Data volumes today are growing exponentially due to the various ways that data is being produced. Information is coming in from a mixture of back-end systems, social media interactions, online customer feedback, massive data lakes, and so on. The reality is that even for companies that run SAP S/4HANA or SAP ERP, the data footprint of SAP systems is getting smaller. More and more data coming from non-SAP systems, and particularly not ERP systems, is the current norm.
It’s unfathomable to think that large enterprise customers with offices all over the world will be able to merge all their data sources. These companies don’t want a heterogeneous source. They want the ability to keep their data at the source and retain their data silos if they choose. But at the same time, they want a multi-tiered, integrated approach for users to access that information — which most often exists in a hybrid environment of on-premise and cloud systems — via a single layer and without disruption.
Business users today have more responsibility for data and analytics than ever before, and most of them are not IT professionals. Traditionally, a business user would have to ask IT to grant access to the data warehouse and provision the roles, which could take weeks. Nowadays, users have higher expectations. Historically, data warehousing technology was not necessarily the easiest or fastest to deploy, and these solutions often required high up-front investments, many experts to build out the project, and a heavy burden on IT. Today, companies want faster and more cost-effective solutions — and they want options in the cloud.
These are the types of challenges we like solving. That’s why I’m very excited to share with the SAPinsider community details on our newest solution: SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, which is part of the data warehouse portfolio developed by the SAP HANA & Analytics group. This group, which I lead, is tasked with monitoring overall technology trends, customer needs, and market opportunities. We then translate that information into a product strategy for database and analytics solutions that we either build ourselves or together with partners.
Our overall strategy is focused on ensuring we continue to provide solutions that solve our customers’ main challenges and business problems. We pride ourselves on doing that in a very end-to-end fashion — taking data from any source system all the way to an easy-to-understand front-end application. This way, business users can make highly confident business decisions.
We followed this strategy when developing SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, which brings together data from different sources. The data is then unified and modeled into business insights in a simple, fast, cost-effective way that is easily understandable and accessible for business users. The user experience was a big focus when developing the solution, as we wanted to create an environment where business users and IT could collaborate more harmoniously. With this solution, business users can open a direct interface to IT, and IT can more easily perform controls, enable user access, and manage cost of storage. As a result, the value of IT has increased, not diminished, as IT professionals are viewed as business partners in the process.
Explosive Data Growth Collides with the Need to Turn Data into Business Value
In days past, IT professionals were inundated with requests for data pulls and reports. Meanwhile, organizations were concerned with how to store their data. However, today companies have no problem collecting and storing data. In fact, that has become easier and cheaper, even with the massive amounts of data being produced every day. This volume is growing to unimaginable data sizes. According to recent research from IDC, the global data sphere is predicted to reach 175 zettabytes over the next five years or so, which is an incredibly large number. To understand the scale, that’s 10 to the power of 21, which is equivalent to how many stars are estimated to be visible in the universe.
The clear trend today is that companies are no longer challenged by collecting data. Instead, it has become harder and more expensive for them to get real business value out of the explosive growth of data volumes. When I talk with customers, they are mainly asking how SAP can help manage this data fragmentation and sprawl coming from so many different data sources. These customers also want to make sure data is produced in a way that insights are easily understandable by business users.
Our strategy has involved helping our customers do exactly that. We help extract the business value from high volumes of data, irrespective of whether that data comes from an SAP system, a non-SAP system, or a data lake of structured or unstructured information. The key is in producing actionable insights, and this is where SAP offers unique value. SAP is not just a technology company. While we do build strong and successful technologies for organizations to store and manage data, we also understand our market’s business and key use cases across different industries.
One of our strengths is how we serve large enterprise, midsize, and small companies to get more insight into their business. We know what an organization needs to make better and more confident business decisions. This is what differentiates us from a lot of other companies that can collect data but don’t have the experience in industry or business content. We complement them and their technologies by taking the data from their storage and their sources and turning it into business value.
