SAP released its business intelligence/data warehouse solution, Business Warehouse (BW), roughly 15 years ago. Since that time, SAP users have embraced the technology to take advantage of seamless integration of data across their platforms and to reduce the total cost of ownership for SAP-focused data warehousing. Over the years, SAP also has continued to expand its overall data suite by acquiring a number of leading products, such as Business Objects and OutlookSoft.
However, after 15 years, many customers across SAP’s 14,000+ installed base have realized that SAP BW may lack some features and performance capabilities required to meet their enterprisewide data warehouse needs. In response, SAP released a new product, SAP HANA – a high-performance in-memory data warehousing platform offered in addition to SAP BW. This new platform, combined with other upgraded HANA modeling capabilities, enables better integration and vastly improves performance. Though HANA looks to be the future of SAP, clients must still get a handle on their current issues, namely BW’s performance and other gaps, including:
- Complex extraction mechanism for SAP data without business content or non-SAP data integrating with SAP data
- Increased cost of maintenance due to higher data latency caused by layered scalable architecture duplicating data at multiple layers
- Spiderweb transformation logic that is extremely difficult to modify and enhance for future reporting requirements
- Poor data visualization tools with limited abilities for what-if scenarios, ad-hoc data discovery, and interactive dashboard analysis
- Memory usage challenges with other database technologies, leading to difficulties in getting best throughput and impacting the overall performance of the systems
SAP’s latest release, BW on HANA, replicates the success of the in-memory HANA analytic platform and goes further with SAP HANA transformation. It allows BW customers to migrate their legacy database platforms to HANA’s new architecture after performing necessary application upgrades. This goes a long way in addressing the issues noted above and opens the door to additional advancements and opportunities.
Challenges and Opportunities
HANA is an innovative technology that offers exciting opportunities for companies with decades-long investments in the SAP platform. In HANA, data is stored in memory as opposed to hard disk, which increases the speed of data retrieval for analytics where speed is of the essence. This in-memory storage, coupled with columnar store (versus row store in traditional databases), allows HANA to process large volumes of data at a speed unprecedented in the database world. This innovation also provides an opportunity to run software on SAP ecosystems entirely (database, application, and user interface), enabling best performance.
By migrating their BW systems to HANA and optimizing the solution, companies can achieve the following:
- Simplified extraction and transformation mechanism with LSA++ architecture eliminating all unnecessary layers of data, such as info cubes, multi-cubes, etc.
- Ability to replicate the tables from SAP ECC directly using System Landscape Transformation (SLT), which reduces data latency and provides options to extract data multiple times during the day
- Reduced transformation logic due to fewer data layers and multiple extraction processes
- Improved data visualization with HANA Live, Business Objects and Tableau integration for consuming BW data integrated with SAP and non-SAP data
- In-memory data storage, eliminating the possibility of memory usage issues or leakage typically experienced in traditional database platforms
Our Point of View
HANA is here to stay, and it is SAP’s future strategic direction to move the entire SAP ecosystem on to the HANA platform. SAP has released Suite on HANA and many other industry solutions enabled by HANA, including rapid deployment solutions for analytics, to accelerate time to value. SAP’s focus on HANA indicates a commitment to own the entire ecosystem and help customers address their concerns at all technical integration levels.
Although customers have two options – migrate the existing BW system to a HANA database or implement HANA Enterprise (cloud or in-house) as a sidecar approach – migrating the entire system is the more holistic solution, requiring less maintenance down the road, and it’s recommended. Migration to HANA will bring higher data processing efficiencies to the SAP BW environment and will act as an integration layer to BusinessObjects, Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) and downstream applications.
Companies should evaluate carefully their migration strategy to reduce production downtime and minimize interruption of other ongoing SAP initiatives. Successful migration requires performing a set of predefined activities, in three distinct phases:
- Upgrade: Finalize a target version for the BW upgrade, considering all downstream integration impacts on BusinessObjects, BPC and other solutions that depend on the BW system.
- Migration: Migrate the BW system from relational database to in-memory database and validate migration results.
- Optimization: Optimize the BW solution using the HANA studio development workbench to simplify the architecture and realize benefits.
How We Help Companies Succeed
We partner with chief information officers, chief financial officers and other executives to ensure their organizations maximize the return on SAP business intelligence investments while minimizing risks. We drive excellence and innovation using strong integration between business vision, strategy, process controls and analytics. We facilitate productive conversations to design a HANA transformation strategy and a future roadmap not only from a technology perspective but also from a future states of analytics development perspective. Finally, we assist our clients with developing a business case for the transformation, and we deliver complete end-to-end upgrade and migration implementation services.
Our Data and Analytics team of experts can demonstrate direct impact and value with improved performance and efficiency in addressing business issues. IT leaders who understand data and its growing demand within the organization will address these issues now by taking advantage of technology innovation. Doing so not only will help respond to business needs quickly, but will enable business leaders to react confidently to rapidly changing market and economic situations.