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Lessons Learned from Varian's Two SAP HANA Migration Projects

by Andrea Haynes, Senior Editor, SAPinsider | SAPinsider, Volume 20, Issue 1

December 3, 2018

Cancer research pioneer Varian enhanced its performance and optimized its transactions and reports with a database migration to SAP HANA and a subsequent move to SAP S/4HANA. A number of best practices shared here by Varian led to the success of both migrations.  

Dedicated to eradicating cancer, Varian is a pioneer in developing radiotherapy oncology technology as well as in the manufacturing of medical devices and software for treating cancer. To streamline operations and enable continued innovation in its quest, the business recently migrated to SAP S/4HANA.

The project was accomplished on an Intel processor. This followed the migration of its database to SAP HANA three years ago. In the two-step migration process, Varian migrated to SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA from Oracle in 2014. It then moved to SAP S/4HANA 1709 this year. The business drivers for the migration to SAP HANA were performance and landscape optimization. The aim was to improve performance of core applications for Varian’s complex and highly integrated business processes.

According to Nagarajan Nallaiah, enterprise technical architect at Varian, “Our main driver behind the SAP HANA database migration is performance. With SAP HANA, business transactions are running faster and more efficiently.” He says the database migration resulted in:

  • Significant performance improvements due to the SAP HANA database and continuous optimization of standard and custom transactions. For example, Varian observed a significant performance improvement due to the SAP HANA database, and continuous optimization of standard and custom transactions and reports. SAP transaction and report performance improved between 1.5x to 1500x, Nallaiah notes.
  • Cost optimization: The database strategy redefined and optimized the database cost
  • Removal of the dependency on specialized hardware
  • Embedded analytic and usability improvements (such as SAP Fiori) using SAP HANA

With the database migration in place, Varian implemented SAP S/4HANA 1709 using standard SAP tools, including Software Upgrade Manager (SUM). It was a full internal project with the exception of some assistance from SAP. Two months after the go-live, business processes and standard transactions were running smoothly.

Varian credits several factors with the success of the implementation:

  • The engagement of the SAP Value Assurance team as well as the SAP HANA Ambassador program for the implementation phase
  • Master data clean-up seven months before the go-live with the help of SAP’s customer vendor integration (CVI) functionality
  • Multiple mock cutovers (seven of them before the final production cutover)
  • A heavy volume of testing (two integration test cycles and one user acceptance test [UAT]) — additional testing for Sarbanes-Oxley requirements and quote-to-cash processes, including automated testing on premise
  • Change management activities that were initiated 10 months in advance of the go-live

Varian shared the following lessons learned from its migration to SAP HANA:

  • During a go-live it is important to mimic exactly how production is set up to minimize the risk of a slowdown. Landscapes for the final one or two mock cutovers should replicate production and include connectivity to high-availability environments.  
  • The more communication sent out to the business, the more successful the project will be. By communicating new procedures, the change management team can help user adoption, ensuring that employees do not resort to the old ways of doing things.
  • Training is vital as many processes change with the adoption of SAP S/4HANA and database migration to SAP HANA, which is a complete transformation project.
  • Testing batch jobs effectively avoids performance issues post go-live. 
  • Because of the length of the project (18 months), the steps for maintaining two landscapes and retrofitting and remediating code in the project landscape from production were challenging. Varian set up a dedicated landscape for the SAP S/4HANA project and performed weekly transports to sync from the production system. A dedicated team reviewed the transport failures and worked on permanent fixes in the SAP S/4HANA landscape.

Looking ahead, Varian plans to continue to transform more business processes, leveraging the functionality provided by SAP HANA.

For more information about database migration best practices, visit SAP’s database migration webcast series at

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Andrea Haynes


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