In the IT community, we often talk about mission critical applications with the need to achieve high availability and have proper disaster recovery to achieve business continuity.  However, it's amazing to me how many companies running SAP or other LOB applications (that are an integral part of successfully running their business) fail to have the most basic of high availability and support plans and mechanisms in place.  This can range from the seemingly ("no-brainer") simple (e.g. have those backups ever been restored from scratch to truly test the backups and plan?) to the more comprehensive aspects of support (e.g. are the right support contracts in place with business partners or vendors to have fully covered, 24x7 support specific to the context of a "mission critical" application and covering ALL technology components).  As well, it's important to cover both reactive (picking up the infamous "red bat phone") to proactive (thinking ahead in a holistic manner covering "what-if" scenarios with even regularly scheduled "war games" for simulating system(s) failure).

That being said and specific to an SAP, I find that most SAP customers are familiar with SAP MaxAttention, SAP's tailored and comprehensive support solution.  Although not every SAP customer is a MaxAttention support customer, the option for an increased level of support and attention is available for the demands of your business regarding continuity and high availability.

From a Microsoft perspective and specifically for those of you running SAP on the Microsoft Application Platform, you should also be aware of a relatively new offering from Microsoft Services: Microsoft's Premier Mission Critical (PMC) support .  As an add-on to Microsoft Services Premier Support (which, in my strong opinion, every Microsoft platform customer running SAP or an LOB/enterprise application must have), PMC offers additional services for mission critical applications like SAP that are running on the Microsoft Application Platform.  This enhanced service offering is tailored specific to your needs and has specific services ranging from solution validation and architectural reviews to dedicated proactive and problem resolution services.  Working with SAP Support, Microsoft Services will ensure that your entire solution stack is covered.

Finally, a story to wrap up as this topic reminds me of a customer visit to Microsoft several years ago by the U.S. Army.  A colleague of mine was presenting to several generals about running SAP on the Microsoft platform and a high availability discussion started.  However, the conversation was momentarily preempted by one of the older generals who turned to my co-worker and said, "Son, let me tell you about 'mission critical'.  Mission Critical for us is about lives at stake!"  Needless to say, the conversation went on from there with a perhaps more serious tone than with other customers!  But it also highlighted the fact that the definition of "mission critical" is indeed often different from one company or organization to the next and this fact must also certainly be accounted for (hence not forgetting the business architecture piece to even this equation!).

As 2011 is upon us and New Year's resolutions are made, I encourage you to take a step back and think hard about and review your services and support strategy for your SAP and LOB applications.  Microsoft Services and our LOB CoE is here to help.

Until next time,
Bryan...