We built our strategy around a winning formula that considers three main factors:
- Volume: Does your organization have a large enough pool of data to make good business decisions?
- Quality: Is your data high quality?
- Usage: Is your data easily consumable by business users?
If you multiply volume times quality times usage, that’s where you get the business value (see Figure 1). If you have a large volume of data, but it’s of low quality or is difficult for business users to access, then it has very low business value.
Figure 1 Even a large volume of data, if it is low-quality or is difficult for users to access, it can have very low business value
How SAP Is Resolving the Challenges to Get to that Business Value
To extract that business value — and turn enormous data volumes into high-quality information that business users can make sense of — isn’t simple.
Historically, there have been four main challenges that organizations have faced when it came to data management, warehouse, and analytics solutions:
- Scalability: If your business changes or grows and your data needs increase, how easily can your data management or data analytics solution scale so it can grow with the company? In the past, data warehousing solutions have been rigid and not easy to scale out.
- Complexity: Data warehousing technology has not typically been easy to build or implement. It absolutely served its purpose then, because it was robust, but it took a long time to deploy and could be expensive. While that worked before — in a more static and stable environment where technology could be less flexible — this has changed dramatically as data volumes have become more volatile.
- Ease of use: Business users today are relying on data and information access much more frequently. No longer are organizations depending on IT to retrieve data or produce reports, which took a long time and put a big burden on IT. Business users want to have access directly to that data, and they want to use new tools that are much more user-friendly.
- Business semantics: As your business collects more data in various forms and formats from different source systems, is the data still in a form that you can interpret it easily? Do you have one consistent, understandable, and meaningful point of view? SAP knows certain best practices to follow, key performance indicators to look at, how to produce them, and what data models are needed. There’s a ton of knowledge and pre-built content that we can provide to safeguard those semantics.
Our latest offering resolves those challenges by leveraging the cloud. But while scalability and complexity are better served by using cloud solutions, the cloud should not just be a goal in itself. While you can spin up a system in the cloud faster and more cost-effectively because you don’t have to know everything happening in the back end, you don’t want to move to the cloud at the cost of your existing investments.
Many customers that previously invested in on-premise systems — and still want to leverage those — will wonder if SAP Data Warehouse Cloud will now replace their existing data warehouse, such as SAP Business Warehouse, SAP HANA, or a non-SAP database. Well, it could be a replacement, but it doesn’t have to be. While we do provide innovation in the cloud, at the same time, we are committed to helping our customers leverage the investments they have made in on-premise systems by complementing their existing solutions.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud can be used on top of SAP BW/4HANA or SAP HANA or combined with some information from another data source, such as a data lake. It can connect with existing SAP data and analytics solutions as an add-on to the environment. This is a great way to expand into the cloud, regardless of whether the customer is an SAP BW/4HANA, SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, or non-SAP customer. But ultimately, we leave that choice up to the customer.
You don’t have to replace your existing investment if you aren’t ready. You can get started in the cloud by integrating SAP Data Warehouse Cloud with your on-premise systems in which you have already invested. Then, over time you can decide whether you want to move more to the cloud or continue in a hybrid fashion.
Early Praise for SAP Data Warehouse Cloud
The customer response to SAP Data Warehouse Cloud has been great — in numbers as well as the quality of feedback. One of our main goals was to build something that would be easy to use and go beyond all the great tools we built in the past — which served a purpose but had reached their limits, just like all other tools of that age. We wanted to leapfrog that and make an easier-to-deploy and technically simpler solution for the business. And based on customer feedback, it certainly seems like we are on the right track.
When we announced customers could sign up for a beta program, within no time we had thousands of customers signing up before the product was even available. Then, as we progressed and released the solution, the feedback got better and better. What started with great interest turned into trust that we had the right solution. That soon evolved into excitement that not only did we bring a viable solution, but we delivered one that was viewed very favorably by customers compared to the competition. It was encouraging to hear customer comments such as, “This is exactly what we need. It’s such an important part of our data strategy,” and “I’m so glad you guys are taking it up a level and bringing the latest and greatest innovations to data warehousing in the cloud.” It was very clear from the feedback that they felt the solution was very easy to use both by IT and the business.
