This blog contains experience gained over the years of implementing (and de-implementing) large scale IT applications/software.

Add Second IP to Loopback for SAP ASCS on SUSE Linux 12 in Azure

Back in 2018, I helped design a Highly Available architecture for the SAP Netweaver ASCS (contains the message server and enqueue server).
This was to be implemented on SUSE Linux 12 in the Microsoft Azure cloud, and therefore it was sitting behind an Azure Internal Load Balancer (ILB).

At this point in time, the Microsoft Reference Architecture for SAP on Azure, was not really well established and the documentation was dispersed throughout the Microsoft site.

Browsing LinkedIn posts, I could see Microsoft appeared to be hiring SAP guys 10 to the dozen. Maybe they recognised that some of their existing SAP on Azure architecture design documentation was either too light on details, or just wrong. Who knows for sure, but I do know that since 2018, the documentation from Microsoft has been much, much better with regards to SAP content and specifically the reference architecture for SAP on Azure.
It now all exists in a nice single location and contains all the steps and details needed. Plus we have “Embrace”, the official tie-up between Microsoft and SAP, which puts a nice frame around the picture.

What Was Up With Our HA Design?

Going back to 2018, the ASCS HA design we created was suffering a number of small niggles.
The basic architecture pattern had 2 Azure VMs, of which either one could run the ASCS. Both VMs sit in the same ILB back-end pool fronted by the ILB with a dedicated DNS hostname and IP address.

One of the VMs runs the ERS (Enqueue Replication Server) for replication of the enqueue shared-memory table. Yes, this is pre-ENSA2 (see 2630416), which will change things going forward!

We experienced issues with the ILB timeout settings killing traffic to the enqueue server. These were resolved by scanning the Microsoft Documents in great detail and applying the required SAP level parameters and adjusting the ILB settings.

We also found that we were missing some of the required O/S level settings which are usually applied by saptune. This explains why the documentation was sparse around these parameters, they are usually already set.
Finding those key pieces of information was possible, it just wasn’t very clear back then.

We also had issues with local SAP utility commands like “ensmon” for diagnosing issues with the enqueue server process. These just would not work from the active ASCS VM, because the front-end for the ASCS was now the ILB.

Why Ensmon Didn’t Work

You see, when a VM is sitting behind an ILB, it is not able to send traffic to the ILB of which it is an active back-end member. This facet of Microsoft’s ILB design, is there to prevent a feedback loop.

This same issue also caused SAP LaMa landscape detection issues, because LaMa could not see which VM host the SAP ASCS was running on.
LaMa usually detects which VM the ASCS hostname’s IP address was bound onto. But the IP address for the ASCS was on the ILB, not on the back-end VMs. This left LaMa not knowing which host was running the ASCS.

As part of the current Microsoft documentation, if you are using a Pacemaker cluster, the document here tells you how to setup your VMs and ILB for use with the cluster.
The documentation doesn’t tell you how the cluster software is allowing the local SAP utility commands like “ensmon” to continue working when the VM on which the ASCS is currently running, is behind an ILB.

How Can We Make Ensmon & Other Tools Work?

This is where it gets interesting.

We are going to explore how we can achieve the same level of usability, behind an ILB, without the cluster software. Ie. with just 2 VMs and the ASCS installed locally on each (real basic).

I’m not saying this is going to provide the same level of HA or anything like that, just showing you how you can get this working at a basic level.

Here is our setup:

  • Each VM has just 1 NIC and 1 primary IP address.
  • The ILB health probe is checking tcp/3600 (the message server).
  • We have “HA” enabled on the ILB.
  • The ASCS is currently active on VM1, but can also be started on VM2 when needed.
  • Although not shown, the ERS is installed directly on VM2 only.
  • This is a failover cluster (Active-Passive) with regards to the ASCS, and no auto-failback is anticipated. A nick name I like is the “chuck it over the fence” option.

Let’s imagine we try to start the “ensmon” tool on the VM1 server.
It will say that it is not able to connect to the Enqueue server on 10.x.x.x (via the ILB).
This is because the VM1 server is not allowed to talk to itself via the ILB of which the VM is an active back-end pool member.
Instead, we need to make the VM1 server believe that it is talking to the ILB, but make it talk instead, to itself.

If we say that VM1 has an IP address of and a hostname of myvm1, then we can make VM1 talk to itself instead of the ILB IP address, by adding an entry into the Linux /etc/hosts file like so:  myvm1  myascs

This will cause any hostname resolution that calls the standard Linux function “gethostbyname” for the ILB hostname, to find the IP address of VM1.
You can confirm this with a “ping” or a “host” command.

