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Introducing SAP BW/4HANA: The Next-Generation Business Warehouse

Feature Article | September 13, 2016 by Bernd Leukert

There is no doubt that today, data has become the new oil. But while more data has been created in just the last two years than in the entire previous human history, just about 0.5% of all data is currently analyzed, leaving 99.5% of it on the cutting-room floor.

At the same time, real-time data computing, data intelligence, and flexibility at scale are creating new demands and possibilities in terms of what companies can do with their data – from high data volumes with ultralow processing latency to extremely large data sets in Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios. Not surprisingly, these trends and forces are also disrupting the data warehouse space.

Today, 99.5% of data is left on the cutting-room floor

Traditionally, companies have brought all of their data into a single database that users and applications could query – with one primary use case: reporting-based business intelligence. A traditional data warehouse uses static data structures – cubes – to contain the data that is imported. These cubes divide the data into subsets defined by dimensions.

Overcoming Constraints with Flexibility

While cubes provide a fast way to analyze data and generate reports, they need to be created up front by computing most values and storing them in one static data structure. For any change or update, you must either recompute the cube completely or use techniques to minimize the computational cost of updating the static cube.

Today, this approach is not sufficient anymore. Traditional data warehouses are not agile enough to deliver business solutions in a timely manner. What companies want, what companies need, is flexibility. Flexibility to simply, dynamically build and connect data as they need it – and they want to think not only about reporting and data analysis, but outcomes.

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I just returned from San Francisco where I had the honor to introduce SAP BW/4HANA. This new, next generation data warehouse solution is built for the cloud and highly optimized for SAP HANA, making SAP BW/4HANA the logical data warehousing foundation for the digital era.

Leveraging the native power of SAP HANA, SAP BW/4HANA delivers agile data warehousing solutions to support real-time analysis and decision-making. It offers high-performance, flexible development and a modern user experience (UX.)  At the same time, SAP BW/4HANA is for all your data, be it SAP application data, third party data, unstructured data, geo-spatial data, and the list could go on. It is the only data warehousing solution designed for real-time transactional and analytical processing environments.

SAP BW/4HANA delivers agile data warehousing solutions to support real-time analysis and decision-making

Making Your Business Warehouse Ready for the Future

It gives companies the flexibility to simply, dynamically build and connect the data as they need it, in whatever form, to ultimately make insightful and relevant decisions for their business. It allows a single, logical view of all data, including new data types and data sources, by providing a logical data warehouse. In short: It is data at your fingertips with future-proof landscape management.

But SAP BW/4HANA is more than a traditional data warehouse. It allows companies to manage historical data while delivering real-time analytics from SAP and other systems. It accelerates solution development, ensures that companies have one version ot the truth, and it is ready for use cases at petabyte scale, e.g. with regards to IoT scenarios.

All this comes with complete choice of deployment. You can use SAP BW/4HANA either on premise, in the cloud or within hybrid scenarios. When it comes to cloud, customers have the choice of deploying SAP BW/4HANA either in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) or on Amazon Web Services (AWS) environments. Other third-party cloud platforms are expected to follow, making SAP BW/4HANA the most flexible landscape management solution in the market.

Simple, Open, Agile

SAP BW/4HANA follows three design principles: It runs on a substantially simplified data model, it has a modern UX, and it is built for high performance.

SAP BW/4HANA runs on a substantially simplified data model, has a modern UX, and is built for high performance

Complex data structures are a thing of the past, thanks to reduced data objects and layers. Because reporting can now be done on any layer, data redundancies are eliminated, consistency is increased – resulting in a smaller data footprint. Administration efforts to maintain data objects and error-prone data flows are reduced as well. In addition, SAP BW/4HANA will benefit from SAP HANA’s data lifecycle features to automatically distribute data in tiers to hot and warm storage areas, shortening the data load-to-consumption path.

With a dramatically simplified data warehouse, users are no longer just collecting data, but connecting to it. SAP BW/4HANA allows you to manage all kinds of data no matter whether in SAP applications or SQL systems. Users can access all models via an open SQL interface.

Secondly, SAP BW/4HANA delivers a fresh, modern, web-based user experience not only for end users but also data analysts and administrators. Thanks to the intuitive toolset, data analysts will have one coherent environment to manage data lifecycles, from modeling to activation and execution, with visual tools to model and enhance data models. BW Administrators will also have a web-based console to monitor and manage the data warehouse. Simply put: All experts can get the answers the business needs – live as it happens.

Lastly, SAP BW/4HANA is built for high performance: no aggregates or roll-up processes, fewer indexes, no need for performance enabling objects, faster loading of data and processing of queries. Via algorithm push down to SAP HANA, SAP BW/4HANA will also deliver excellent performance for analysis, planning and data loads.

But it is not just about managing data. It is also about real-time analytics, simulations, predictions all the way to machine learning. It is about translating big data into smart data – into actionable insights.

The Path to SAP BW/4HANA

I could go into more technical details now, but I believe the burning question is: How do I get there? We are well aware that each customer will have a different starting point. That’s why we created three distinct paths to transition, with according services and tools to support the customer journey to ensure the least disruption.

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New customers will directly start with SAP BW/4HANA instead of classic SAP BW. If the design of their current SAP landscape is over five years old, they also might want to consider a fresh start. Simply bring data from your old system to SAP BW/4HANA with our integrated data management and quality tools.

Existing customers with SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA will first apply the add-on for SAP BW, edition for SAP HANA. In preparation, scenarios need to be transferred to the fully HANA-optimized object types using a transfer tool. Afterwards, a system conversion is performed to change the system to SAP BW/4HANA. Existing customers with BW on any DB first need to upgrade and migrate to SAP HANA, afterwards follow the steps outlined for customers with an existing SAP BW.

Large enterprises with many instances of SAP and non-SAP BW systems should consider a landscape simplification. Our recommended approach is a consolidation into one global SAP BW/4HANA system or selective data migrations to simplify existing landscapes by gradually moving to SAP BW/4HANA.

Let me sum it up. With SAP BW/4HANA, companies can give themselves a competitive advantage by getting new insights and understand their business with a simpler, faster and more flexible business warehouse. They can focus more on business outcomes, by easily combining the big data elements they need, regardless the source. They can easily use the power of SAP HANA to augment the data with predictive algorithms and graphical. And they can seamlessly use the new information and insight gained directly in the business processes of their organization.

Eager to learn more? Take the trial and join the SAP BW/4HANA community here on SCN. With SAP BW/4HANA, we are changing the data warehouse game, and I invite all of you to join us on this journey.

Bernd Leukert is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE

This post originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Top image via Shutterstock

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