Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: Still, No.)

John Appleby

Posted by John Appleby on April 17, 2014

Global Head Of DDM/HANA COEs

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Nearly two years ago, I collaborated with my good friend Steve Lucas on Vishal Sikka talk about the simplification of the SAP landscape. For instance, SAP CRM contains at least 40% duplication of data from SAP ERP, so if you were to combine both systems into one platform, you would see a significant reduction in overall storage and an association simplification in IT landscape. In addition, SAP BW is obviously a duplication of data, when it comes to SAP data stored in another system.

It seems likely that in future revisions of SAP BW, SAP will allow a linking of information from SAP BW into the Business Suite, so real-time data won’t need to be duplicated into BW. This will also provide more real-time access to data warehouse information.

So I wouldn’t say so much that BW makes things more complex, but rather that it allows you to encapsulate the complexity of your business in one place – including SAP data from ERP, CRM, SCM and other systems, plus whatever other kinds of data you need from other places in your business.

If I’m implementing a new data warehouse, should I implement it in HANA Enterprise or BW on HANA?

In my HANA business, there has been a resurgence of data warehouse implementations and this is a common question. What I normally reply to this is that SAP HANA in itself is an excellent database, data platform and application platform. However SAP HANA on its own does not provide a number of the functions that are required in a complex Enterprise Data Warehouse.

For those functions, SAP provides the BW EDW platform – BW takes care of SAP security and authorizations, complex hierarchies, non-cumulative data for stock and many other capabilities. In addition, the BW team has worked hard to update SAP BW 7.4 for the HANA generation, with a set of technologies it calls LSA++, which simplify and accelerate the build and operations of an EDW.

In short – if you want to build an app, data-mart, data platform or database, then use HANA on its own. If you want to build an Enterprise Data Warehouse, then use BW on HANA.

So SAP are still investing in BW?

Yes – more than ever, in my opinion, with the latest BW 7.4 version. If you’re interested in the detail, there is a good Roadmap available, but the short version is that the BW team have invested to take advantage of the HANA DB. This means faster data loading, fewer layers of information, more agility. It allows you to mash-up BW and non-BW data (if you have a mixed license that allows for this) and real-time with batch. Plus, a lot of the tooling has been reworked. The BW guys have been hard at work and BW 7.4 is a real step change.

In addition, because BW uses a very low level of HANA calculation (lower than you can model in HANA Enterprise), for complex reporting requirements and query structures, BW on HANA can be much more flexible and performant than HANA Enterprise. If you’re interested in the detail, there is a good explanation by BW lead Thomas Zurek. Yes, in some cases, BW on HANA is more capable than HANA Enterprise.

In addition, SAP changed the license late last year, and whilst you should check license detail with your sales rep, you should find that your license allows you to load data into HANA via BW, but then use all the HANA modeling tools to build data-marts, if you so wish. This is very useful for the build of custom data-marts in BW on HANA, though remember, you lose some of the BW functionality by doing this so it must be done with care.

What about cold data. Does BW on HANA support this?

Yes, and it supports it very well with the NLS connector for Sybase IQ. We find that for data warehouses larger than 5TB in Oracle, that a good portion of that 5TB is cold data that is rarely accessed. In this case, it doesn’t make sense to buy expensive in-memory hardware to store the cold data, and it makes sense to store it in a separate store. SAP allow this in BW via a connector for Sybase IQ for Near-Line Storage.

So your older, non-changing data becomes stored in IQ and is visible the same way in BW and this improves the TCO equation for HANA significantly. If you have a smaller BW system then this won’t be necessary but it is a great addition for large-scale systems.

Should I implement BW on-premise, or in the cloud?

You should do whatever suits your business. I’ll be honest with you, most of the BW customers I deal with are big: 5-10TB Oracle or IBM databases, which require large HANA clusters of 10-20 HANA servers (including Dev/Test/QA/Prod/HA/DR plus growth), and right now, most of those customers are still buying on-premise hardware. For large-scale systems, it seems that on-premise may still have a lower TCO, and they also require a lot of network capability, which can be a concern in the cloud.

But I’m not sure this is indicative of the future and we are starting to see a shift with some customers considering large BW systems in the cloud – usually the SAP Cloud for large systems. In addition, we see a lot of use of the SAP BW on HANA Trial Edition which runs in the Amazon Cloud, and the Amazon Cloud is also now supported for smaller BW systems, which is also an option. In addition, there will be partner clouds by companies like EMC and T-Systems in 2014, and I’m expecting this to be a serious consideration for customers who have an existing outsourced datacenter agreement.

Final Words

I’m going to end this blog by stealing Steve’s words from his original blog, because they are still perfect 2 years on.

So back to the original question: Does HANA replace BW? I suppose the answer is: No. But putting a statement out there like “if you haven’t deployed BW you shouldn’t” would be incredibly irresponsible. HANA is definitely many things (A database for BW, a high-performance analytical appliance, a platform for new applications), but matching the entire “system” known as BW point-for-point is a huge project for any company.

I have no doubt in my mind that most of you who have BW systems today would agree and some people will disagree with me (it’s guaranteed and I expect Inmon/Kimball quotes aplenty), and spurring on conversation was certainly part of the objective.

BW is here to stay – it’s just changing with the modern HANA based system. And if you’re a customer considering what to do with BW – my advice is simple. Put it on HANA.

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