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The Road to HANA

by Dr. Berg

April 29, 2011

By Dr. Berg

HANA is creating a 'buzz' in the SAP world and beyond. The idea of gradually transitioning to in-memory processing for transaction processing as well as BI is compelling. But what HANA really?

First of all, currently HANA is nothing more than taking the ERP transactional tables and pushing them into memory using the replication server technology that SAP acquired when buying Sybase. In the Current 1.0 release, HANA allows companies to use in-memory processing for extremely rapid lookup of transactions in 'real-time'.  But the story does not end there.

In the soon to be available 1.5 release, HANA will also allow companies to push data from BW to the same in-memory platform, and that is when the confusion starts.

First, the debate is whether HANA will replace BW. Frankly I don't think so, at least not yet.

Will HANA Replace BW?

The purpose of a data warehouse is not only to be fast, but to cleanse, integrate, summarize and join data for analytical purposes. It is not to do list reporting from a table.  So even with HANA, I believe there will always be a need to process data for analysis. The question is what the platform will be.

Second, there is a need to store and maintain the transactional data after it is no longer needed for processing purposes. This can be done in BW DSOs, or somewhere else, but a permanent repository of historical data is needed. The data can then be loaded, transformed and merged for the analytical purpose for the current management. However, as the business evolve, others will need this data in different formats. Therefore a permanent repository is needed.  Neither ERP, nor the current plans for HANA addresses this.

Lastly, we need a flexible modular solutions for d ifferent purposes. BW works great as the repository for 'used' data. HANA looks like the answer for query performance issues and ERP is great for comprehensive transaction processing. Combined we have a winning solution.

So, What Will Change?

Naturally, that does not mean that the world will stand still. InfoCubes will most likely be retired, as in-memory querying makes them obsolete. BWA is competing with HANA and one platform will win. ABAP reports in ERP will become the thing of the past as HANA does not need them, and spinning magnetic disks is slowly dying as the backbone for SAN solutions.

So, I am not ready to retire BW yet, but the role that this data warehouse is playing will most certainly change over the next 2-5 years as HANA gets a chance to prove itself. If successful, spinning magnetic hard drives may be something to scare your grandchildren with, while they play on their in-memory iPods, disk free laptops and iPads (welcome after 'grandpa'...)

 More on BW 7.3 next time…

Dr. Berg


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Vitaliy Rudnytskiy

9/25/2013 8:54:32 PM

As the addition to the discussion let me just re-post what I said on similar topic here.

Questions about BW death (which I understand this post is not, although using this catchy phrase) are coming from misunderstanding of what is what. HANA is in-memory software/hardware appliance with IMDB being a database engine built specificaly for SAP environment purposes. BW is an SAP data warehousing platform that can run on several different RDBMSes, including IMDB in some future. In this sense BW and HANA are complimentary.
The second view is a comparison between what BW provides as data warehousing development/administration platform comparing to In-memory Computing Studio (IC Studio), which comes with HANA:
1/ Can IC Studio replace BW as a platform to build EDW? It probably can, but still BW is much more rich in functionality for this purpose.
2/ Is BW right analytics platform in all cases? In the past it was the only one from SAP, but now you have a choice to find what fits your needs. I had a customer in the past, who build reporting solution on BW for 20(!) users extracting data from one ERP system, and who needed performance so decided to put BWA just for these 20 folks. At that time it was only technology available from SAP, but today - sure thing - HANA + SBO would fit much better into their needs.
Net, it is not that HANA kills BW. It is that now you have a choice and need to think what you need and what solution fits your needs best and at what cost.
Sure, BW needs to evolve into nicer+simpler+better, and I am one of the biggest proponents of that.

-Vitaliy aka @Sygyzmundovych

PS. Even with IMDB not everything needs to be in memory. Data can rest in the storage (yes, it is still part of HANA) until called for access, and then unloaded from RAM after use.

PPS. There will be lots and lots of demos of HANA next week at SAPPHIRE if anyone wants to see and even try what it is. I will be hanging out around as well.