SAP NetWeaver is SAP’s primary technology computing platform that provides the environment to run most of SAP’s software. SAP NetWeaver 7.5 is the latest release of the platform (SAP NetWeaver 2004 was the first release). Embedded SAP BW by default resides in all the SAP NetWeaver 7.0 and above systems. New modelling features of SAP BW on SAP HANA provide leverage to the embedded BW system in S/4HANA in specific use cases. In this article, we discuss some of these use cases for embedded SAP BW as well as its technical details.
In Q4 2005, SAP released the SAP NetWeaver 7.0 platform. This version included SAP BW within the SAP NetWeaver ABAP application server. Any ERP solution from SAP (e.g., SAP ERP Central Component [SAP ECC] 6.0 and higher, SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management, and other solutions like SAP CRM 7.0 and higher) has, by default, SAP BW inside its ABAP application server. This SAP BW that resides within an ABAP application server running an ERP system is called embedded SAP BW.
SAP ECC’s successor, SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management, is SAP’s newest ERP application package. SAP introduced core data services’ views for simplifying analytics in S/4HANA. Core data services’ views are a newly defined, common set of domain-specific language and services for defining and consuming semantically rich data models. With the S/4HANA release 1511 onwards, SAP added core data services’ views across its business-function modules, including Finance, Controlling, Sales and Distribution, and Materials Management. SAP HANA Live is another SAP add-on that provides SAP HANA views (attribute, analytical, and calculation views) on standard SAP ERP transaction tables that are used for reporting
Figure 1 illustrates the concept of embedded SAP BW (in other words, how embedded SAP BW as a component exists within the ABAP application server of the SAP S/4HANA application).
The SAP NetWeaver platform (the ABAP application server) with the SAP S/4HANA application and embedded SAP BW
The SAP NetWeaver platform has an ABAP application server, which carries the ERP application SAP S/4HANA and embedded SAP BW. The SAP HANA database on which the ABAP application server resides has one table schema corresponding to the SAP S/4HANA application and another schema for the embedded SAP BW application.
When to Use Embedded SAP BW
SAP recommends using embedded SAP BW in two specific scenarios:
- To leverage SAP BW’s planning engine, SAP Business Planning and Consolidation, for specific planning processes. One example is the planning in FI or sales that is integrated with transactional business processes.
- To leverage SAP BW’s analytic manager for embedded reporting scenarios. The contextual information that is processed using embedded SAP BW can easily be integrated with business transactions executed in the SAP ERP system. For example, information such as material stock on hand and vendor analysis can be embedded in the relevant transaction (e.g., creating sales orders or purchase orders).
With SAP HANA as its database in the S/4HANA application, embedded SAP BW can be used effectively for highly customized operational reporting needs. Core data services’ views are now available as SAP-delivered content in an SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management system or SAP HANA Live in the case of Business Suite on SAP HANA. These views are the semantic layer to the complex table structures used by the SAP ERP system.
As shown in Figure 2, core data services’ views are located on the same SAP S/4HANA application as the embedded SAP BW and complement one another. Both core data services’ views and SAP HANA Live views provide business-function-specific operational reporting content. It is not always easy to generate cross-functional operational (real-time or non-real-time) reports based on both these SAP-provided views. This is where embedded SAP BW can play a key role. These delivered views can be exposed or made available in embedded SAP BW through Open Operational DataStore (Open ODS) views. The Open ODS view can then be a source object for Composite Providers and generate a real-time cross-functional operational report using SAP BW query.
Deployment options for embedded SAP BW
The other big benefits of wrapping the core data services’ or SAP HANA Live views using an SAP BW query is that it provides easy-to-use BW features, such as formulas, filters, variables, and authorizations, to meet complex business requirements without having to modify a standard SAP-provided core data services’ or SAP HANA Live views. SAP Business Content extractors can be exposed via Operational Data Provisioning (ODP) to embedded SAP BW for reporting. This helps eliminate the Persistent Staging Area (PSA) and hence reduces data footprint in the BW system.
Based on a careful evaluation of business needs, along with consideration of core data services’ views or SAP HANA Live views and system resource constraints, embedded SAP BW can also be used for a select set of non-real-time operational reports. Data persistence can be used, to a limited extent, to process or transform data for generating critical operational insight for the business, on a case-by-case basis. This is because system resources like CPU and memory are shared between the SAP ERP systems and embedded BW. There is no provision to allocate a fixed proportion of resources between the two systems. Therefore, it is important that companies realize that any excessive processing of data or its storage in embedded SAP BW has a direct impact on the SAP ERP system.
For small-to-medium enterprises using Business Suite on SAP HANA or SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management that require little external data (e.g., flat files and non-SAP system data) for reporting needs, embedded SAP BW can be an efficient analytics solution requiring very little cost and effort.
The Pros and Cons of Using Embedded SAP BW
There are some potential pros and cons to using embedded SAP BW, as follows.
- No data duplication between business transaction applications and reporting applications due to the use of core data services’ views or SAP HANA views via the new SAP BW modelling features, such as Open ODS views and Composite Providers
- Real-time information availability to business as the information is directly generated from the source of the data
- No additional infrastructure investment or license cost when it is used for pure reporting purposes
- Lower operational efforts due to fewer system requirements—there is less to be administered and monitored
- Restricted to SAP ERP data only. Handling of any external data can potentially hamper ERP system performance.
- Cannot be used as a full-fledged enterprise data warehouse
- Reporting applications that demand a huge volume of data processing cannot be deployed in embedded SAP BW
- Due to the sharing of resources such as memory and CPU, embedded SAP BW is likely to impact ERP system performance, especially at peak-hour usage (for example, at period-end closing)
- SAP has recommended that data volume pertaining to embedded SAP BW be not more than 20 percent of the total ECC data volume
- Licensing is required if the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation add-on or planning applications kit is used, resulting in additional costs
To use embedded SAP BW in an ERP system (SAP S/4HANA), these basic components are required:
Technical Aspects of Embedded SAP BW
The embedded SAP BW instance is activated as part of the overall SAP ERP system setup. The other steps in configuring the embedded SAP BW system are the same as those followed in a standalone SAP BW system.
You can use the ERP client as the client to the SAP BW instance or a separate client can be created. SAP recommends that you have a dedicated client for embedded SAP BW, to help ease development and administrative efforts. Embedded SAP BW relies on separate SAP BW authorization concepts. The authorization of the ERP system (SAP S/4HANA) is not applicable directly and needs to be explicitly extended to embedded SAP BW applications.
To summarize, there are three primary use cases for embedded SAP BW:
- For customized, cross-functional operational reporting using Open ODS views, CompositeProviders, and SAP BW queries
- For integrated business planning for finance using the SAP Business Planning and Consolidation add-on
- For cross-application and functional reporting using a hybrid scenario (embedded SAP BW on SAP HANA with native SAP HANA)
(Note: Embedded SAP BW is not a replacement for SAP BW as a data warehousing solution from SAP. A data warehousing solution does much more; for instance, it extracts data, harmonizes data, and analyzes and reports on the information generated from heterogeneous data sources. SAP strongly recommends deployment of an independent SAP BW instance to leverage the full potential and capabilities of SAP BW running on SAP HANA. This allows storage and processing of large volumes of data from SAP ERP systems, and enables non-SAP systems to deploy all available resources while providing high performance.)