How to archive SAP data without extending your IT infrastructure

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

Attila Laczay

Strategic Information Lifecycle Management is the foundation of organization-wide data management at modern enterprises and a core prerequisite of compliance with country or state specific legal or data privacy regulations. It’s further indispensable for companies running their business on SAP and choose to deploy SAP ILM Retention Management and Simplified blocking to fulfill expectations of CCPA or GDPR Art.17. Although for compliance purposes only, retention management may be used standalone with no data management action assigned to the particular retention periods (as discussed in my related other blog post), there is little more to do to setup SAP data archiving. Since ILM is deployed for compliance reasons anyway, it is worthwhile enabling the move of historical data to external storages, while it remains integrated with the applications of the SAP system and enjoy the benefits of  -lower TCO, -ease of maintenance and -significantly smaller upgrade efforts  as a result.

A leading preconception towards archiving SAP data is the pressure to extend the IT infrastructure with a Corporate Archive Server to manage the flawless integration of the externally stored archive with the SAP system. The deployment of an ILM compliant Archive Server is not as challenging as feared, in fact it is all embedded already in SAP NetWeaver systems, as of release NW 740 SP13.

This blog introduces the solution architecture of the SAP ILM-STORE service and meant for otherwise experienced SAP system administrators as mini-bootcamp to understand the concept before proceeding with the technical enablement.

Archive Servers provide structured storage, integration and secure long-term retention of archived data and business documents, guaranteed by design that all enterprise contents are safely retained for years, yet still instantly available when needed. However, when SAP system integration is concerned, Archive Servers are not in charge of hosting historical data as a central point of storage. In today’s SAP IT environments, Enterprise Storage Platforms aka. Data Lakes are utilized to achieve scalable and integrated storage services across the corporation. Archived SAP historical data and document attachments are no exception to this trend, leaving Archive Servers in charge of archive structure and application integration, acting as a ‘middleware’ in between SAP and the connected Storage platforms. In fact, they are no longer ‘separate hardware boxes’ running on various OS, but application services only, operating either on the side of the SAP system or on the Data Lake provider.

This ‘Simplified Archiving Infrastructure’ is reflected in my below chart. Notice that the SAP system is integrated directly with the supported storage platforms, leveraging SAP ILM Retention Management and the SAP ILM Store service components.

Anyone noted the BC-ILM3.1 integration on my chart, was right. The ILM Store service is already ILM certified, otherwise known as a “WebDAV based” storage integration, resolving the inconvenience of being restricted to SAP ILM compliant storage service vendors.

In addition, the ILM Store adopted the BC-ArchiveLink 7.40 protocol and provides compliant storage integration for all the below type scenarios:

  • Retention Management enabled ILM archive file (ILM-ADK)
  • SAP attachments (pdf, fax, tif document) and
  • traditional, non ILM-enabled (ADK) archive files.

Let me visualize this in bit more detailed chart below.

In short, along with the ILM Store services an SAP NetWeaver system natively delivers all necessary infrastructure pieces to perform retention management and establish compliant connection with storage providers in alignment with the BC_ILM_3.1 and BC_Archivelink 7.40 communication standards.

ILM Store Deployment and Maintenance Highlights

Let’s see a quick deployment bootcamp and highlight a few maintenance tips which are not too well-known otherwise.

The Business Functions to unleash the Archive Server are at the SAP Switch Framework cockpit (t-code: SFW5):

  • ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) – Activation of ILM Retention Management functions and
  • ILM_STOR – SAP Database Store.

Fortunately SAP backed up the product with quite detailed help portal service and well structured “ILM Store Installation and Configuration Guide” walking through the creation of necessary HTTP service entries (transaction: SICF) and RFC destinations (SM59).

The three most common bumps during enablement are (1) the insufficient authorizations of the operating user, (2) the incorrect definition of external OS commands and (3) the misconfigured connection parameters to the storage platform (SAP IQ, filesystem etc.), so it makes sense to stick to the product documentation at these steps. There is also a great blog by Neenu Susan George with in-debt details on the first time enablement.

Once the storage service ( /default_host/sap/bc/ilm/ilm_store ) is active and configured, the last remaining step is to give this son a name, by publishing via transaction ILMSTOREADM, which is a small webGUI to the Storage and Retention Service (SRS).

In addition, SAP provides test reports to verify the configuration. Report: RILM_STOR_TEST_HC_SERVER scans the system configuration, confirms the pre-required NW components, reads the customizing values and provides and easy overview of the configuration gaps. This comes pretty handy when searching for errors. (Seems I guessed right about problems with external OS commands as shown below.)

The BC-ILM3.1 integration with the ILM Retention Management framework is done via transaction IRMPOL, where the data management action are assigned to the particular retention periods (see my other related blog post  to setup the ILM Retention Management framework).

After proper policy maintenance, your data archiving runs, will leverage the SAP Archive Server to integrate the external data storages, as the retention policy refers to the ILM Store as destination.

The BC-ArchiveLink 7.40 integration relies on the SAP Repository maintenance. The Archive Server is reached via the quick setup of a standard archivelink based content repository (transaction: OAC0). This does require a separate, dedicated HTTP service though in transaction SICF, apart from the one being used for ILM, (such as:  /default_host/sap/bc/ilm/ilm_store_archivelink for instance) as proposed by the installation guide.

Best practice maintenance highlights.

Enable email alerts for ILM Store Processes

A small tool with real time alerts comes in handy especially when the archivelink implementation is leveraged, because corporate end-users tend to access archived documents (typically stored via archivelink) in large scale volume and pretty much constantly. If you have an email server deployed, an email alert is triggered when an entry is generated in the application log.

Similarly, to other email-based system alerts, the standard maintenance screens are used to maintain the distribution lists (transactions: SO15). To verify results of email sending, SAP delivered a test report: RILM_STOR_TEST_EMAIL_CHECK.  Though the setup is rather straight forward, it is worth looking at the help portal and the email alert process operations below.

I’ve witnessed this infrastructure at about 10-15% of the customer, at various size of organizations. Feedbacks towards the ILM Store product operations were positive, once the customers were over some techie bumps during deployment.

Overall, I would definitely recommend leveraging the simplified archiving infrastructure, which is why I found it worthwhile assembling this post.

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