SAP BW/4HANA - Your questions answered

18 April 2017

Pratik Shah

Pratik Shah

Principal Consultant

There’s a big appetite out there for information surrounding SAP’s latest and greatest enterprise data warehouse (EDW). Following on from Bluefin’s SAP BW/4HANA webinar, we had numerous questions attendees wanted answers to. Here they are - we hope you enjoy consuming this. If you missed the webinar, you can catch the recording here.

Q1: The comment “Integrating with new data sources & creating 1 single logical data warehouse integrated into S/4” - Please elaborate on what is meant by 1 single logical data warehouse?

Over the last decade SAP BW has been more of a data warehouse rather than an EDW.  SAP BW/4HANA is focused more agnostically across the enterprise and is more open to receiving and processing non-sap and unstructured social media data, therefore finally putting the ‘E’ in the EDW.  BW/4HANA is also capable of keeping a single corporate memory of your SAP data and connecting this to your other corporate data, providing the platform as a logic

Q2: Is this the end of road for Netweaver? 

No, but SAP BW/4HANA is a separate product which is not part of and does not depend on a NetWeaver delivery. The underlying platform consists of the ABAP application server and SAP HANA.

Q3: What level of Business Content is available in BW/4HANA?

Details on current available content for BW/4HANA can be found here. New planned standard content extraction from SAPS/4HANA to BW/4HANA will be based on CDS delta extraction technology. While traditional extractors can also be leveraged if they are ODP enabled, non-ODP-compatible extractors will not be supported anymore. 

New Business Content in BW/4HANA and SAP BW powered by SAP HANA will be aligned with SAP S/4HANA embedded analytics virtual data model structures. If you have custom developed objects for extraction they must be verified and adapted to the new S/4HANA relevant structures. 

As per the BW4HANA road map in Q4 2016, SAP will be releasing CDS based extractors for SAP all modules.

Q4: Regarding integration with VORA - I understand it's possible to move cold data to Hadoop cluster. Is it also possible to replicate and keep updated HOT data to Hadoop as well? Use case - HANA has only HOT data, while Hadoop/VORA has access to all HOT and COLD data sets without querying HANA each time.

Yes, technically it is possible to move even HOT data to HADOOP and access that with VORA along with COLD data. Please bear in mind, however, that this is not a recommended best practice/ approach since this could lead to HOT data duplication.

Q5: Do I not get most of these improvements just with BW on HANA? Is BW/4HANA just an enhancement to that?

Please check out this guide here.

Q6: What are the current integration options between B4/HANA and S4/HANA from a data perspective? Can B4/HANA access S4/HANA data via views without the need to replicate the data?

Today, BW/4HANA can use SDA as a source system with a composite view over the top. There is no need to replicate the data. This is true not only for S/4HANA but also for other data sources such as Vora.

Q7: Bex was bundled as the default reporting tool for BW, with separate license requirements for ‘analysis for office". What is the default offering for analysis of data in BW/4HANA?

Offerings from SAP include the portfolio of SAP BusinessObjects Analytics solutions: 

  1. SAP Digital Boardroom and SAP BusinessObjects Cloud - which run on SAP Cloud Platform in the public cloud 
  2. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise - which run on-premise or in a private cloud

Both can connect to BW/4HANA in the cloud (SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud Services/AWS) and on-premise.   SAP Business Explorer (BEx) is no longer supported.  In addition, SAP BW/4HANA provides open interfaces for 3rd party business intelligence (BI) tools based on SQL, MDX and oData.

Q8: For existing customers on BW powered by HANA, is a separate license required for BW/4HANA or just an upgrade in place?

There is a new license model for BW/4HANA which provide the customer with more flexibility. Please contact your SAP licensing rep for more information.

Q9: If S/4HANA is only my source system, is it still advisable to use BW/4HANA or use embedded BW instead?

SAP BW/4HANA is completely independent of, and not a prerequisite for S/4HANA, and vice versa. S/4HANA provides operational reporting for current data from a single SAP application.  BW/4HANA delivers a modern data warehouse environment which allows organizations to report on current, historical and external data sources from many SAP and non-SAP sources. S/4HANA Analytics is positioned similarly with BW/4HANA as it is with BW powered by HANA.

Q10: If a customer is currently using SAP IQ as the NLS in the existing BW system, then goes with a green field approach to implement a new BW/4HANA system, is it possible to switch NLS from existing BW to the new BW/4HANA? Can those NLS objects be re-used?

Yes, it is possible to switch NLS from existing BW to the new BW/4HANA once the existing NLS objects have been HANA optimized and migrated to the new objects available with BW/4HANA.

Q11: If there is no BEx, where would you create the restricted and calculated key figures?

BEx style queries still exist, but are called BW Queries and are created using the BW Modelling Tools in the new Eclipse development environment. The capabilities of BW queries are broadly the same as the old BEx queries.

Q12: IF BEx is no longer available, how do we utilize functionality like Exception Aggregation in our reports?

