SAP S/4HANA: The Story Behind the New Suite

Sven Denecken

Posted by Sven Denecken on October 26, 2015

Co-innovation S/4HANA

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You’ve likely heard that SAP S/4HANA, our next generation business suite launched on February 2015, can drive instant value to any user, in any business, in any industry, in any region but may be wondering how this is possible? In this blog post I’ll provide the answers but first let’s recap how we got to SAP S/4HANA and how our history of innovation has set SAP up to offer our customers a digital core to reimagine business in the digital economy.

A Short History Lesson

For over 40 years, SAP has been working with thousands of customers around the globe to help them become best-run businesses in their industry by solving complex business and IT challenges. The success of SAP’s ERP solution is the perfect example of how we have enabled best-run businesses over four decades. The economy continues to evolve and it’s being reshaped by top trends including hyper connectivity, supercomputing, cyber security, cloud computing and smarter world comprising of sensors, robotics, 3D printing and artificial intelligence. The combination of these trends is driving companies to innovate how they operate and simplify their underlying systems in order to compete and grow in the digital economy. SAP recognized these trends early on and has developed a digital business framework to support our customers as they make their way through digital transformation.

  • It first began in 2011 when SAP launched SAP HANA as our next-generation in-memory platform designed to be the great simplifier for our customers to invent and even reinvent their business with real-time insight.
  • In January 2013, SAP launched SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA (Suite on HANA) to help companies drive real-time business and simplify how they run their SAP Business Suite by bringing transactions and analytics together into a single in-memory platform. Note that with this release, SAP was the only software vendor in the market at that time to allow SAP Business Suite customers to bring together transactions and analysis into a single in-memory platform. The market reaction was tremendous, over 2,000 customers were attained in only two years making it the fastest growing product at SAP at the time.
  • Moving ahead to June 2014, SAP turned its focus to specific line of business and customers were able to drive real-time insight across finance and simplify how they run their finance system with SAP Simple Finance powered by SAP HANA by removing aggregates, data redundancies.
  • But we didn’t stop there. SAP has created new applications built on SAP HANA to drive new business processes and models. SAP HANA applications for lines of business leveraging the value of the platform addressing important needs for business.
  • Building on our success to date, in February 2015, SAP announced the next-generation business suite: SAP Business Suite 4 HANA (short name SAP S/4HANA), a completely new product and our largest innovation since SAP R/3. SAP S/4HANA is the complete SAP Business Suite built on the most advanced in-memory platform (SAP HANA) and is designed with the award winning, Red Dot Award for Design Concept, and most modern user experience (UX), SAP Fiori. SAP S/4HANA delivers massive simplifications (customer adoption, data model, user experience, decision making, business processes, and models) and innovations (Internet of Things, Big Data, business networks, and mobile-first) to help businesses run simple in the digital economy.

Before going any further about SAP S/4HANA, it is important to understand the significance of running SAP Business Suite apps (and more specific to SAP S/4HANA running SAP Business Suite apps built for SAP HANA) on an in-memory platform and the difference that SAP HANA Platform provides as the most advanced in-memory platform in contrast to traditional relational database management systems.

The Advantage of Running SAP Business Suite Applications on an In-Memory Platform

With SAP Business Suite powered by HANA, our product approach ported SAP applications to the SAP HANA platform and SAP optimized the code to allow customers the ability to gain significant performance in their mission-critical business processes and reporting activities, and by that, in turn, also improve performance compared to relational databases. SAP HANA represented a new database alternative for existing customers, with only a database migration required to drive the entire business in real time. Recognized as the most advanced, in-memory platform, SAP HANA offers a data base architecture that combines both high volume transaction processing (OLTP) and high volume real-time analytical processes (OLAP) which for companies running business applications offers great advantages because the applications are based on a unified data model without redundant data layers typically required by traditional RDBMS based systems.

