Up until a few years ago, talking about SAP application versions was simple and straightforward. A typical version consisted of a combination of numbers and letters to explain major and minor SAP versions. If you have been running SAP for at least the last 7 years, you remember 4.6C or D, 4.7 Extension set 1 or 2 and the current major release, ERP 6 or ECC 6. The ERP / ECC designation changed at some point too. Outside of the core ERP application, CRM, SCM and SRM for example all dabbled in naming conventions around 7.0 or 2004 / 2004s. In the end, all of these applications came from a very predictable underlying SAP Netweaver release that consisted of either 6.20, 6.40 or 7.0 release levels.
In 2006 SAP introduced the Enhancement Pack. After this, everything changed! With Enhancement packs or EHP’s for short, the promise was a more nimble approach to application upgrades through cumulative content release cycles built on top of a major application release. For the Basis folks, this was the introduction of 7.01, 7.02 and into the teens with 7.1, 7.2 and so on. Although SAP delivered on the promises to the business of faster business content updates, on the operations side a new level of complexity was introduced. Instead of matching SAP applications across the environment onto the same general Netweaver version, the Basis team had to support applications which content had to match at a more granular level. With most general system types based on Netweaver at the core, upgrade planning became a much more complex affair as the Netweaver, Enhancement pack and support pack stack had to be compared between all landscapes in the environment.
SAP released a tool, the Upgrade Dependency Analyzer (UDA) to help identify cross application conflicts but in the end, slight differences between any of these patch or release levels can wreak havoc for the customer even with normal testing procedures completed or when new functionality is developed.
Beyond the application, databases became a factor in this topic with the introduction of Sybase ASE and HANA. With brand new database platforms available to run SAP, supportability had to be introduced in a cascading fashion by application and by enhancement pack release. What this means for a prospective customer is if they are interested in migrating to HANA, validation of a supported application AND enhancement pack is required. If you look at SAP BW specifically, a minimum of Netweaver 7.31 is required to migrate. Beyond BW you may have other applications that are not currently supported and thus require you to maintain a multiple database platform environment. This is not a situation most customers want to be in.
With the release of Netweaver 7.4, SAP is making a concerted effort to bring all of these code lines back into a unified release timeline. In theory, you will no longer have to wait to apply the latest ECC enhancement pack until the cross compatible BW, SCM or CRM enhancement packs are available. Instead, all ERP applications will have a (reasonably) unison release date and thus allow you the customer to take a more coordinated project approach to keeping your SAP investment up to date.
Learn how Symmetry’s Premier SAP Hosting and Managed Services can meet your SAP business requirements and receive a free assessment of your potential cost savings.