The digital transition is also changing Business Warehouse's (BW's) role in the company. The new BW/4 Hana shows how a BW of the future could look. Yet some questions remain open.
In the course of the digital transformation – key words: Big Data, Industry 4.0 or Internet of Things (IoT) – the requirements that Enterprise Data Warehousing (EDW) must fulfil are increasing, especially as regards the speed both of data-accessing and also of the analyses, the modelling or the integration of data from various sources: BW/4 Hana is SAP’s answer.
SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW) on AnyDB, implemented according to the principles of a layeredscalable architecture (LSA), cannot satisfactorily master this challenge. This is why SAP BW was constantly developed further over the last years (SAP BW powered by SAP Hana; Versions 7.3–7.5, including SAP BW 7.5; edition for SAP Hana) and, in parallel, the layer architecture was switched from an LSA to an LSA++.
Simpler Data Warehouse structure and modelling
With BW/4 Hana, SAP has now launched an application onto the market that runs exclusively on the SAP Hana database. Following the ‘Run Simple’ principle.
In a similar way to the S/4 Hana application suite, the program code was ‘cleansed’, the architecture was slimmed down and the data management was made more efficient through simpler structures and faster data-flows.
This means less data needs loading, less loading-time, a reduced latency period in the data transmission and much-increased speed in accessing BW data.
Even better performance is provided by an algorithm push-down of the following into the SAP-Hana database: complex query-calculations; transformation logic hitherto executed in the application layer; and calculating operations in the batch procedure.
Thanks to these simplifications, the modelling of the BW data-flow can now optionally be implemented on a model-driven or application-driven basis, that is to say ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’.
A new modelling of the data-flow, but also the adaptation of an existing data-flow model can be taken care of comfortably and promptly, using the new data-flow-modeller tool of BW/4 Hana.
The requirements coming from business, e.g. with regard to information call-offs and reporting, can thus be implemented rapidly, and users can react flexibly to market changes – a competitive factor not to be underestimated.
The existing and the new
A ‘simpler’ BW structure like this emerges (among other reasons) due to the reduction of the modelling objects from ten to four, namely: Advanced DataStore Object (ADSO), (Enhanced) Composite Provider, InfoObject and Open ODS View.
They are optimised to operate on SAP Hana, and for each individual one an SAP Hana View can be generated and imported into the S/4 Hana application suite. As a counterbalancing measure, SAP Hana objects or tables can also be integrated in BW/4 Hana and used there, via Open ODS Views.
An important contribution that simplifies matters, compared to SAP BW on Any DB, is also made by reducing the obligatory logical layers in the new BW. This positively affects the data-consistency and simultaneously ensures that the data footprint is reduced.
Ideally, a maximum of two layers is needed: virtual data marts and the data-acquisition layer. Consequently, in BW/4 Hana a data warehouse can also be built up according to the layer principle of an LSA++.
By contrast, it is optional to use the raw-data layer and the integration layer, as well as to use the data marts. Which layers are actually used depends on the respective business-level or service-level respectively.
Simplified data integration
Similarly, data extraction from an SAP or non-SAP system or from other data sources is now much easier because only three types of source system remain.
Data is extracted from an SAP back-end and its ‘real-time transfer’ into the BW is made via the Operational Data Provisioning framework (ODP); the SAP Landscape Transformation Replication Server (SLT) can be used as a replication tool for this.
For linking-up an SAP Hana database, third-parties’ databases, data lakes, social platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc.), Microsoft Excel or Outlook to BW/4 Hana, as well as for data replication, SAP Hana Smart Data Integration (SDI) is deployed for the source-system type ‘Hana Source System’.
Beyond this, the flat-file interface for CSV or ASCI files is still available as the third type, provided that it is not integrated via SDI (as an alternative).
Efficient multi-temperature storage
The concept of multi-temperature storage in BW/4 Hana is wholly new. This guarantees storage, administration and compression of files of all kinds and of any quantity. It also guarantees optimum management of the resources provided by the SAP Hana RAM, spares valuable in-memory RAM and lowers the IT operating costs (total cost of ownership – TCO).
As part of this, data of the ‘Hot’ category, used very frequently for analyses, reporting and other Data Warehouse processes, remains in the RAM.
By means of dynamic tiering, data used less often and classified as ‘Warm’ is shifted, within the SAP Hana database, from the RAM into a disk-based storage resource (extended tables).
Therefore this data can be accessed quickly at any time, while simultaneously the RAM can be used in the optimum way. ‘Cold’ data, used sporadically, is relocated out into a nearline-storage solution such as SAP IQ (previously Sybase IQ).
