Updated: The SAP BW on HANA FAQ

28 August 2012

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

It's been 3 months since BW on HANA moved into General Availability and there are now 150+ live migration projects. It's one most frequent conversations that my HANA team has with customers. Given the interest in it and the 17000 SAP BW instances over 12000 customers, it seemed like a good idea to get all the questions that I'm being asked into one place.

What is SAP BW on SAP HANA?

BW on HANA is quite simply SAP's existing popular NetWeaver BW data warehouse, running on their in-memory database appliance software, SAP HANA. With the experience of a good number of customers running their BW systems on SAP HANA now, I have to recommend that if you use SAP NetWeaver BW and it is important to you, then you consider moving it onto SAP HANA. Because SAP HANA is much faster than regular relational databases like Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server, the data warehouse performs much faster – but more than that, it's cheaper as well.

What is SAP HANA?

If you'd like to know about SAP HANA, please head over to my SAP HANA FAQ.

What are the biggest pain points of BW on a RDBMS like Oracle?

It depends who you talk to. If you talk to the business community, they will typically say the following:

  • Time to change - "It takes me 3-12 months to get a change in structure or report, and it isn't the change I needed."
  • Flexibility - "IT lock down my navigations so I can't get at my data in the way I need it or at the granularity I require8."
  • Performance - "IT tell me they have to tune every report so it runs acceptably quickly."
  • Information availability - "My information is only updated overnight."

And if you talk to the BI Managers, you will get a mirror image:

  • Time to change - "I can't turn around reports any faster because my staff are all busy maintaining the status quo."
  • Flexibility - "I have to lock down navigations to prevent users from running massive reports and breaking BW."
  • Performance - "My BI staff spend a great deal of time tuning reports to keep performance acceptable and systems stable."
  • Information availability - "BW only allows for reports to be updated overnight in most instances, due to performance."

What are the benefits of BW on HANA?

These fit into broadly three categories, and I find that the value of each of these categories varies by organisation:

1) Cost: Total Cost of Acquisition (TCA) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

When you take into account the cost of hardware, software licenses, maintenance, performance tuning and project development, NetWeaver BW is always cheaper in terms of TCO when running on HANA, assuming that you do any kind of quantity of report development.

Whether HANA also is cheaper in terms of TCA depends on where you are in your procurement lifecycle. Do you have to replace hardware anyhow? Can you free up resources on expensive UNIX equipment? Can you reuse the Oracle or DB2 licenses elsewhere or save on maintenance revenue? Do you have to complete a SAP system upgrade as well? Do you save substantially on storage costs? Many times, the answer is yes!

2) Business & IT pain

If you have a look at the four major pain elements I describe above, BW on HANA hits them square on the nose.

  • Time to change - Because the team aren't spending time tuning reports and models, they can focus on making change happen faster. Because development happens so much faster with SAP HANA (it's such a pleasure to develop on BW on HANA!), change naturally happens faster.
  • Flexibility - BW on HANA doesn't mind if you ask it hard questions and the BI team don't have to worry about users bringing BW to its knees because a Business User asks an unreasonable question. So, you can give the business the flexibility they wanted.
  • Performance - This has been covered in so many places, but we see report performance of 100-1000x faster and load performance of 3-5x faster, including 45x typical for critical points like DSO activation. This is underpinned by 5-10x database compression.
  • Information availability - BW on HANA is an enabler to make changes to make your information available in real-time or more frequently – either using data replication, or simply by loading more often because the performance allows it.

