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Optimizing ABAP for SAP HANA: SAP's 3-Step Approach

by Jana Richter and Thorsten Schneider | SAPinsider

October 1, 2012

A good amount of business-critical data is present in ABAP-based systems, including SAP Business Suite, SAP NetWeaver BW, and on-demand offerings from SAP. In addition, these environments stand to reap significant rewards from the accelerated processing and analysis supported by SAP’s in-memory database technology offering, SAP HANA. In this article, you’ll learn SAP’s three-step approach to optimize SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) ABAP for the SAP HANA database.
 

ABAP is integral to SAP customer and partner environments. A vast amount of business-critical data is present in ABAP-based systems, including SAP Business Suite, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW), and on-demand offerings from SAP. In addition, these environments stand to reap significant rewards from the accelerated processing and analysis supported by SAP’s in-memory database technology offering, SAP HANA. So how does SAP support SAP HANA functionality for ABAP environments? And how does it affect both new and existing customer-specific developments?

To answer these questions, let’s explore the three-step approach SAP is taking to optimize SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) ABAP for the SAP HANA database. Based on feedback from customers, partners, and the German-Speaking SAP User Group (DSAG), and keeping with SAP’s “innovation without disruption” vision, this measured approach ensures that SAP customers can benefit from the innovations offered by in-memory technology, without disrupting their critical business processes.

ABAP and SAP HANA: A Natural Fit

The SAP HANA platform combines in-memory software with hardware from leading SAP partners. Adding SAP HANA technology to certified database hardware enables not only significant acceleration of existing applications, but also the development of completely new applications that were not previously possible.

To leverage the strengths of SAP HANA, applications follow the “code to data” paradigm in which calculation logic is pushed down from the application server to the database server. The SAP HANA database then performs the calculations and sends the resulting data set back for use by an application. Figure 1 illustrates this process.

Applications that use SAP HANA follow the “code to data” paradigm
Figure 1
Applications that use SAP HANA follow the “code to data” paradigm

Operations on top of large data sets can benefit from in-memory database technology. With the amount of ABAP-based data processing and analysis in SAP customer landscapes, adding SAP HANA capabilities to SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP is a natural fit (see Figure 2). To take advantage of in-memory technology with SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP, operations that require high-performance access to mass data can be delegated to SAP HANA, while operations used to manage and integrate business processes remain on SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP.

Operations on large data sets are ideal candidates for use with SAP HANA
Figure 2
Operations on large data sets are ideal candidates for use with SAP HANA

So how is support for SAP HANA being implemented for SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP-based environments? Let’s look at SAP’s staged, three-step approach to optimizing SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP for SAP HANA and how it will help customers and partners gradually integrate in-memory innovation without risking their existing implementations. 

Step #1: Providing Access to SAP HANA Through ABAP-Based Applications

Customers running SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP can already use SAP HANA. As of SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.x, SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP applications running on a traditional database (such as IBM DB2, SAP MaxDB, or Oracle) can access an SAP HANA database using a secondary database connection (see Figure 3).

SAP HANA is available as a secondary database
Figure 3
SAP HANA is available as a secondary database

This capability supports side-by-side scenarios in which selected data is replicated from the primary database to the secondary SAP HANA database. SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP and the respective application (SAP ERP, for instance) can then use the secondary database connection to read data from and delegate calculations to the SAP HANA database.

The secondary database connection helps customers benefit from SAP HANA without making changes to the primary database. In particular, this approach enables use cases for SAP HANA accelerators that leverage SAP HANA to improve the performance of specific processes managed in SAP Business Suite applications with high volumes of data involved.

Step #2: Enabling ABAP to Run on SAP HANA

With SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.3, the SAP HANA database can be used for primary data persistence to support analytical use cases in which data can be analyzed according to the reporting requirements of a line of business. SAP has implemented this support with the introduction of SAP NetWeaver BW powered by SAP HANA, which enables SAP NetWeaver BW to use SAP HANA as an in-memory database (see Figure 4).

SAP HANA can be used for primary data persistence for SAP NetWeaver BW
Figure 4
SAP HANA can be used for primary data persistence for SAP NetWeaver BW

Running SAP NetWeaver BW on SAP HANA has a variety of benefits. With SAP HANA, companies can achieve optimized query performance without SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator, helping customers and partners reduce the TCO of their data warehousing solution. SAP HANA can also help accelerate extract, transform, and load (ETL) processes and simplify data modeling since it needs fewer materialized layers. 

