31 August 2016

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

SAP released its 4th generation ERP, SAP S/4HANA, 18 months ago and it became apparent that an update for the data strategy was required. Customers want to know: where do they store historic information, should they use BW or HANA. In short - what is the SAP Data Warehouse Strategy?

SAP BW/4HANA is launched on September 7th 2016; it is designed to address those questions and paint a clear picture of SAP's Logical Data Warehouse strategy.

At Bluefin, we've been fortunate enough to work with the SAP and AWS teams for the last four months so we have some early and unique insight into the project - as well as active customer projects. With that in mind, here's the SAP BW/4HANA FAQ.

John-Appleby-BW4HANA-Image-(2).jpgWhat is SAP BW/4HANA?

SAP BW/4HANA, affectionately known as BW4 or B4, is SAP's next generation logical data warehouse (LDW). It is designed to be a simplified, high-performance, open platform for historic and legacy enterprise data.

It is a logical successor both for SAP BW customers, and for traditional EDW customers running Teradata, Netezza, Oracle and IBM DB2.

Why did SAP create SAP BW/4HANA?

Customers have been asking about SAP's data platform strategy and whether BW is dead for four years now! See Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: No.)Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: Still, No.) and Does SAP HANA Replace BW? (Hint: Still, No,but...) for more details.

The SAP HANA platform on its own is an amazing database but it doesn't contain the rich functionality of data warehouses for data harmonization, batch loading of legacy data, and long term storage. That's where SAP BW/4HANA comes in.

What are the design principles of SAP BW/4HANA?


This might be an over-used buzzword, but SAP has removed huge amounts of functionality that was only required to support the complexities of traditional RDBMS. Removing all this code really simplifies the codebase and allows the development team to focus on HANA optimization.

User Experience

User experience both for developers and end users is a focus. The modeling tools will be in Eclipse and the Web. It will no longer be necessary in the future for developers to use SAP Gui for modeling.


SAP BW/4HANA is open from a data perspective (consumption from any source, and data tiering to Hadoop) and from an end-user perspective (models can be consumed from any major BI tool).

What are the killer features of SAP BW/4HANA?

One thing to bear in mind is that SAP took a deliberate strategy with SAP BW/4HANA: announce the product and the vision, and deliver product immediately.

  • The code simplification is complete, so the product is leaner and meaner
  • The new modeling tools are in the initial release
  • The Simplified Object Model is delivered, so BW and HANA native schemas are interchangeable
  • The Advanced Multi-Temperature Management delivered is complete, so older data can be aged out to less expensive storage and still be updated
  • Pushdown of complex EDW algorithms into the HANA database, instead of running in an application tier

The benefits of this approach are the customers have a clear view of strategy and roadmap. They can immediately start the work to prepare for BW/4HANA and get on the initial release.

Do you need SAP BW/4HANA if you have SAP S/4HANA?

SAP BW was originally designed due to deficiencies in the Oracle database that meant it was not well suited to reporting on transactional data. SAP customers implemented BW so they could take load off the transactional system and harmonize data.

It later grew into an EDW, where data from many other systems was consolidated into one place.

SAP S/4HANA pushes operational reporting back into the transactional system where it belongs and integrates it with the Fiori User Experience so customers have aggregated data available on demand.

However, SAP S/4HANA is not designed to be a Logical Data Warehouse for data from many systems, or as the location to store long-term historic data.

Do you need SAP BW/4HANA if you have HANA Enterprise?

Many customers have used HANA as a platform for data marts or data warehouses and have built their own workflow. This will remain an option for those that don't want BW.

The neat thing about SAP BW/4HANA is you can have your cake and eat it: it can operate in a mixed mode with HANA Enterprise.

What is the strategy for BW on AnyDB?

SAP BW 7.5 is available on IBM DB2, MaxDB, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, SAP ASE and SAP HANA. If you are on a current database version and Operating System, like Oracle 12.1 on RedHat Linux 7, then the end of support at the time of writing is June 2024.

SAP BW/4HANA is a code fork and is the primary development platform. It is understood that BW 7.5 won't be developed at the same pace going forwards and there is unlikely to be a BW 7.6.

That said, SAP will no doubt backport some functionality to BW 7.5 and will definitely continue to fix bugs and security patches through the supported timeline. There are mentions of NetWeaver 7.5 EhP1 on SAP's website, but it's not clear at this time whether that will be a S/4 HANA-only release.

When will SAP BW/4HANA be available?

