SAP Suite on HANA vs SAP S/4HANA – the differences explained

22 April 2016

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

The majority of people I speak to are experiencing some levels of confusion between SAP Suite on HANA and SAP S/4HANA. I hope to provide some clarity for those of you wrestling with the differences between the two products. It goes without saying that before making any decisions it is vital to understand their functionality and also the contrasts in the journey to each product.

Questions, such as those below, should easily be answered once you have this understanding:

  • Which product should I go to? 
  • Can I go to Suite on HANA and then S/4HANA?
  • If I have S/4HANA Finance, do I need a separate Suite on HANA system to manage my non-Finance processes?
  • What do I do with HR if I move to SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management?

As some of my peers and friends within Product Management at SAP would quite rightly point out, SAP Suite on HANA and SAP S/4HANA are two different and distinct products. Here is how they are different.

SAP Suite on HANA

SAP Suite on HANA came first. As the name suggested, the traditional SAP ECC solution is available on SAP HANA. It has all of the traditional functionality of an ECC environment but the engine (database) is now a HANA engine. Nearly all of the SAP transaction codes are available and there is no concept of data simplification. Access to the HANA live studio gives an ability to create real-time reporting. The solution also boasts amended transactions to utilise the HANA database and provide additional performance benefits.

The route to Suite on HANA is pretty simple to digest. You need to upgrade to ECC6 Enhancement Package 7 and then perform a database migration from your current database to HANA. This is generally a technical exercise and can be achieved without too much business involvement (regression testing is a must).


SAP S/4HANA is a new product. It is based around the core ECC solution. There are a number of differences, however:

  • The data has been 'simplified'. This is achieved by replacing the core tables within certain processes into a single table.
  • New functionality has been released, however some traditional functionality is no longer available due to the ‘principle of one’.
  • Embedded reporting has been released with over 3000 CDS views currently available. SAP BW and SAP BPC can be embedded within the S/4HANA environment. It is worth noting that S/4HANA will not replace BW or BPC but it enables certain scenarios to be performed within the new product – not all, however.

The route to S/4HANA is achieved either by a system conversion from an ECC solution (including Suite on HANA), or a new install. There is no upgrade path from ECC6 to S/4HANA. A system conversion needs to take place with the reason being to enable the new simplified data model. You need to be conscious of what functionality you have lost from your existing system as part of the move to S4/HANA in order to then replace it.

SAP S/4HANA versions

There are two versions of the on-premise S/4HANA solution. One is SAP S/4HANA Finance which is Suite on HANA with a simplified Finance module and full ECC scope. This product is still available and a new release is due soon. 

SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management simplifies Materials Management and Operations as well as Finance. This has a different base component as “SAP_APPL” has been replaced by “S4CORE”. There are modules which were in ECC that have been replaced.

Each of these products are still evolving and therefore the solution may not provide all of the functionality you currently have in your ECC solution with certain Industry Solution functionality not available yet. Modules such as Production Planning and Quality Management are in the roadmap to be simplified within S/4HANA Enterprise Management. The HR module will not be simplified within S/4HANA, although the functionality will still be available.

Comparisons of the versions

I have pulled together a simple table that compares the following four solutions:

  • SAP ECC6
  • SAP Suite on HANA
  • SAP S/4HANA Finance
  • SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management



I hope this has cleared some of the ‘haze’ around the two products?

As you can see, there are a few options available to you if you are considering moving from your current ECC6 environment. Those customers that I am talking to are reviewing both Suite on HANA and S/4HANA. The decisions they are taking relate to their individual circumstances; unfortunately there is not a simple formula for assessing which is the best option. You may want to read What's informing your decision between SAP S/4HANA and SAP Business Suite? to become more familiar with the considerations you need to be take into account when deciding between the two products.

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About the author

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Mark tells it straight - as an ex-boxer, what else would you expect?  Both his knowledge and experience of SAP products allow him to cut to the chase dispelling myths and hearsay.

As a result of working closely with various SAP Finance Product Management teams on product development, Mark understands these products inside out. This depth of understanding has led to him become a ‘thought leader’ in his field; after all, it is not often SAP consultants have helped shape and develop the very product they are selling.

Having such a strong relationship with SAP alongside being an SAP Mentor and Moderator means that Mark has an extensive network within SAP. For clients, this relationship proves to be a huge advantage and leads to configuration issues being resolved rapidly.

Mark has worked on short proof of concepts through to year-long multi-million pound global roll-outs. However, no matter how large or small the project, the true value Mark brings to his work is in the guidance he provides to senior stakeholders. In essence, he assists them to implement more effective processes and drive better behaviours within their finance teams.

Helping organisations transform their business with SAP S/4HANA is Mark’s current focus. The benefits of S/4HANA are numerous, including the simplification of tasks, embedded analytics and improved user engagement. Whilst the eventual move from SAP Business Suite into S/4HANA is inevitable, the journey to it is not always clear. Mark’s ability to understand an organisation’s needs coupled with his deep understanding of S/4HANA provides clarity and eases their transition.

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

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