3) Opportunity benefit

I personally don't major on this when talking about BW on HANA, because I believe it can stand up on its own, but the opportunity benefit point is important, and the opportunities vary from organisation to organisation. Here are some examples

  • Apps - SAP HANA is the platform for all of SAP's Line of Business and Industry Vertical apps. If you have a BW on HANA license then you can generally take advantage of these apps using the same appliance and license.
  • Investment - SAP is investing heavily in the SAP HANA platform, to the extent already where the best optimisations for BW are only available for HANA. If you invest in SAP HANA then you can take advantage of all this now. For example, SAP BPC has been optimised for SAP HANA and runs much better than on any other database!
  • Opportunities - Putting BW on HANA today gives you the ability to look for opportunities using the SAP product suite. This could have a whole blog of its own dedicated to it, but you could allow business users to upload their own data using Information Composer, and combine this with existing BW structured data to create ad-hoc analysis. Or, use SAP Predictive Analysis to run predictive models against BW POS data in Retail. Or, allow real-time queries on POS data from tills. The potential is as big as your imagination.
  • Adoption - Having data available when you expected it, changed when you need it and performing at the right level is the technical foundation for fantastic user adoption and HANA is an enabler for this.

All of this should allow you to get to the real benefits of BW on HANA.

When should I move to BW on HANA?

My general recommendation would be: now! The benefits are huge for most BW systems and it is now Generally Available and stable in our customer results – and there are 150 active projects so you will not be alone. In my opinion because of the above benefits, waiting to migrate is just waiting to get the value. The most important of these is that all your business releases will happen so much more quickly when you are on SAP HANA.

And at the risk of repeating myself, the longer you wait to migrate to SAP HANA, the longer you will wait to realise the benefits and get the agility which the business analysts I speak to want so much from their Data Warehouse.

What is the cost of BW on HANA?

Steve Lucas from SAP wrote a great blog on this What Oracle Won't Tell You about SAP HANA and he states "We also have the SAP HANA Netweaver BW edition for as little as €13k per HANA unit. (64GB of RAM = 1 unit)". The numbers are a bit higher - €50-60k per 64GB unit for smaller BW systems.

As a rough rule of thumb to get an idea of how many units you need, take your used database size without indexes and BW dimension tables and aggregates. Divide this by 5 to get the SAP HANA DB size, then double that number to include processing space. For example if you have a 5TB Oracle BW database, which is 3TB of used space and 2TB without indexes or dimension tables and aggregates, you need 820GB of HANA or 13 units.
In most cases you don't need to worry about space to grow the SAP HANA DB, because you can collapse some layers in the database later on to reclaim space. This does however vary and a proper analysis is important. According to Lucas you can also get, in many cases, a 100% license credit against your SAP BWA licenses, if you have the accelerator already.

It is also now no longer necessary to licenses all of the HANA you need in a larger multi-node appliance so you can buy what you need now, and more later.

Is SAP NetWeaver Planning & Consolidation supported on SAP HANA?

SAP NetWeaver Planning & Consolidation or SAP BPC 10 is definitely supported and released! Nothing else is required to move it to SAP HANA and there are some really great optimisations for certain scenarios. Jens Koerner wrote a great blog on it - BPC on HANA - true innovation without disruption

It is then possible to easily optimise BPC on HANA using the details in Jens' blog to dramatically improve performance. Now, BPC 7.5 is also supported – you just need to update to BPC 7.5.3. However you don't get all the deep integration that you get with BPC 10 and just get report acceleration, rather than the new BPC engine that you get with BPC 10. SAP are also focussing all their innovation into the BPC 10 platform so I'd recommend that you look at upgrading to that.

What size appliances are supported?

Read my SAP HANA Hardware FAQ for more details but 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB standalone nodes are available from all the major hardware vendors.
The largest current certified solutions for BW on HANA is from IBM and is 16x1TB = 16TB of HANA, which is roughly equivalent to a 40TB+ Oracle BW system. Indeed I've been told by IBM that they will certify a bigger appliance for you if you need it! In any case, it's fair to say that you can now run any SAP BW system on SAP HANA.
There is a 100TB system in the SAP lab right now undergoing testing and HANA can certainly scale linearly to very large data volumes.

Is there still value in SAP HANA if I have BIA/BWA?

If your organisation bought the Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA), formerly known as Business Intelligence Accelerator (BIA) then it understood the value of in-Memory computing as it comes to report performance. This is usually a good start point and BWA improves SAP BW performance for reporting by 10-1000x. In fact the reporting engines for SAP HANA and BWA are pretty similar and came from the same codebase. There are three things you should know!