Step #3: Optimizing ABAP for SAP HANA

Going forward, SAP plans to enable more solutions, in particular SAP Business Suite applications, to use SAP HANA for primary data persistence. SAP also plans to make adjustments to SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP to support SAP HANA as the underlying database for transactional use cases. Additionally, SAP intends to facilitate a deeper integration of ABAP development with SAP HANA to enable SAP developers, as well as customers developing custom applications, to more easily leverage the strengths of SAP HANA within application logic.

By porting SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP-based solutions on the SAP HANA database and using the database for primary data persistence, customers and partners can reduce the TCO of their overall landscapes. For example, replication to secondary databases will no longer be required and SAP HANA accelerators can run locally. With operational data residing in SAP HANA, customers can perform ad hoc reporting on top of their applications to improve operational reporting performance.

As SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP support for SAP HANA grows, completely new applications are also emerging — in the areas of trade promotion management and fraud management, for example — that combine both transactional and analytical behavior. With this trend, the borders between OLTP and OLAP will diminish over time. Customers and partners will be able to develop these types of hybrid solutions on top of SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP optimized for SAP HANA.

SAP plans to provide enhancement package 7.4 for SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP to focus on these optimizations for the SAP HANA database (see Figure 5). Intended to be compatible with SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP 7.3, the new enhancement package will allow customers and partners to adopt innovations in a non-disruptive, step-by-step way. SAP plans to make this new enhancement package available to pilot customers and partners at the end of 2012, and will engage closely with the SAP ecosystem to validate custom development use cases. General availability is planned for 2013.

SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP will be optimized for SAP HANA
Figure 5
SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP will be optimized for SAP HANA

Planned Support for Developers

In addition to the approach explored in this article, SAP also plans to provide enhancements for developers to help increase productivity and improve the ABAP development experience. These include: 

  • Enhanced development environment. With the ABAP development tools for SAP NetWeaver, SAP plans to offer a state-of-the-art, Eclipse-based development environment for ABAP.1 This environment will integrate smoothly with the SAP HANA studio and will allow developers to implement in-memory applications end-to-end within a single environment.
  • Developer support channels. SAP aims to provide a variety of support for customers and partners in adopting the outlined innovations, as well as the overall integration of SAP HANA and ABAP development. These support channels for developers include publications, documentation, best practices, reference applications, sandbox systems/trial versions, and a lively online community.

While these improvements complement the SAP HANA optimizations to SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP, SAP plans to make them available independent of the SAP HANA enhancements.

Looking Ahead

ABAP is here to stay. At the same time, technology trends such as in-memory computing continue to offer customers and partners the chance to differentiate themselves from competitors with superior technology and the ability to react to new business needs. To provide the SAP ecosystem with the benefits of innovation without disrupting critical business processes, SAP plans to continuously update SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP and establish a joint initiative with user groups to ensure that customers and partners can seamlessly adapt to coming code changes. With support for technologies like SAP HANA within SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP, you can take advantage of the latest trends without sacrificing your ABAP investments. You don’t have to choose — you can have it all. To learn more, visit http://scn.sap.com/community/abap-for-hana.

Jana Richter (jana.richter@sap.com) works in SAP NetWeaver Product Management in Walldorf, Germany. She joined SAP ten years ago, and since 2011 has focused on SAP NetWeaver AS ABAP. Previously, she was responsible for accelerated application delivery and the portal capabilities of SAP NetWeaver.

Thorsten Schneider (thorsten.schneider@sap.com) works in SAP NetWeaver Product Management in Walldorf, Germany. He joined SAP in 1997 and had various roles in development and consulting before he took his current position.

1 To learn more about the Eclipse-based environment for ABAP, see Karl Kessler’s article in this issue of SAPinsider. [back]

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COMMENTS

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AWhite

3/26/2015 12:49:00 PM

Wonderful article on ABAP and HANA optimizations. Thank you for the detail around NetWeaver and the related HANA support to come. On the same topic, we'd like to share our article on the migration options from ABAP to HANA with the SAP Insider community. http://velocitycloud.com/sap-hana-migration-from-abap


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