Is NetWeaver BW really dead and was it really killed by HANA?

1 June 2011

John Appleby

John Appleby

Global Head of Sales

There has been a lot of noise about HANA ringing the death knoll for SAP's Enterprise Data Warehouse, and most of this analysis holds no water with reality.

If we get to the facts of why organizations implement Enterprise Data Warehouses, it is usually for a number of reasons. Here are the most common:

  • Pulling information from multiple assets in the enterprise into one location
  • Providing a single view of the truth - i.e. of product, customer etc.
  • Performing complex business transformations so information is easily digested
  • Performing aggregation so information is consumed at e.g. product group, country levels
  • Reducing the cost of information management by storing enterprise information in one location

SAP's NetWeaver BW Data Warehouse is a very good product that does all these things very well, but it has a few downsides. The first is agility. BW causes IT to build complex structures which IT then builds change control around, and this often makes change slow and difficult, which causes a perception of inagility. The second is performance. Very often, best design practice is not followed and performance is poor - exacerbated by a poor take-up of SAP's Business Warehouse Accelerator in-Memory product.

What does HANA fix and what does it not fix?

Basically, the current version of HANA (1.0) fixes agility and performance (in very broad terms) but it is not an Enterprise Data Warehouse so doesn't do any of the things that NetWeaver BW is currently good at. HANA 1.2 will be as good as BW as an Enterprise Data Warehouse and should perform well, but won't be any more agile than BW - because it is BW. Organisations will be still looking at ways to become more agile, though faster load times and fewer layers of Data Warehouse will help, in time.

Why Business Content is so important

One of the most important things about NetWeaver BW as a Data Warehouse for existing SAP Business Suite customers is the value of Business Content. Basically it comes with a pre-built set of Extract, Transform & Load (ETL) tools to connect NetWeaver BW to the Business Suite and get information out, pre-built into structures and reports.

By the way, most of the value is in the Business Contract Extractors - that provide the logic of how information in ERP is connected - because of the way that they handle changed information without reloading all the information from the Business Suite. There is much less value in the later data structures and reports that BW provides because they are relatively quick to build and most customers want something different.

Without Business Content, using HANA 1.0, Sybase IQ or any other database like Microsoft SQL Server for example, is expensive because it requires building out content by hand. For a point solution or datamart this may make sense, but for an Enterprise Data Warehouse, it is very expensive.

Why is Data Services the elephant in the room?

When SAP acquired Business Objects, it brought with it the product formerly known as Acta. This is an Extract, Transform & Load tool for any scenario and is quite a powerful and best-of-breed product. It can be used to extract information from SAP's Business Suite and to load it into NetWeaver BW but this was previously only useful for integration of non-SAP Data Sources into NetWeaver BW.

And a colleague pointed out to me this week that with SAP BusinessObjects Data Services 4.0, things change because you can use the Business Suite Business Content Extractors using Data Services - to extract from the Business Suite. Due to the way that Data Services works, this means you can load into any database - like Sybase IQ, Cognos or indeed HANA 1.0.

BW is dead, long live BW

Now, SAP does not really care what you build your Data Warehouse on provided that you use the Business Suite - and preferably the SAP BusinessObjects analytics tools, because they don't derive any substantial additional license revenue from BW customers. And the reality is that for existing BW customers, there is no reason to change.

However for customers who don't want to use BW because e.g. Cognos is their strategic Data Warehouse, or who don't have a Data Warehouse yet, this gives options that they simply didn't have before, without incurring massive consulting costs. And for those who do use BW, they will continue to do so.

Does it kill BW - no - but it certainly a more credible threat than HANA!

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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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