  • License credit - SAP will provide you a license credit for 100% of your BWA license towards SAP HANA, in many cases (provided BWA is 75% or less of your SAP HANA investment). This means that you don't lose your investment in BWA!
  • Product roadmap - The roadmap for BWA has ended, and there will not be a new version. SAP are investing all the new OLAP engine features for BWA into SAP HANA. If you want to continue benefiting from R&D then you should move to SAP HANA.
  • SAP HANA is BWA++ - SAP HANA provides all the benefits you got out of BWA but for all of the NetWeaver BW stack and more. If BWA was great for reporting then SAP is even better for simplification, faster business change and data load performance.

So the short answer is yes: if you have BWA, then SAP HANA will take your BWA investment to the next level.

Can I use my existing SAP BWA appliances with SAP HANA?

There are some BWA solutions made by IBM and Cisco in particular that can be upgraded to SAP HANA. Cisco call it the "Bridge to SAP HANA". In other cases, the hardware is different for HANA and BWA and so you will need to re-architect your hardware landscape.

The good news is that in most cases, the BWA appliances can be either traded in with your hardware vendor or reused within your hardware estate - they are great for VMWare!

What version of SAP BW do I need to be on?

You need to be running SAP NetWeaver BW 7.3 Unicode. This is a pretty straightforward upgrade from SAP NetWeaver BW 7.0 that can be done at the same time as the migration if required.

We are seeing an increasing number of projects where we build the business requirement for SAP HANA based on the need to do a substantial programme of work: upgrading, migrating, changing data models. In fact the more there is to do, the bigger the benefit of SAP HANA.

What is involved in moving BW onto HANA?

Think of SAP HANA from an operational perspective as being like any other database. To move BW onto HANA you do a regular SAP migration. It is a skilled task that requires a SAP HANA migration consultant but is technically not that challenging if you know what to do.
Only with SAP HANA we can do it faster than to any other platform. For instance, it took 30 minutes to load my test 90GB MSSQL BW system into SAP HANA. This means the project timeline is shorter and downtime much shorter than for any other platform.
What's more, SAP currently has a promotion that allows part of your SAP HANA license cost to be used for complimentary services on a migration project. Bluefin Solutions can participate in this incentive and in many cases, this would mean there would be no services cost to migrate to SAP HANA.

Do I need to rewrite all my code and stuff?

Absolutely not! All your customisations will run just like they did before. There are definitely instances where you may choose to optimise your customisations to run better on SAP HANA but this is not a requirement.

What do I need to do after I've migrated to SAP HANA?

The answer is that you don't need to do anything. However in most cases you would choose to do the following:

  • Remove SAP BW aggregates (they're only overheads in SAP HANA and this is done automatically for you).
  • Convert your SAP BW cubes and DSOs to SAP HANA cubes and DSOs (a simple process that improves performance and reduces space).
  • Look at any BW 3.x data flows and migrate the longest-running to BW 7.x data flows, where you get the biggest benefit of SAP HANA.
  • Consider if there are any projects to make improvements with SAP HANA that you want to do.

Note that everything is optional: SAP HANA is a database like any other and all the things you do with HANA after the migration are to allow you to do things that you simply cannot do with any other database.

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About the author

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

I've always been passionate about new technology. I cut my teeth helping global financial services and consumer goods companies build data warehouses to manage their business - especially when they wanted to run faster.

These days, I travel weekly across continents, helping clients differentiate themselves using analytics technologies. This then involved building a team to design the solution, make it work and lead it through to successful completion.

I believe that in-memory computing is radically changing the face of business so you can ask me about SAP HANA, or about any other data platform like DB2 BLU, Hadoop or MongoDB for that matter.

I'm passionate that giving back to the community reaps long-term rewards and this has shaped the last few years of my career - being a contributor to knowledge sharing websites as an SAP Mentor; and a sometime advisor to Wall Street investors on emerging technologies and those companies bringing to market new innovations.

When I'm not busy designing in-memory apps, you may find me pounding the pavement to the beat of music in the hilly suburbs of Philadelphia, or traveling the world to meet new people and new cultures.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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