Until then they've been ordinary DBA's, fixing stuff, running databases and leading normal family lives.

Then they go away for EXTENSIVE training over a LONG period of time. In between the 42 week-long classes they have to take (per year, of course), they usually rest with their families and might show up for short, social functions among their (still) colleagues. But they have these myserious, far-away eyes... you can't quite reach them.

Then you get the famous message by mouth or email stating:

"We're now almost ready to , so for the next transition period of , I'll be working half of my time with my old stuff and half of my time with SAP before moving to full-time SAP obligations."


I think, but I could be wrong, that they're sucked into a place and time in space that the rest of us can't see or in other ways sense.

A Harry Potter-like parallel universe.

From which, mind you, they never return.

Numerous are the good Oracle DBA's who disappear from the real Oracle world this way.

Now it appears that in their parallel universe (the SAPPU, it could be called) they're slowly corrupted into thinking about Oracle databases the way the real (the few, the remaining) Oracle DBA's thought about databases in the 80's.

They're forced to unlearn all the right things they had learned. A kind of communist re-schooling or indoctrination. So sad.

Here follows a real mail thread from some friends of mine that know more about Oracle than most. They shall, of course, remain nameless - we still have no idea about the powers and general abilities of our disappeared friends in the SAPPU, and so a certain degree of fear for the unknown make us cautious....

Oracle Person One said:

I find myself once again embroiled in an SAP/Oracle Issue.

It seems I broke something in the production database by applying security patches, even though the 5 development and production servers have no such issues. (No, we can't afford a full system to test patches on - sigh...)

There are a number of ORA-7445 and ORA-600 errors being issued when DML is attempted, along with requisite trace files. (Yes, there is a an active SR already)

The SAP Basis team see's ORA-3113 and ORA-3114 errors.

I think I finally have them convinced to stop trying to 'fix' the ORA-3113...

Which brings me to the point: The usual method of troubleshooting SAP problems, as practiced by the SAP team, and nearly every SAP person I have worked with (not a terribly large sample - maybe I am just really lucky), goes something like this:

1. Search the SAP support site for every note containing ORA-600, ORA-7445. There are a few as you can well imagine.

2. Call a meeting to discuss which of the actions in these notes should be taken. Whether or not the contents of the note actually match the problem at hand seems to be irrelevant.

3. Ask the DBA to run a script (recommended by SAP support) to check for some problem or another in the data. This script will launch full table scans for every table in the database... Using a for/next loop. Fortunately for me, the script is broken as is. ... and I can't seem to find the problem with it.

4. Rinse and repeat - effectiveness is unimportant, only looking busy is important.

To memorialize this method, I have created a link to the following short, but accurately portrayed method of this troubleshooting methodology:
For that Person Two commented:

Make that, 'development and test'
Person Three need this off his chest:

So, regarding recent security patches that might cause havoc:

The one that prevents old client retries in clear text when the encrypted handshake is rejected affects some connection attempts.

“Repairing” the permissions of the archive log destination can ultimately get the archiver stuck far enough behind to toss a 7445 (I think) I didn’t look it up and since my databases never have problems I get rusty on the error messages. (tongue firmly in cheek). If memory serves (see previous sentence) one of the security patches suggests repairing the permissions on the archive log directory without telling you to make sure the ownership is correct.

What are your vintages? I’ve only done SAP stuff ONCE (and walked away quickly and quietly having proved that a certain physical reordering solved all their stated performance issues on the load testing system only to be informed that any manipulation of the data outside of SAP was not allowed.)
Person One felt he finally had someone to talk to who understood him:

Yup, that is SAP SOP.

So far I have refused to do that particular operation, except in a couple cases where it retrieved a lot of empty space due to archival of data.

The 'make work' analogy from "The Longest Yard" (the old one with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert) was used in reference to the "SAP Reorg" mentality when they last asked me to do a db reorg.

They didn't get it.

For those of you that don't already know it, the 'make work' for the prison workers in the facility where Reynold's character was incarcerated consisted of the ollowing:

Morning: shovel mud out of the swamp.
Afternoon: shovel mud back into the swamp.

By the classic definition of work, nothing was accomplished in the end.
But the inmates were still sweaty, tired, thirsty and hungry.
Person Five then finally could say this to a friendly crowd:

I wholeheartedly agree with both of you.

I spent almost 4 years as part of team that supported SAP. There were 3 dba's on the team, and both of the other two received their primary dba training from SAP. Their method was to manage EVERY database as if it were an SAP database.

I volunteered to do every non-SAP upgrade and rearranged everything back Oracle standards when they weren't looking. :) Took about 2 years to get to them all but it was well worth the trouble.

As for the SAP databases, patch application and upgrades always had different results on dev, test or prod. It was utterly baffling.

Ah well, based on all this, it is really no wonder that SAP is so wildly popular and has won the whole upper(ERP market) over less complicated, cheaper, more technologically advanced - and way more agile - competitors.

If you can sit in the local CEO club and claim: "We actually managed to pay for the WHOLE SAP implementation with our own money and we're still functioning in several departsments..." your fellow CEO's will know that you have more money than God or AIG's dealers.

You will have the uttermost respect from them, as they scramble to try and explain why their predecessors in their respective companies chose to implement something different from SAP. Cheaper, of course.

But one day, when they have gained enough financial strength....

Here's one final salute to all those lost colleagues from the Oracle database space. We'll always remember you. You'll never be forgotten. Long live your memory.

Wherever you are. In whatever lifeform.