SAP BW Powered by HANA – What’s In It For The Business User

Gabor Kovacs

Posted by Gabor Kovacs on July 2, 2012

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You have learned a lot about SAP’s super-charged data warehouse solution: SAP BW powered by HANA. Information about customer testimonials, benefits, technical details and guides are available on ExperienceSAPHANA as well as SCN.

Most of the advantages are clear to the IT folks – loading and activating data faster, no need for aggregates, indexes, etc. But what’s in it for the business user? What if we translates all these technical improvements to gain in productive time? Let’s say we load and stage all the data, and make it available for reporting every day by the time users start their day, instead of making them waiting for 2 hours until they get their reports. It translates to ~500 hours per year and user. For instance, if we have 200 users it is 100,000 hours gain in productive time annually. Or similarly 50% faster response time in reporting – if it means 30 seconds per report per user … you can do the calculations.

In order to get there you just need to migrate your BW system to BW on HANA, and to convert the InfoProviders to HANA-Optimized ones. After the database migration everything works as before in the BW on HANA system: all InfoProviders remain unchanged and work without disruption regarding data staging and querying (changes due to the migration process are transparent to the application).

New Modeling Considerations

With the conversion to HANA-Optimized DSO and InfoCube, the immediate benefits become recognizable:

  • Faster data availability for reporting
  • Improved reporting performance (faster response time) – even on DSO data
  • Simplified modeling and fast remodeling lead to less effort and faster deployment of solutions

The adoption of the HANA-Optimized DataStore Objects and InfoCubes opens up the possibility of new modeling considerations to further optimize your EDW solution:

  • Streamlining the core BW (EDW) – with the adoption of HANA-optimized DataStore Objects and reporting on these DSOs we can eliminate the need of InfoCubes (certain cases). CompositeProviders offer enhanced flexibility of ‘virtualization’ by composing data from core InfoProviders and TransientProviders. All resulting in less persistency layers and transformations (less operations and maintenance headache) in data staging and processing, making the data available faster for reporting.

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Adoption of DataStore Object for Reporting

  • Operational extensions with real-time or close to real-time scenarios – e.g. the consumption of HANA models in BW, SLT into BW and the concept of TransientProvider provides access to source level data even without traditional BW modeling (e.g. mapping to InfoObjects) and with no data staging.
  • Agile extensions to provide flexibility and support the business user for ad-hoc scenarios – e.g. in the context of Analytic Index and the BW Workspace business users able to combine core EDW models with local data for their reporting needs.

The adoption of the new InfoProvider types in BW on HANA enables the IT department to be more responsive to new business requirements and to deliver solutions with faster turnaround.

Flexibility and Ad hoc scenarios

BW on HANA provides significant extensions towards flexibility and agility. The following InfoProvider types are available to build ad hoc scenarios and to combine local data (e.g. Excel file) with core BW data.

  • Analytic Index (more detail on this below)
  • CompositeProvider (more detail on this below)

In the context of BW Workspace ( ) business users are able to upload their own local Excel files and combine them with data from core BW InfoProviders for their reporting needs. The new model created by the end user is exposed to all reporting tools (BEx, Business Objects). With Analysis for Office 1.3 this can be done within the native Excel environment.

What is Analytic Index?

An Analytic Index is a data container that stores its data in a simple star schema in the BW on HANA database (column table). It contains facts and characteristics (called dimensions) with attributes. The metadata of an Analytic Index is also saved in the database of the BW system to preserve its definition.

The Analytic Index empowers users to perform rapid prototyping and easily create ad-hoc scenarios inside the SAP BW without the need to extend existing data models. The creation process is simple as there is no need to create InfoObjects for characteristics and key figures in advance – simply define the fields (name, type, length) and attributes of fields (e.g. for navigation). Therefore users can create an InfoProvider object which do not affect other BW scenarios and do not depend on BW content objects.

Note: New in BW 7.3 are BW Workspaces – a dedicated area in the BW system where new models can be created based on central BW and local data this is an intuitive. Workspaces can be maintained and controlled by IT and used by local departments to react quickly to new and changing requirements. Workspaces can bridge the gap between central governance requirements and local flexibility needs

Flexible modeling with CompositeProvider

CompositeProviders allow combining InfoProviders (InfoCubes, DataStore Objects) and Analytic Indexes via UNION, INNER JOIN and LEFT OUTER JOIN without persistency of data (without storing the results). CompositeProviders are exposed to all BI clients as any other standard InfoProvider via the BEx Query Designer.

Consuming HANA Models in BW on HANA

Exposing BW InfoProviders in the native HANA modeling is not supported yet, but not the other way around – HANA models built in the non-BW schema can be consumed from within the BW environment. The two alternatives are:

  • TransientProvider – using transaction RSDD_HM_PUBLISH
  • VirtualProvider based on HANA model

With transaction RSDD_HM_PUBLISH we can simply publish the Analytic and Calculation views built in SAP HANA. The process is a simple step: select the HANA model, accept the fields (dimensions and measures) and Save. The system generates the metadata in the form of Analytic Index.

BW InfoObjects can be used as a reference to leverage the meta-data properties in reporting (texts, attributes, hierarchies, analysis authorizations). In case of VirtualProviders the standard BW functionality applies.

For more information on how to consume HANA models in BW see Reporting on HANA models in BW-on-HANA and SAP documentation Publishing SAP HANA Models and VirtualProviders Based on a SAP HANA Model.

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