The BEx front ends (BEx Analyzer, Report Designer, Web Templates, BEx Web, Broadcasting) will not be supported any more. BEx Query will continue to be supported and simply be called BW Query.

Q13: Does the fact that "old" connections to ECC are no longer supported means migration projects do not really make sense and a full rebuild is required?

If you are already using BW on HANA with ECC you can still go through the migration process without doing a full re-build.   Here’s a great piece of content from Bluefin’s  John Appleby on Making the leap to SAP BW/4HANA: upgrade or start fresh? which will help you answer your question.

Q14:  It would be great to have an understanding of what advantages BW/4HANA has over BW powered by HANA.

This guide illustrates the advantages.

Q15:  BW/4 HANA supports only DSOs right, how did you migrate the cubes?

This is partly correct, however, Infocubes and DSOs have both been replaced with ‘Advanced DSOs’. Meanwhile Multiproviders have been replaced with Composite Providers. There is a conversion tool that you can run which replaces Infocubes with Advanced DSOs.

Q16: How differently is BW4/HANA connected to Oracle ECC vs S/4 on HANA? Is the conversion easy?

BW/4HANA will support similar functionality objects in scope as SAP ECC powered by Oracle. However, going forward it will only focus on HANA-optimized for processing, which significantly reduces the modelling effort and overall complexity of BW/4HANA, as BW/4HANA is not valid for any other database platform other than S/4HANA.

Traditional BI content will not be supported (software components BI_CONT and BI_CONT_XT). All Business Content DataSources (extractors) that are released for Operational Data Provisioning (ODP) will be supported (the ODP Source System is replacing the SAP Source System in SAP BW/4HANA). For more information, see SAP Note 2232584 - ‘Release SAP Extractors for Operational Data Provisioning. 

A majority of Business Content DataSources, including the most relevant and strategic DataSources, can be released by applying that SAP note in the source system.  New BW/4HANA Business Content on top of the Business Content DataSources will be delivered in Q4 2016.

Q17: Are there any standard tools from SAP to perform hardware sizing for B4HANA e.g. similar to what was available to BW powered by HANA.  

Look at OSS note 2363248 for sizing a #BW4HANA system

Q18: Have you used SLT or BW extractors for extracting data into B4/HANA? Which one is more desirable?

We have seen both being used with ODP data sources successfully, the selection of one over the other would depend on the use case.

Q19: Why should I consider going to BW/4HANA now rather than later?

If you already have BW powered by HANA 7.5 SPS4 and use HANA optimized objects, there is currently not a lot of difference, and you will still be supported.  Nevertheless, as per SAP's innovation and investment roadmap, going forward BW/4HANA will receive the majority of new innovations being released.  This means that the gap in new functionality will eventually widen, so we recommend having BW/4HANA on your short to medium term roadmap.
For customers running BW 7.3 or 7.4 powered by SAP HANA today, who choose to move to BW/4HANA, we recommend upgrading to SAP BW 7.5 and applying the BW/4HANA Starter add-on as an intermediate step. The starter add-on tools are provided to transfer from classic BW objects to BW HANA-optimized objects and data flows.

Q20: My company wants agile BI with both my SAP structured data and unstructured data.  How does BW/4HANA help me with this?

Traditional data warehouses rely on an extract-transform-load model to centralize data before analysis. This results in expensive data movement and duplication, and introduces latency that means real-time analytics are impossible. BW/4HANA enables a more flexible, real-time approach. As SAP HANA has proven, in-memory performance means that operational analytics can move back into the application, S/4HANA is built around this, thus workload is moving from traditional data warehouses to S/4HANA. In addition, the vast amounts of unstructured data in data lakes and the Internet of Things will overwhelm a “centralize and duplicate” approach, so BW/4HANA is designed to leverage smart data streaming (IoT), and smart data integration (to deliver a logical data warehouse approach).

Q21: Does the BW3x and 7 Business Content work within BW4?

SAP has developed, and is continuing to do so, new Business Content specifically optimized for BW/4HANA. It is similar to the older content, but utilizing the newer objects and architecture.

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About the author

Pratik Shah

Principal Consultant
Pratik has been deeply ensconced in the SAP business intelligence (BI) ecosphere for over 14 years, working with technologies such as BW, HANA, BusinessObjects, Lumira and SAP Analytics Cloud. Having deployed solutions across multiple industries, including many Fortune 500 clients, his breadth of both technical knowledge and experience are wide and far-reaching.

As a certified Analytics Strategy Assessment professional, he puts his design thinking training and experience to use while working closely with the customers to understand their business opportunities and aligns these to the ever-changing technology landscape, facilitating them to achieve their goal of getting the right information to the right people at the right time.

Pratik is an integral part of Bluefin's BI and HANA Centre of Excellence. He is driven by the challenge of bringing together two worlds: the technical build of back-end data models and the understanding of the business challenges that organization are facing.
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