You should note that the above assumes that your /etc/resolv.conf is set such that /etc/hosts (known as “files” in /etc/resolv.conf) is used before DNS is checked. This is the correct setup in the majority of cases.

The reason for adding both the existing VM1 hostname and the ILB hostname, is because if we don’t, SUSE Linux will change it’s hostname to “myascs” during the boot phase. This is caused by the cloud-netconfig initialisation.

You can find out more about cloud-netconfig in: SUSE Cloud-Netconfig and Azure VMs – Dynamic Network Configuration

The above change to the /etc/hosts file is sufficient to allow our “ensmon” tool to connect to the Equeue server process, since the communication will now go directly internal over the internal VM network interface itself, and not via the ILB.

That Works But Here’s a Better Way

In some cases, the above solution is adequate.

You may not be running this ASCS VM with Azure Site Recovery (ASR) to a Disaster Recovery (DR) Region, where server IP addresses may change on invocation of a DR scenario.

If you are using ASR, and you know that the VM IP address could change in a DR scenario, then hard coding IP addresses into the /etc/hosts file is not really the best way forward.

In this case, we need to use another solution that does not involve editing the /etc/hosts file on the VM1 server.

We can employ another technique, we can bind the IP address of the ILB hostname, onto the loopback device of the VM1 server.


Everyone knows the loopback device.
It’s usually represented by the IP address
You want to test the network stack on a Linux server, you can ping and it will usually return an ICMP response.

The loopback device is only accessible on the local server, it can’t be accessed from outside the server over the network in any way.

We can add different IP addresses to the loopback device if we want to. They will not be routable over the network and will not be addressable from any other host on the network.

If we imagine that the ILB hostname has an IP address of, we can add the IP address to the local loopback device using the “ip-address” utility command as follows:

NOTE: This must be done as the root Linux user.

> ip address add dev lo scope host

You will then be able to show the device addresses:

> ip address show dev lo

1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1000
link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
inet scope host lo
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
inet scope host lo
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
inet6 ::1/128 scope host
valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

Now we can ping the address:

> ping

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.016 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=0.030 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=0.031 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=0.031 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=64 time=0.031 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=64 time=0.043 ms

How do we tell that this is not routing out to the ILB itself?

  1. The ping response time is extremely quick at 0.03 milliseconds, so it must be just routing through the local TCP/IP stack on this VM.
  2. Remember, the VM is actively part of a back-end pool of the ILB, so it cannot talk back to itself!

If you remove the bound IP address from the loopback device:

> ip address del dev lo

Now re-execute the ping:

> ping

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
--- ping statistics ---
2 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet loss, time 1016ms

All packets are lost.
So we have proven that adding the IP to the local loopback device, is what made the ping work.

Permanent Solution Reached?

Our more permanent solution is to add the IP address to the local loopback device, instead of the /etc/hosts file.

But wait! The IP address may change in a DR scenario.
So we will need an initial step to use DNS to lookup the IP address.
We can use the “host” command (or many others) to achieve this as follows:

> host has address

The output of the “host” command could be used during a Linux boot script or some other means (another blog post for this 😉 ) to add the IP to the local loopback device.


We found that in a basic HA setup of the SAP ASCS instance, using two VMs behind an Azure ILB, we were not able to access certain tools directly on the VM running the ASCS.

We also found that landscape management tools like SAP LaMa failed to correctly identify which host the ASCS instance was running on.

By adding the ILB IP address to the local loopback device, we are able to use our “ensmon” and other utilities for SAP ASCS administration.

It also has the great effect of letting SAP LaMa detect the ILB IP address as being bound onto the VM1 server, which means that LaMa host discovery and validation works.

Finally, we discussed how the IP address could be detected, in case it has changed after a DR failover.

If you’re not already, you will eventually be wondering, “how can I automate this whole IP adding process, so that SAP LaMa knows where the ASCS is at any one time?”, well that is all part of knowing how to automate your SAP landscape operations and a deep understanding of how the various SAP agents interact during the start-up and shutdown of a standard Netweaver stack.
Some of this is discussed in a post here: How an Azure hosted SAP LaMa Controlled SAP System Starts Up

3 thoughts on Add Second IP to Loopback for SAP ASCS on SUSE Linux 12 in Azure

  1. If I understand correctly this is done on the active node. We can't do this on the inactive node since then ensmon will say it can't connect. Your doc is not clear if we actually make this entry on both nodes? And if so will loop back have entries for both virtual ascs as well as ers?

  2. Hi Vijay,

    This is only needed on the VM that is "active".
    I.e. the VM which is running the ASCS and is returning a healthy status back to the ILB as a result of the health probes.

    The secondary VM is not "active" in the eyes of the ILB, so it is allowed to route through the ILB to the active VM.

    Hopefully that's clearer.


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