What’s coming with the next generation of SAP BW/4HANA?

On August 31, SAP unveiled SAP BW/4HANA, billed as “a next-generation data warehouse application for running a real-time digital enterprise.” The discussion around the next generation of this software has been around for a long time, ever since the release of SAP HANA in 2010. In particular, after SAP introduced the next generation business suite S/4HANA a few years ago, industry insiders have been wondering, is there a next generation “4HANA” solution on the enterprise data warehouse side?  Our questions have been answered with the introduction of the new SAP BW/4HANA, which will officially be released on Sept. 7.

As a BW consultant, I’m very excited about this new solution and wanted to understand more about it before getting my hands dirty in the trial system.

So, what is SAP BW/4HANA?

According to SAP, BW/4HANA is SAP’s next generation data warehouse solution, though it is considered a brand new product rather than a successor of BW. The transition from BW to BW/4HANA can be compared to that of the business suite application on HANA and S/4HANA. Just like S/4HANA, simplification and modernization of the user experience are pivotal to BW/4HANA’s design principles, data objects are drastically reduced, and a new user interface will be delivered from both the developmental and administrative point of view. Openness is another goal BW/4HANA is trying to achieve – according to SAP, BW/4HANA complements the existing SQL-Based HANA solution, so we can expect the interoperability between BW/4HANA and HANA enterprise to be very good, with no data replication needed. Finally, BW/4HANA will have better integration with Big Data platforms.

How does it differ from current BW on HANA offerings?

Looking at all the available documents SAP has published, it is hard to say this new solution is a dramatic change. For BW developers who have been actively involved in BW on HANA projects using the latest version, (e.g. 7.4 or 7.5), BW/4HANA looks very familiar. Moreover, converting to BW/4HANA requires upgrading to BW7.5 on HANA first. Let’s try to answer this question in more detail, looking at the following specific aspects: 

Architecture:

As you can tell from the name, BW/4HANA supports the HANA database only. It is highly optimized to run on HANA, as calculations will be pushed down to HANA level. Because of that, the code has changed a lot and is much more efficient – as stated by SAP, millions lines of codes are reduced. It is still running on the ABAP stack, but is not considered part of the Netweaver offering because of the code change and optimization. The implication on the business side is BW will not come free in the future as part of the Netweaver delivery. While SAP has not released much information on licensing, my guess is that apart from the run time HANA license, customers will most likely be required to pay extra money for the BW/4HANA solution.

Cloud deployment is definitely at the heart of the design on BW/4HANA. SAP had already collaborated with Amazon to deliver a trial version on AWS. From a delivery point of view, there will be only one code-line for both on cloud and on premise in the future.

Modeling:

As a BW developer, this is what I’m interested most. Below is a diagram from SAP, which shows that objects will be dramatically reduced in BW/4HANA and the development will be mainly on the advanced DSO and composite provider, etc.  Those classic objects such as Cube, Infoset, MultiProvider, and classic DSO are not used any more, as they are not fully HANA optimized. Compared with BW7.4/7.5 on HANA, there is not much change, as those new objects (ADSO, open ODS view) were introduced already.

As you see from here, all objects in BW/4HANA are working with HANA. Composite provider, info object, and ADSO can all be imported into HANA enterprise as HANA views, and open ODS view is built to use HANA objects in BW. This can definitely help promote BW to SQL savvy business users and make it easier for them to do the ad hoc analysis without going through the development lifecycle in BW.

Reporting:

For years, we have been building reports with BEx – it’s time to say goodbye! BEx is decommissioned in BW/4HANA, and the frontend with this new solution will be mainly on the SAP BusinessObjects side, design studio, and Lumira. Advanced analysis will be the main frontend reporting tools, along with BusinessObjects cloud. Of course, third party reporting tools will be supported based on SQl, MDX and OData.

Data Extraction: 

New planned standard content extraction from S/4HANA to BW/4HANA will be based on CDS delta extraction technology. While traditional extractors can be leveraged as well if they are ODP enabled, non-ODP-compatible extractors will not be supported anymore.

The ODP framework has been available for a long time and has been the recommended approach for data extraction since BW7.4. However, my guess is that, like me, most people don’t use it very often. Part of the reason is that new technology always takes time to become popular, in addition to the fact that few extractors were ODP enabled in the past few years. At Utegration, we have been keeping an eye on the ODP framework and evaluating it ever since it became available, but most of the extractors used for IS-U implementation were not released for ODP until very recently. Even now, some of the most important extractors are still not ODP enabled, i.e. sales statistics. But with the release of BW/4HANA, I assume SAP will invest time and resources into converting the extractors or developing new methods for data extraction, which is good news.

User Interface:

Development will be mainly in an Eclipse based interface, and administration and monitoring will be in a web based interface. This is totally not surprising, as the shift started already in BW7.4.

This is just the start of the journey to embrace the next generation BW/4HANA. We will start some kind of POC with our customers to create some business scenarios and evaluate the new system. Of course, you can count on Utegration to share more about how this will fit into Utilities use cases as rollout of the solution continues and we gain a better understanding of its ins and outs.