Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No, but…)

John Appleby

Posted by John Appleby on July 6, 2015

Global Head Of DDM/HANA COEs

More by this author

SAP HANA is a data platform which has strong analytic capabilities, and so it was a natural conversation that SAP HANA would replace the SAP NetWeaver BW Enterprise Data Warehouse. This debate unnerved customers with large investments in SAP BW and by 2012, it was enough that Steve Lucas blogged Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No.).

Two years later, I continued the debate with Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: Still, No.) and in 2015, with the release of SAP S/4HANA, the debate continues and customers want to know what to do with their SAP BW investment. I thought it was time to give my perspective on the future of SAP and Data Warehousing in the SAP S/4HANA horizon.

If I am implementing SAP S/4HANA, do I need to implement BW?

This is where it gets fun. What’s extremely clear is that S/4HANA has awesome analytic capabilities, and many of these are enabled in the S/4HANA Fiori UX screens. Customer fact sheets, Financial Supply Chain management and many other analytic capabilities are embedded in the S/4HANA user experience.

There are customers who will be using SAP BW to provide these same reports to their end users, and for these use cases BW is no longer required. What’s more, S/4HANA provides operational reporting via HANA Information Views and Lumira dashboards, which provide some decent analytic reporting.

If your are implementing SAP S/4HANA, my advice to you is not to implement BW on day one unless you find a requirement that S/4HANA can’t do. You may need BW later on but you can reduce the complexity of your ERP implementation by not implementing BW.

I use SAP ERP and migrate to S/4HANA, can I remove BW?

Short answer: almost certainly not, and definitely not right away. If you’ve got BW and have implemented its rich functionality, you will have several of the following:

– Complex business transformations inside BW
– Consolidation of multiple ERPs, CRM, SCM, APO, HR
– Consolidation of third party flat files, databases and other source systems
– Complex outbound interfaces to other data warehouses
– Reporting which S/4HANA can’t yet do, like consolidated inventory reporting

Do the analysis of what’s in BW, and what S/4HANA can do, and you will see that turning off SAP BW is in most cases a project in its own right, and that turning off SAP BW means that you need another data warehouse.

Do I still need multiple copies of my data and batch processing?

For the short term – yes. Right now, SAP BW still needs to extract data out of S/4HANA in a batch process, or replicate data from S/4HANA, or use real-time extractors. This will change in time, because I believe that the BW team will build out a new generation of virtual extractors which replace the existing ones and allow customers to persist the data in S/4HANA, but report in SAP BW.

This is significant because some reports (e.g. COPA) are best done on the source system in real-time, and some still require data persistence in the data warehouse, because the transformations are extremely complex and too expensive to be run at run-time. In the future (I don’t work for SAP so can’t commit to timelines!) BW will provide customers increased flexibility with how it allows the avoidance of batch processing. This is the best of both worlds.

Does SAP BW still get investment?

Yes, and I’d argue that it gets more investment than ever. We’re fortunate because BW runs on the same NetWeaver platform that underpins S/4HANA and Business Suite on HANA, so BW gets all the low-level platform capabilities that are built out for other products.

In addition, the team has built out a full Eclipse-Based modeling environment for BW, the ability to do dynamic tiering of data, data aging, and many other futures. They have optimized the calculation engine for HANA so most calculations are built out, and the last big challenge, hierarchies, has been enabled in HANA SPS10, so expect BW to support native HANA hierarchies in 2015. That’s huge.

Also, watch out at SAP TechEd 2015, you might just hear a couple of surprises!

Could I really use SAP BW as my primary data warehouse?

BW has had some bad press over the years, and many customers have a diverse data warehouse strategy including Teradata, Netezza, DB and Oracle amongst others. In addition, products like Pivotal and Redshift are gaining popularity, as well as using unstructured stores like Hadoop for data consolidation.

But think about this: when you buy S/4HANA, SAP will in many cases bundle BW included in the price for unlimited usage. My read of the license (please hire your own commercial attorney and make your own determination) is that provided you use BW to load and report on the data, you can use BW unlimited for whatever you want. What’s more – SAP grant the right to access BW data directly in the HANA database layer, avoiding the BW app tier if you so wish. This basically gives you the same capability as HANA Enterprise.

Add to that the Big Data capabilities in BW, the NLS capabilities (which are included in the S/4HANA runtime license too) and the capabilities of HANA, as well as the increasing size and decreasing cost of HANA appliances, and the increased flexibility of HANA Tailored Data Integration, and BW is a serious contender for your primary EDW.

Think about the cost savings of tearing down that Teradata box which needs replacing.

Final Words – Does SAP HANA Replace BW?

It’s worth going and reading the four blogs that make up this series, if you have time, because it tells a fascinating story about the progression of HANA through the 4 years of her existence:

– Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No.)
– Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No.) – Part 2
– Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: Still, No.)

In my view, SAP BW is well and truly alive, but will find a different place in the post S/4HANA era. It will have less persistence of operational reporting data, will push down those calculations to HANA source systems, and act as a true consolidated EDW for non-SAP, unstructured and sensor data.

If you like, SAP BW will serve the purpose that it was originally intended, rather than being a glorified operational data mart.

P.S. Thanks Ken for prodding me to blog 🙂

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Average User Rating
Rating: 4.6/5 (35 votes cast)
Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No, but...), 4.6 out of 5 based on 35 ratings