While it advantageous to run SAP Business Suite Applications on an in-memory platform, it is important to note that not all in-memory platforms are alike because some are add-on in memory platforms, or platforms that focus on partially in-memory (“hot”) and hold the rest of transactional or analytical data on disk (“cold”). There are two major ways that impact business applications with these types of “in-memory” platforms. First, data used by business application users quickly turns “cold” resulting in the business process being slowed down and the operations are not truly running in real-time. Second, the data in held in two different silos, resulting in errors, large complex systems with high engineering effort, and unnecessary costs to maintain the system.

Using SAP HANA as the in memory platform to run SAP applications customers are able to simplify their deployments and drive more innovation. For example, SAP applications powered by SAP HANA offer customers:

  • Unmatched speed for transactions, customers can start with SAP Business Warehouse on HANA, and or other solutions such as SAP Customer Relationship Management or the entire ERP
  • Code push down for faster computing than in traditional relational database management systems or other in-memory approaches
  • The ability to make on the fly aggregations which provide more flexibility to slice and dice information for highest relevance, and immediate insight to action for closed loop analysis and process execution and simulation
  • The unique capabilities of SAP Fiori in regards to User Experience, especially the ability to connect different modules and leveraging data from different sources much faster and provide insight to action – so business users can now prevent exceptions instead of performing exception handling
  • More services from the SAP HANA platform, like predictive analytics, geo-spacial and text mining find their way much more ingrained into business processes – so business can analyze and evaluate strategic or operational KPIs in real time and trigger the right action
  • The option to optimize custom code for usage with SAP HANA
  • Eliminated latency in data movement by unifying the data store in a single in-memory platform

To ensure that every SAP Business Suite application could benefit from even more capabilities of the SAP HANA platform, SAP launched SAP S/4HANA, a completely new, re-architected Business Suite powered by SAP HANA.

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The new suite offers customers massive simplifications and innovations including:

  1. High-volume transaction processing (OLTP) and high volume real-time analytical processes (OLAP) based on a unified data model without the redundant data layers typically required by traditional RDBMS based systems. This reduces TCO while providing new opportunities to increase business value from existing investments.
  2. The ability to have transaction and analytics in one system, provides the ability to analyze, report, simulate and predict in real-time. Users can ask the solution any question they want at any time
  3. Examples for redundant data layers are custom-built layers based on database tuning efforts such as secondary indexes, or application built-in performance accelerators such as aggregate tables or multiple general ledger versions for different managerial reporting needs.
  4. The simplified data model dramatically reduces the footprint of the solution, benchmark studies have recorded 10x footprint and further, the throughput is enhanced for business critical processes
  5. The massive simplifications of the data model and the data processing layers enable business and technological innovations on a broad scale across all lines-of-business and industry solutions.
  6. The new application architecture simplifies system landscape architectures and accelerates cloud deployments on an economical scale as the simplified data model and the focus of one approach for one business problem creates an ideal foundation for SaaS like deployments and consumption
  7. The re-integration of industry specific functionality including those developed outside the core enables companies to serve in multiple industry specific context and increases the agility to react
  8. A higher degree of automation for signal based processing, text mining and predictive or simulation capabilities for today’s challenges like Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, unstructured data, big data scenarios, etc.
  9. Guided configuration enables the IT to view and adapt configuration settings for only those configuration activities required for the preselected scope and key users can easily adjust business configuration
  10. Leveraging our Platform as a Service approach with SAP HANA Cloud platform, delivers the side-by-side opportunity for add-on scenarios – ensuring the openness to JAVA development, SAP Fiori as a service and partnerships with Apigee, Cloudfoundry , Docker, Hadoop – just to mention a few.

The best way to appreciate how SAP S/4HANA provides a digital framework for companies to operate in real-time with on the fly analytics and predictive scenarios all within the business application screens is to read one of our many use case examples in my SAP S/4HANA use case blog series. In this series I provide both the details of the business application experience for end users and the technical information outlining the simplifications and optimizations that SAP S/4HANA provides as the next-generation business suite.

Looking forward to your feedback, @SDenecken

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