The great thing is that version 1.0 is planned to be Released to Customer on September 7th 2016.

What is the upgrade path for SAP BW customers?

There are two approaches to migrating to SAP BW/4HANA, which I discuss in more detail in my blog Making the leap to SAP BW/4HANA: upgrade or start fresh?.

One way is to create a new SAP BW/4HANA system and selectively move the objects you use to this. This is advantageous for customers with a very old BW system with a large number of legacy objects BW 3.x, especially when there are a large amount of objects which are no longer used.

The upgrade approach is a three step process:

  1. Upgrade to SAP BW 7.5 SP04 on HANA. This is a straightforward upgrade/migration and will leave all the objects intact.
  2. Object Conversion. Unused objects can be deleted, and legacy objects (InfoProviders, DSOs etc.) can be migrated to BW/4HANA objects via a set of semi-automated tools. This can be done in a Big Bang approach, or gradually.
  3. Enable SAP BW/4HANA mode. This is a mini-upgrade which locks in the BW/4HANA mode, and deletes all the legacy code, and enables BW/4HANA-specific functionality.

Is SAP BW/4HANA based on the NetWeaver platform?

Yes! Just like SAP S/4HANA, SAP BW/4HANA is based on the NetWeaver 7.5 code base. This means that the administration and tooling will be familiar for SAP customers.

What legacy objects are no longer supported in BW/4HANA?

As BW grew in size and scope, the number of different ways of achieving the same goal increased. This left a large amount of different object types, some of which didn't take advantage of the SAP HANA database. SAP BW/4HANA takes an approach of minimizing the number of supported objects by design, and allowing for an object conversion to move to these. Here's a list of what's gone:

  • All support for BW 3.x objects
  • DSOs, InfoProviders, MultiProviders, VirtualProviders, InfoSets, PSAs, InfoPackages
  • All support for BEx (Query Designer, BEx Analyzer, Report Designer, Web Templates, BEx Web, Broadcasting)
  • UDConnect, DBConnect.

What about SAP Business Planning & Consolidation (BPC)?

BPC will continue to be supported in embedded mode. The older classic BPC will not be available on SAP BW/4HANA and customers will need to move their models to embedded models. It's worth noting that the desktop software "EPM Add-In" is supported on both embedded and classic mode.

What about BW add-ins like SEM?

SAP has had to continue to support add-ins like BCS and SEM through the lifecycle of BW on HANA which has been great for customers looking to transition to BPC and SAP Strategy Manager.

Since the whole purpose of BW/4HANA is to simplify the code base, some add-ins will be converted for BW/4HANA and others will be disabled during the upgrade process.

What is the approach for NLS and Data Temperature Management?

SAP BW/4HANA does not support third party NLS solutions and instead offers Hadoop-based automated data temperature management that moves cold data into Hadoop. This can be based on time, or some other predefined setting.

Is SAP BW/4HANA Cloud-only?

The collaboration for the SAP BW/4HANA launch was with Amazon Web Services. SAP has worked with AWS to get BW/4HANA templates and demo systems working from the day one. AWS have announced its X1 public cloud system for HANA, which is a 2TB system that can be provisioned in minutes. AWS has also announced two additional systems: a 1TB system, which sits between the 244GB and 2TB system from a price point perspective, and scale-up support for 2TB - up to 7 nodes, or a massive 14TB.

So whilst BW/4HANA is "cloud-first", it is available today in the AWS cloud and also for download as an on-premises or managed cloud (HEC, Virtustream, IBM Softlayer etc.) edition.

From a software delivery perspective there is only one code-line for cloud and on-premises.

How is SAP BW/4HANA licensed?

Full details aren't available yet (they will be available at launch) but it is understood to be a similar deal for SAP customers with the full runtime database as SAP S/4HANA and there will no doubt be a Q3/Q4 promotion to stimulate the customer base.

It also seems that customers who are on a BW on HANA runtime license will be able to upgrade to SAP BW/4HANA by moving to a full S/4HANA runtime license.

Final Words

A huge thanks to the SAP BW/4HANA team who spent a lot of time with me over the last five months. Without their input, there's no way that this blog could have been written early on. Too many to list, but Neil, Pam, Ken, Alison, Thomas, Klaus, Greg, Irfan, Tony, and of course Steve.

As always, I'll be updating this FAQ with more information as it becomes available. In particular, our first BW/4HANA projects are already in flight, so we'll have real customer experience to share very soon.

If you have specific questions I've missed, please contact me and I'll be pleased to help respond.


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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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