Free choice of operating model
Apart from this, the free choice of IT operating model is new. The customer can install BW/4 Hana in its own computing centre (on-premise), use it as a managed-cloud service via SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud (SAP HEC), or order it as a public-cloud platform via Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Especially for small to medium-sized companies, the SaaS cloud model is suitable because they thus save themselves the investments needed to build-up the IT infrastructure for BW/4 Hana. The monthly costs for use of BW resources from a cloud, whether it is from AWS or SAP HEC, are transparent and can be clearly calculated.
As part of this, the calculation performance can be adapted flexibly and according to demand and can be scaled-up almost without limit. This is a big plus, especially with regard to the administration of external data and mass data in the BW, such as is generated in IoT scenarios and Industry 4.0 processes.
Fiori replaces the SAP GUI
BW/4 Hana is also at the ready with modern user-interfaces for each group of application users. Instead of using the SAP GUI, developers can now do the data-modelling comfortably in the Eclipse-based development environment of SAP Hana Studio; this also includes the modelling tools of BW/4 Hana.
Administrators obtain an SAPUI5-based process chain monitor, enabling them to efficiently take care of their tasks – on the desktop or mobile, using a smartphone or tablet.
Support is no longer provided to the front-end tool of the SAP-BEx suite. It is replaced by SAP BusinessObjects solutions such as SAP Design Studio for dashboards and mobile BI, SAP Analysis for Microsoft Office used for Excel analysis, SAP Lumira for BI self-services, and also the SaaS cloud solution SAP BusinessObjects Cloud, for planning, forecast and analysis.
In addition, BW/4 Hana offers open interfaces for third-party IT tools, based on the database-language SQL and multi-dimensional expressions (MDX), as well as on the open data protocol (OData).
Making the switch with a partner
Yet a company should not try to make its switch-over to BW/4 Hana without being accompanied by a partner that has a high level of competence in consultancy, processes and technology in the SAP environment.
This is the only way to ensure that all aspects relevant to the BW implementation are taken into account: processes, data-models, content (which data must be made available, to whom, where and how often, at what speed, using which semantics, and on which front-end) as well as organisational structures and areas of responsibility (BICC, area of specialist expertise, staff position).
An experienced consulting partner also sees to it that the BW introduction harmonises with the IT strategy and BI strategy respectively and with their goals. If need be, he draws up such a strategy, closely collaborating with the customer.
Beyond this, he gives support to the choice of the suitable BW operating model (on-premise or cloud) and contributes his expertise on effecting the further development of an LSA to form an LSA++. If he is also well-versed in the BW roadmap, the customer can benefit from innovations at an early stage.
Road-map and open questions
For fourth-quarter 2016, for instance, SAP has announced for BW/4 Hana the supply of optimised business content for financial book-keeping, controlling, materials management and sales, as well as for the supply sector.
This is in addition to a Spark SQL adapter for data integration with Hadoop.
Starting from 2017, further improvements are then to be continuously made available, such as an automated data-lifecycle management (DLM) for multi-temperature storage or SAP-BW/4-Hana analysis processes, with Apache Spark and Hadoop. Moreover an integration is planned with the cloud solutions, SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba and SAP Cloud for Customer.
And yet optimisation potential and open questions still remain. For instance, integration of corporate planning is an integral part of a data warehouse.
There is some catching-up to be done here because BW/4 Hana currently does not offer support to SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (SAP BPC); according to the roadmap, this is coming up in the near future.
Still not clarified, above all, are questions relating to the licence costs and the protection of existing SAP-BW installations set up at the customer’s facilities (on AnyDB or powered by SAP Hana). Very probably, the new BW product – no longer a constituent part of the SAP NetWeaver product offering – needs to be licenced separately.
In the future, SAP will primarily invest in BW/4’s further development; all other SAP-BW versions will pass over into mainstream maintenance; for SAP BW 7.5 this will expire at the end of 2022.
The path from SAP BW to BW/4 Hana
Customers wishing to switch from SAP BW to BW/4 Hana need to take the following the account. Anyone using SAP BW on AnyDB has to migrate his database onto SAP Hana, make an upgrade onto SAP BW 7.5 with Service Pack 4 (SAP BW 7.5 powered by SAP Hana), and restructure the LSA in order to obtain LSA++.
Customers already using SAP BW 7.3 or 7.4 powered by SAP Hana, merely need to make an upgrade to SAP BW 7.5.
In both cases, as an intermediate step, the user should then implement the add-on SAP BW 7.5 Edition for SAP Hana; this makes the necessary tools (Transfer Tool) available for converting classic BW objects into objects and data-flows optimised for BW/4 Hana.
The SAP Note 2189708 explains which add-ons are supported. After all objects and data-flows are transferred, and after a system check, the switch-over can be made. For new customers the new introduction of BW/4 Hana is the only option open.