The SAP Solution Manager system has been like that wallflower at the high school dance. It's pretty enough, has all the right pieces, but it's just too damned complicated to ask onto the dance floor. Overall it’s been incredibly difficult to configure for even the most basic of tasks, like System Monitoring, Change Management, and the like. Even SAP appeared to have accepted that Solution Manager was going to just sit in the corner, waiting to be used... however, SAP Solution Manager 7.2 is set to ‘trip the light fantastic’, well, nearly.
Over the fifteen years that I've been an SAP Basis Administrator, the role of Solution Manager has been dubious, at best. The majority of corporations that I have worked for installed it, used it to confirm downloads, run the Maintenance Optimizer, and very little else. It ended up collecting dust in a dark corner of the data center, curled up in the foetal position, weeping at its own neglect.
Solution Manager 7.1 changed quite a few areas considerably, and, in my humble opinion, became more of a contender. I’d go as far as saying it was nearly worth going through the effort of the setup! You'll note that as support packages were released, SAP appeared to be listening to the customer, as we saw a bevy of UI and functional changes come about, making this insanely technical system relevant.
Then SAP did the unthinkable; they released Solution Manager 7.2, based on a fairly recent Netweaver stack (7.4), took all the goodness of the lessons learned in Solution Manager 7.1, and came out with a much more viable tool, in no small part due to the introduction of the Fiori Cockpit.
During my last project, an SAP Suite on HANA migration to the cloud, we had some time on our hands during the integration testing. We had scheduled this down time and during this phase had planned to re-implement Solution Manager in the cloud, from scratch, at 7.2. This was my chance to ask the wallflower to dance. I went in with a firm amount of scepticism, as any Basis person would, but was immediately surprised at little things: like the quality of the documentation within the guided procedures, and the sheer amount of searchable content on the web about setting the pieces up (and SAP notes, don't forget SAP notes). This implementation has roughly taken one month (a little on and off, considering I had a project to run), and here are some of the things I learned.
The case for SAP HANA
I know what you're thinking, truth be known I thought I was crazy in trying it myself, but there is a use case for Solution Manager on HANA (if you're already a HANA customer). Understand that Solution Manager is part CRM, part BW. To that end, it is a very busy system when configured properly. It is constantly gathering, parsing, and analysing all of the data coming in from your ENTIRE SAP landscape (and potentially other applications and servers, as well). That said, it tends to get pretty beat up from a database perspective. HANA, obviously, makes this faster, smoother, and has made my overall experience with Solution Manager better. On HANA, a fresh Solution Manager system will generally run within a 128GB HANA instance.
On top of that, don't skimp on the application tier for the Solution Manager server. Remember that Solution Manager will contain a full ABAP and Java stack, plus Wily Introscope (for system monitoring), and potentially TREX (for embedded searching if you do not use HANA for the database). I generally recommend a bare minimum of 32RAM just for the application tier (minus the database).
Adding value to your team
We've just completed getting all the setup finalised with managed systems, system monitoring, and system administration. I must admit my surprise: not only was it (fairly) easy to setup, the final solution within the UI5 compliant dashboards etc, seems very refined.
This is a dashboard that I actually wouldn't mind putting on a large screen looming over my Production Support team. It's a nice list of your systems and their "technical" statuses. There's a little time needed to tweak the monitoring templates, etc. to make this work properly, but it's well worth it to see the finished product. Simply put on auto-refresh and keep an eye on your systems. The alerts attached to this also work well, once the alerting setup is completed.
To me, especially for an already stretched, overworked Basis team, this could make all the difference in the world. The UI screens are much better, the guided procedures work more often than not, and overall it's a much more pleasant product to implement.
What about Solution Manager 7.1?
Solution Manager 7.1 ends its mainstream maintenance at the end of this year (Dec. 31, 2017), so thinking about moving to 7.2 is the right thing to do. I think you'll find it a changed product than when you first implemented it, and much more usable in nearly every way. If you need help getting it configured, give us a call, as we can help with that. Either way, good luck!