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Data Warehouse: The SAP BW Strategy

Feature Article | February 23, 2017 by Andreas Schmitz

“Major business warehouse innovations will take place in SAP BW/4HANA,” says Lars Jakob, an expert in SAP Business Warehouse (SAP BW).

Six things you need to know about the most advanced data warehouse applications by SAP.

1. Innovation on SAP BW/4HANA First

Right now, the latest SAP BW version, version 7.5, and SAP BW/4HANA, the next-generation data warehouse application, are not that different. “Companies that adopt the new data model will experience similar simplifications and improvements in performance,” says Lars Jakob, solution advisor in the Digital Enterprise Platform Group at SAP. He has spent more than ten years in the field of business development for SAP’s data warehouse. However, each new service package stack for SAP BW/4HANA (currently SPS 01, with SPS02 scheduled for Q1/2017) brings advances in the data model and the user interface that make them simpler. “SAP BW/4HANA can help companies move their strategy and perspectives forward, bringing considerable benefits in the medium term,” says Jakob of the innovations in SAP BW/4HANA.

2. Data Lake: Getting Ready for Big Data

Companies want a single source of truth, a hub that contains the key data on their business. Today, though, they often find themselves faced with the challenge of gathering differently structured data from an array of sources and making that data analysible.

“Companies have huge volumes of data in open source and noSQL data lakes like Hadoop but struggle to give that data context,” says Jakob. That is where SAP BW/4HANA can help by, for instance, providing a flexible, SQL-based approach, he adds. It automates complex data flows and connects with SQL, DB2, and other database management systems. The result: a logical and virtual data warehouse.

“In the future, a Big Data source system will make it easier to combine Big Data and data lake scenarios more closely with relational data models in the data warehouse,” says Jakob. “Strategy will focus on openness toward any data source and volume (Big Data).” Data flow, in other words integrating data by means of staging, and direct access and Hadoop queries will be part of that strategy.

3. Migration: Three Steps to SAP BW/4HANA

Jakob believes that more and more companies will deploy the new, simpler data model. However, that does not mean that they have to switch to SAP BW/4HANA in one move. Many businesses run various release levels of SAP BW. Since version 7.3, companies can run SAP HANA as a database management system, powered by SAP HANA. Following the launch of SAP BW/4HANA, the SAP BW 7.5 powered by SAP HANA data model is the latest in the series. What this means for SAP’s strategy is that all major innovation will happen in SAP BW/4HANA in the future, and only here and there older versions, Jakob says. His three steps to SAP BW/4HANA are:

First, deploy SAP HANA as a data platform through SAP BW powered by SAP HANA.

Then get ready for SAP BW/4HANA by migrating to SAP BW 7.5 and adapting existing data models. These two steps can be done together using a tool.

Finally, to gain strategic benefits migrate to SAP BW/4HANA, which has a SAP HANA database management system but an open architecture, which means it can integrate data from SQL data warehouses.

4. Analytics: Real-Time Reports by Anyone

Business users want to create and run reports themselves, without having to turn to the IT department first. “They can now do this because data does not have to aggregated or so many different levels of detail loaded first,” Jakob says. “These two factors together make it possible to answer the kinds of questions that come up in the course of daily business.”

Users can analyze data even at the most detailed level in real time. “IT doesn’t need to tweak the queries each time the business wants to know something else, since all the data is already there,” says Jakob. Intuitive analytics tools such as SAP BusinessObjects Lumira and SAP BusinessObjects Cloud can be integrated in SAP BW/4HANA, the final step to providing self-service reports.

5. Conversion: Automating the Switch to the New Data Model

The biggest challenge companies face when moving to SAP BW/4HANA is the new data model on which the application is based. “If companies don’t change their data model, they miss out on some of the benefits of SAP BW/4HANA,” says Jakob. For instance, some customers on SAP BW are not getting all of the potential performance gains.

To make switching to the new data model easier, SAP offers a number of tools that convert existing objects, automatically generate objects optimized for SAP HANA, and convert data flows to source system categories optimized for HANA. This has largely been automated: “Mostly, there’s no need to remodel the data,” says Jakob. Keeping manual adjustments to a minimum and automating wherever possible are priorities for SAP’s developers.

6. Cloud Strategy: SAP BW/4HANA in a Private Cloud

Traditionally, companies have deployed data warehouse solutions on premise. Now though, there are three routes to the cloud for SAP BW/4HANA: SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud in a private cloud either managed by SAP, in Amazon Web Services, or in Microsoft Azure. Unlike SAP S/4HANA, SAP does not have any plans at present to offer SAP BW/4HANA in the public cloud.

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