Which Support Package Stack Should I Choose?

Absoft plans a lot of Support Package Stack projects.  Through our NetWeaver Managed Service we look after a lot of our customer’s SAP systems, and we also advise other customers through our consulting services.  This is on top of our extensive demo landscape and Absoft’s own infrastructure.

A question which often comes up is; "Which SAP Support Package Stack should we use?" 

Our advice is to use the latest available Support Package Stack in almost all cases, in fact we plan our Maintenance Calendars around release dates of the latest stacks.

N-1: Policy for the second newest

Many IT departments have a general policy to use the second newest release of any software as it is seen as more stable than the latest which could still have bugs.  This policy contradicts our advice to use the latest Support Package Stack for SAP software.

We advise the use of the latest Support Package Stack because of how SAP maintain their software.  Support Package Stacks include only fixes to bugs.  Each support package contains all the SAP Notes that have been released since the previous support package to fix bugs, and no new functionality. 

There are a few exceptions.  In SAP Solution Manager functionality changes with each stack, and in ERP new functionality is delivered in HR support packages to maintain legal compliance.  In general though, for all other SAP products, the Support Package Stack contains only bug fixes and no new functionality.

SAP releases new functionality through Enhancement Packages.  If you are considering applying an Enhancement Package, it is valid to wait until some Support Packages have been released for the Enhancement Package to ensure the new functionality is stable. However, even for Enhancement Packages we don’t generally recommend N-1, as after some Support Package Stacks have been released for the latest Enhancement Package it is becoming stable and it’s far better to only do a single project to get the latest Enhancement Package (with one round of testing, one downtime window) than to use an older one and risk repeating the project in future.

Security fixes to SAP products are also released through SAP Notes that form Support Packages.  By applying older Support Packages, you could miss some security notes.  Any urgent security Note should be applied immediately, but a lot of customers rely on the Support Packages to pick up most security notes.

Any change can introduce bugs

Many argue that even bug fixes can introduce further bugs, and this is a valid concern.  However, if you want a list of all the bugs that exist in a particular Support Package, simply look at the list of SAP Notes that are included in the next Support Package.  By using the previous one, you are choosing to have all of those bugs in your system.

SAP resolve bugs that are discovered by first releasing a SAP Note with the code correction.  The note then gets included in the next Support Package.  That Support Package usually won’t change after release, unless it has really serious errors.  Any further SAP Notes to correct bugs are included in higher support packages only.  That means you are missing out bug fixes if you don’t use the latest one.

An intelligent rule of thumb

A simple rule of N-1 is a valid approach to ensure you use stable software in your IT landscape.  However, your policy should allow exceptions for the unique requirements of each application.  Consider the software logistics carefully, analyse how the software is developed and what the update actually contains; if it’s only fixing existing bugs, consider making an exception and using the latest release for the most stable landscape.

If you would like more information or advice, please contact us on +44 (0)1224 707088 or email: info@absoft.co.uk 

by Robert MacDonald, SAP Consultant