Dan Kearnan of SAP (far right) moderates a panel at SAPinsider's BI-HANA 2014 event on the launch of SAP NetWeaver BW 7.4 powered by SAP HANA. Joining Kearnan are (from L to R) Lothar Henkes of SAP, John Appleby of Bluefin Solutions, and David Théroux-Bénoni and Pawel Mierski of Molson Coors.
Dan: Hello, I’m Dan Kearnan. I’m from SAP and I’m here live with my fellow colleagues, customers, and partners in crime at the SAPinsider BI-HANA event. The topic we’re here to discuss today and I want to share with others is the rollout of SAP BW 7.4 on HANA, what value it provides, and how it’s been helping customers since its inception with BW in HANA over the last three years. So what I wanted to do is start with Lothar Henkes who is leading our product management team for BW for many years now and now BW in HANA, and we know now that BW has been running on top of HANA, powered by SAP HANA for close to three years now.
Dan: What were some of the leading reasons why you and your colleagues decided that marriage between HANA and between BW really made sense?
Lothar: So only the combination out of BW and HANA actually brought us in the position that we could really push down some certain performance-critical functionality in BW directly down to HANA, and by this we could achieve a much better data load performance to BW for example. We also were able to speed up the query to many, many factors, and at the same time we were also able to execute planning functions with a much, much better performance as described before, and at the same time that’s very important. We could also address topics like simplified data modelling and you could also address topics like simplified landscapes, less data, less data layers in BW, and this was only true or only valid based on the combination out of BW and HANA.
Dan: So I assume you’ve been working with BW customers for quite some time. Was performance a particular challenge that they were experiencing running BW on, I guess, a classical or relational database?
Lothar: Well performance is, I would say of course a very, very important topic for our customers, and for example, if we cannot deliver the query performance with the according speed, our customers or the people working at our customer site will find their own intuitive ways to do that which we want to avoid. And at the same time, our customers are reporting to us a lot and discussions that the engrossing amount of data and the load window at the same time is getting tighter and tighter, and therefore again, only this combination out of BW and HANA really brought us in the position to really solve this problem and speed up the load time factor ten to factor twenty for example.
Dan: Great, well that gives us a good backdrop. What I’d like to do now is turn to John Appleby with Bluefin. Now John, you work with a lot of BW customers. You’ve worked with them over the years so what I’d like to ask you is I’d like to get your opinion, your experiences in two things. First of all, what were some of the challenges that you saw some of these BW customers you were working with had before they implemented HANA and what was one of the leading reasons why they decided to move to BW powered by HANA?
John: Yeah, I mean let me just give an example to describe this because let’s make it real. I worked in 2005, 2006, 2007 on a lot of retail projects for HANA, and in retail they have this thing called like-for-like and it’s a really important thing for retail scenarios because you either want to compare sales in a store that’s like-for-like, either the conditions are the same, or you want to compare them where they’re not like-for-like, for instance to see what happens when you do a store renovation, and I was involved in a BW project and BW performance used to be my specialty and in that project we had nightmare performance problems and those problems cause the product to be delayed for a year. It was never quite right, we had to re-architect and change a bunch of things.
Now, those guys didn’t move on to HANA for one reason or another — actually they’re since defunct but that’s a whole 'nother story — but in the last few weeks I’ve been involved in a very large retail project which is BW 7.4 on HANA, and we’re starting to uncover the same sort of things during the architecture phase. How do we deal with like-for-like? How do we deal with the kind of custom time dimensions they have in a retailer? And we’re using the stuff that Lothar and his team have developed, the LSA++, Layered Scalable Architecture for HANA, and I wouldn’t say we’ve worked through everything yet but what we’re seeing is all of those things that were a problem and caused that project to be delayed, caused delays in decision making and complex architecture and work-arounds and custom development, all those things are just not going to happen in HANA. And that’s really the point, right?
Dan: Right. So if you were to sum up for those customers that you’ve worked with that have actually moved to HANA, are there a top two or three kind of challenges they had or reasons they went to HANA? Can you narrow it down like that or is it different for every customer?
John: Well, the most common one that I see now, and basically the conversation goes like this: “Well we know that we need to do HANA so let’s start with BW because performance isn’t great and we’re told performance will be awesome on HANA, and actually we want to start somewhere.” And BW is a relatively low-risk application, as I remember Vishal Sikka, your head of technology, told me a couple years ago, if a BW system is down with a customer, we’ll get an angry support message, if a business suite is down with a customer, I’ll get a call from the CIO. And so people are willing to dip their toe in the water in BW, learn how to run the processes, learn a new database, learn how to manage it and back it up, and run this full, tolerant environment, so that’s actually a pretty common scenario we see now. We just want to make BW better and learn how to move because you know it’s a strategic direction of SAP, and for others they’ve got specific pain points, and again it’s mostly … a scenario’s around month-end reporting or batch loads. I have a customer that needs to run loads into BW every 30 minutes in order to update their store status. Now it takes the load in Oracle 29 minutes and they’ve been optimizing it for five years. Data volumes are increasing, they know they have three months to fix this problem so they’re either going to go and spend another couple million on IBM hardware or they’re going to move to HANA. Well, in HANA that data load takes two minutes.
Dan: Right. So a notable difference.
Dan: So yeah, I’ve talked to many customers. There’s obviously… not all customers are equal in their pains or their challenges so if we turn now to Pawel and David from Molson Coors, you have obviously been a long-standing BW customer, have recently moved to BW on HANA. So what were some of the top reasons that you were challenged by or that you saw as the potential opportunity in running HANA underneath BW?
