In order to enable digital innovations in established companies and to pave the way to a data-driven company, a central data platform is required in which all information relevant to the company comes together in structured or unstructured form, serving as a Single Point of Truth. SAP offers modern solutions such as the SAP Data Hub.
How can BW/4 Hana and SAP Data Hub be classified, how do the two approaches complement each other and what benefits result from a modern system landscape with BW/4 Hana and SAP Data Hub?
Companies are currently investing a lot of effort in digitization projects in order to be able to offer their customers new, attractive services and products in the future and ultimately remain competitive. Many of these initiatives in the field of digitization are particularly data-driven. Be it the evaluation of sensor data from machines in order to carry out maintenance in time to reduce downtime (predictive maintenance), or the forecasting sales data based on past sales figures and corresponding market data in order to improve strategic decision-making.
All these initiatives have one thing in common – a stable and powerful data management infrastructure. With the modern data warehouse solution BW/4 Hana and the data management platform SAP Data Hub as part of Leonardo, SAP offers the necessary infrastructure with which these challenges can be mastered.
BW/4 Hana – a completely new approach?
Many SAP customers have been using the SAP BW Data Warehouse solution for strategic reporting and as a foundation for planning applications for many years. Their systems have reached a certain degree of maturity and are now very stable.
However, the requirements for modern data management have increased enormously in recent years; they can no longer be completely fulfilled by traditional SAP BW. Business management wants more flexibility, more agility and new attractive reporting tools. IT in turn is also confronted with many other aspects – increasing data volume and variety in particular.
In addition, the information should of course then be available in real time. For this reason, SAP has said goodbye to “old” braids and with BW/4 Hana offers a modern solution to be prepared for future requirements. BW/4 Hana is no longer part of the NetWeaver platform as the previous releases (up to SAP BW 7.5) and can only run on the basis of the Hana database.
The focus of the new implementation and future developments is on the aspects of simplicity, openness, high performance and modern interfaces.
- Simplicity: The development, extension and operation of applications should be simplified and agile development approaches supported.
- Openness: Heterogeneous data sources should no longer be an obstacle in the future. Many sources are to be supported, be it for physical transmission or virtual access. Cloud-based sources and analysis tools in the cloud will play an important role in the future and their integration will become easier and easier.
- High performance: Analytical functions (OLAP) are increasingly outsourced to the Hana database (code-push-down).
- Modern interfaces: Users are supported in their daily work by modern and intuitive front-ends (e.g. SAP Lumira, Analysis for Office, Analytics Cloud).
BW/4 Hana now only supports Hana-optimized modeling objects such as aDSOs (Advanced DataStore Objects) or CompositeProviders. Among other things, this should reduce the complexity of data models, increase flexibility and above all support agility in development projects. Mixed scenarios – the combination of BW objects and native data models in the Hana database – are also supported and the integration of both worlds is further extended compared to previous releases.
BW/4 Hana can be operated both on-premise and in the cloud. The starting points for the migration to BW/4 Hana are the new implementation, system conversion and landscape transformation.
Overview with SAP Data Hub
Today, however, it is no longer just a matter of providing, processing and harmonizing data for analysis and reporting purposes or for planning applications. The data available to the company should also be used to support operational processes in real time in ERP or in the environment of other innovative applications. This data exchange across system boundaries can become very complex. In most cases, an overview of all possible data silos and the potential they contain is lacking.
With SAP Data Hub – a relatively new solution – the SAP Leonardo innovation platform offers the framework for managing unlimited real-time data exchange between systems, databases and applications in very heterogeneous system landscapes. SAP Data Hub should help to make these very complex data streams manageable and scalable. Central tasks of the system are data integration, orchestration and data governance.
The data exchange is controlled by so-called data pipelines. With the help of these data pipelines, the data sources can be accessed, the data processed and forwarded to a consumer; of course, this can be done in real time.
The possibilities for data processing are very diverse. This includes the integration of various machine learning libraries. The data is not physically loaded into the SAP Data Hub, but is processed in the source, transferred between the system/sources by the SAP Data Hub, or processed further in the subsequent system. This is a very central difference to a BW/4-Hana system, which of course also supports virtual access to data sources, but still offers the option of physically storing the data. The processing of data therefore always takes place at the location where the data is available.
A wide variety of systems or databases are conceivable as data sources – starting with all SAP systems, such as SAP BW/4 Hana, through SAP Vora to non-SAP sources such as Apache Hadoop. This aspect in particular enables the management of all data sources available in the company, which was almost impossible until now.
Furthermore, SAP Data Hub supports open source technologies, which are becoming increasingly important in this context. As part of the SAP Leonardo ecosystem, seamless integration of other components, such as machine learning and big data, is made possible.
Which solution is the right one?
One could now assume that one or the other solution has to be chosen. In my opinion, however, this is not the case – both solutions or approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. In many cases, a persistent data foundation must be set up using a BW system in order to be able to supply the necessary analytical applications.
On the other hand, in the future quite flexible and agile tools will be needed to implement innovative, data-driven applications that deliver on value-added. These could be implemented with the help of SAP Data Hub and other modules (Machine Learning, Big Data, Analytics) of the SAP Leonardo portfolio. Integration or the use of both solutions in parallel, i.e. SAP BW/4 Hana and SAP Data Hub, is supported.
Conclusion: The path to a data-driven company
The challenge for many companies will now be to adapt or rethink the existing BI and data strategy and derive a suitable and future-proof target architecture for data management. Of course, all these considerations also include a corresponding roadmap, which contains, for example, the preparatory measures for a migration and the migration path of the existing BW system. In addition, the human factor plays a decisive role in this project.
A new data-oriented culture must be developed within the company, new know-how must be built up and roles must be redefined. Each company can decide individually whether the described solutions SAP BW/4 Hana and/or SAP Data Hub play a role in the target architecture. However, the two solutions will not be mutually exclusive; rather, both should be regarded as an optimal complement to the other solutions for data management – in order to build a “big data warehouse”.
It is certainly not an easy way to become a data-driven company, but it is a very exciting and rewarding one. And don’t forget one thing this way – the human factor.