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…