Pawel: I would say the main reason why we moved to HANA was because the nightly schedule was getting longer and longer, the business didn’t have their data before 10:00 - 10:30 AM so for them it was completely unacceptable and …
Dan: And would they be screaming at you?
Pawel: Yeah, every morning they would call and scream at me.
Dan: So to avoid the screaming, HANA became an option?
Pawel: Exactly. HANA became an option and we said well if we move to BW on HANA then, you know, all the latency data problems would be solved with HANA … at least that’s what SAP promised us.
Dan: Yes. And now you’ve had it installed for long enough to start seeing results and has that problem been alleviated?
Pawel: Absolutely. Now every day the data is there before 8:00 AM and also if for whatever reason a data load fails during the night, it takes maybe five minutes to fix it and I’ve seen a 95% performance increase, you know, and it just solves problems …
Dan: So those business users now get the information they need to do their jobs, basically?
Pawel: Exactly. Especially in the finance department which is the most critical department at Molson Coors.
Dan: Right. Well that’s interesting. So, David, you were involved in the implementation of BW on HANA?
Dan: How would you describe it went? Smoothly? Little problems? Did you get it done quickly? Was it data migration only?
David: Yes, it was data migration so making it a technical conversion, and I would say it was quite smooth. We weren’t expecting it to be as smooth because usually, you know, we hear things and people say things but when we experienced it, it was really as advertised …
Pawel: Yes. I would say.
David: I think the key message here is it works, just works as advertised so …
Dan: So it’s comforting to know?
David: Yes. Definitely, and I mean we can develop faster too. We find out all kinds of other side benefits that we weren’t expecting, for example when we test, usually we couldn’t do some tests in dev because of the volume of data and now we can do those tests right there so we can adjust much more quickly rather than having to push production every time. It’s really good.
Dan: So potentially opportunities could come from this?
David: Yes, definitely.
Pawel: I think what’s important to know is if you want to do a strict database migration and go to HANA, you don’t need to do anything in your application layer.
Dan: So BW remains intact?
Dan: So the next day end users will come in and among other things just get a much faster query report or a nightly data load that’s there on time?
Dan: That’s good. From a change management perspective that’s obviously good news.
Dan: So now that we’re here at this event, one of the things that we will be announcing or making some noise about is the launch of and the release of BW 7.4 so Lothar, back to you. The release of 7.4 came out I know late last year but now we’ve seen it start to be slowly adopted into the market. What are some of the key features if you were to summarize some of the top two or three features in 7.4 that are starting to become the particular interest to the customers?
Lothar: So especially with 7.4 on HANA we were again able to address certain topics that have been requested a lot from our customers, and the first thing that I wanted to mention in this context is that we can really provide BW in the role, provide the logical enterprise data warehouse in combination with HANA Smart Data Access and the new field-based modeling capabilities that also Molson Coors was already testing, we also could do a major step here. Second big thing is in the area of simplification. We have unified Eclipse-based modeling tools in BW so no matter whether the according model works in HANA or in BW you will find the same environment for that, and in this context, also important that you really have now with this new composite provider, firsthand that we consolidate the number of info providers that we have and this is also then guaranteeing faster implementation times, the composite provider itself, the unions and the joints are again pushed down to HANA for an excellent execution, and then another third big topic was of course that first of all we could really combine an SQL-oriented warehouse approach with the BW integrated approach. For example by generating automatically HANA analytic views based on info providers, then work with any SQL tool on top of this or push down the SQL procedures or transformations or planning exits down to the HANA works.
Dan: Good. So you both, David and Pawel, you’ve piloted BW 7.4. Is there something in particular you saw of interest, of value in it that you’d like to share?
Pawel: You want to speak?
David: Yeah, sure. We both have things I guess. One thing I really liked is the limitation of 60 characters that got removed.
David: Thank you so much.
Lothar: It’s on the list quite some time.
David: Yes and we’ve been asking for it, but yeah definitely this was really, really helpful because in some scenarios we were really limited. Social media for example, even if a Tweet is small it’s 140 characters. We couldn’t make it quite fit in BW without using some kind of merging or joining or other techniques so now it’s right there native, so, really appreciate it.
Dan: Good, so it’s a happy moment for you. And for you, Pawel?
Pawel: I really like the field-based DSO as it was earlier mentioned, so we don’t have to model every object, every field we want to bring into BI anymore, so we, the development time is, I would say you know, is cut by 50%.
Dan: That’s good, that’s impressive. That’s great. So, I want to end with you, John. If somebody was interested in starting their journey with HANA underneath BW, do you have any words of advice or wisdom in how they should get started, would they bring in you, and you would give some kind of scenario, consulting-based, or would they go to the BW on HANA trial offer, what’s your recommendation?
John: At this point, and I have this conversation with customers over and over, at this point in the HANA journey my advice is just get on with it, really. It’s easy to do, there’s people in the market that know how to do it, don’t let little things get in the way, just get on and do the project, acquire the hardware, acquire the license, and do it. Once you’ve done it, you’ll figure out the value, and from a CIO perspective, they have discretionary funds for these kind of things, you’ll figure out where the value is and where you want to go next, but you have to take a step in the journey. And every single one of my customers that’s taken that step knows what they want to do after that. I have others, and I have some that sit and procrastinate for years trying to figure out the minutiae, the business case or the precise thing that they want to get. And they’re the ones that aren’t getting the value, so, get on with it!
Dan: Get on with it! So, we’ll end on that happy note, and thanks for listening in. For more information on HANA or BW on HANA, please go to www.saphana.com. Thank you very much!