Customers also told us that the solution added value to their existing investments. They were glad that we were not “throwing away the old” but instead complementing what we had previously released — in particular, SAP BW/4HANA and SAP HANA. I also heard positive feedback about the fact that SAP Data Warehouse Cloud comes with integrated analytics, which is a competitive differentiator that our customers clearly picked up on and appreciated. Customers welcomed the fact that they can quickly set up a data warehouse on top of their existing systems and have real-time analytics available for business users built in — while still being able to work with any other analytical tools they want.
We also found that the solution is attracting partners that SAP historically has not worked with. This is a great validation of our strategy to build solutions for any customer, including non-SAP customers. These partners can see that we are expanding our reach in the market beyond the traditional SAP user base and that this solution is for all companies, regardless of what ERP system they run — for example, perhaps they don’t use SAP software wall to wall, but they use SAP SuccessFactors or SAP Hybris solutions integrated with a non-SAP database. It’s very exciting that these partners are particularly interested in providing solutions to integrate all these other back-end systems with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud.
I also heard encouraging feedback from long-time partners that saw the solution’s value and jumped on it immediately. Even before the product was released to the market, partners were already building early demos, proofs of concept, and prototypes for their clients — proving that the solution was not just a technical solution but also would serve very clear use cases.
One Consistent Use Case: Making Sense of a Data Lake
When we were working on building the solution, early on we worked very closely with multiple customers. One use case kept coming up consistently that they found extremely valuable. This involved taking data coming from a highly governed and structured source — for most, this was SAP BW/4HANA — and combining that data with information from a data lake, whether that be from Amazon, Microsoft, or Google. For both business users and IT professionals, this had been a big challenge:
- For IT, it took a long time to extract information from the data lake, integrate it, structure it, and build the semantics to make it consistent with data coming from SAP BW/4HANA (the data lake being the problem here due to the unstructured nature of its data).
- For business users, they could quickly tap into the data lake, but the problem they faced was that it was hard for them to make sense of what that information meant. There were no semantics other than the extracted SAP BW/4HANA data, which was easier for them to understand.
We were very excited to hear about these customers’ success using SAP Data Warehouse Cloud to bring together data from SAP BW/4HANA and the data lake, how easy it was for IT to bring the data together and put semantics around it, and then how easy it was to give access to business users who could then very quickly perform their own analytics. That was a very consistent use case across all these customers, how they could quickly get up and running and provide easy access for the business, while still providing good solid IT governance.
One global professional services company, which operates in many different locations across the world, had many offices using different systems to capture, store, and integrate data. As you can imagine, this made it very hard for this business to synchronize all the data across the different silos and get one view of the entire organization. This could only be achieved with a very time-consuming, manual process. Now, with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the business can bring all its data together automatically into the solution — regardless of all the underlying systems — very quickly. Rather than spending days or weeks, business users can now produce new reports and turn around insights in just 48 hours. The process is now automated, but still highly structured with good semantics, and provides a consistent point of view, easy access to business users, and less burden on IT.
Try SAP Data Warehouse Cloud Today
It’s important to restate that SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is not just for SAP customers or SAP systems. This is for any system — Salesforce, Workday, Oracle, your data lake — all your data sources. Regardless of how much SAP data you have in house, you can bring all your data together, in the cloud, and have semantics to make it all understandable and get that volume of high-quality data in an easily accessible manner.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is different from data warehouses of the past. Try it out today, and experience for yourself that this is a business-driven solution that can be quickly implemented. Sign up for a trial to get immediate proof that this is scalable and easy to use. Take data from any source. See how fast you can bring it together and model and unify that into business information. Discover how easy it is then to produce analytics on top and build some reports. Give it a go and see for yourself how it will add value to and complement your existing systems.
Visit sapdatawarehouse.cloud for more information.