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End-to-End Analytics on SAP HANA: Q&A with Arun Narayanan on Predictive Analysis and BI Tools Selection

May 07, 2014

Thank you to everyone who joined in our Q&A on end-to-end analytics and BI tools selection for SAP HANA.

Arun Narayanan and Shyam Avvari of SEAL Consulting joined the chat for the hour and took readers' questions about evaluating SAP HANA from an analytics perspective, BI tools options for HANA, and support for advanced and predictive analytics.

Review the Q&A replay below, and the edited transcript with additional questions that were not addressed during the live chat.


Bridget Kotelly:  Welcome everyone! Thanks for joining us.

Today’s online chat is on SAP HANA from an analytics perspective: How is BI tools selection affected by HANA? What will SAP Predictive Analytics bring to your HANA implementation? And what are your options with native HANA or HANA Cloud?

Arun Narayanan and Shyam Avvari of SEAL Consulting will be joining us and taking your questions. Arun is Enterprise Data Architect/Strategist and Practice Director, and Shyam is Enterprise Solution Architect/Strategist and Vice President - Delivery & Solutions.  Welcome, Arun and Shyam, and thanks for taking reader questions today!

Arun Narayanan: Thanks, Bridget, and welcome all...

Shyam Avvari: Thanks, Bridget, and glad to be on the chat.

Bridget Kotelly: Looks like you have plenty of questions coming in and we'll let you get to those now!

Comment From Rene Guncay: Would it be possible to migrate current queries to SAP HANA or is there a need to redefine queries for SAP HANA?

Arun Narayanan: Thanks for the question Rene . By migrating queries I believe you are talking about BW queries? If you are going with BW on HANA, there is no need for any migration.

Comment From Guest: Thanks Arun, indeed I was referring to BW queries.

Comment From Juan ALcalde: Can I consume data in SAP BW Workspaces (BW on Hana) using SAP Explorer?

Arun Narayanan: There is not a direct way to Consumer BW workspaces, you can go through Universe layer or when you have the HANA views established, you can connect Explorer to either Universe or HANA.


Comment From Guest: I have heard that Dashboards are going to go away and merge with Design Studio by late 2015 - is that true?

Arun Narayanan: This is more of a SAP roadmap question. But based on my discussion with SAP, Dashboards will stay. But if you are looking at building multidimensional scalable dashboards, it is better to use Design Studio. These can be converted into Apps for Mobile integration. But if you have invested in Dashboards and it is working well in terms of performance and it meets your needs in terms of scalability, etc., you can use the dashboards


Comment From Guest: To run BPC on HANA, is BW on HANA required?

Shyam Avvari: Yes, BW on HANA is required to run BPC on HANA.


Comment From John: Is there one place where I can find all the BI tools for SAP HANA and the use case for using it?

Arun Narayanan: There are lot of roadmap related article links available in SAP forums. They talk about features and functionality. If you are looking for anything specific, drop me an email, and I will send across the details.   

Comment From Guest: Is there any difference in how a sidecar implementation uses BOBJ tools?

Shyam Avvari: No, there is no difference in how the BusinessObjects tools are used in a sidecar implementation.


Comment From Elfy: With the number of BI tools available, what criteria should we use to determine the correct tool to use?

Arun Narayanan: We usually recommend preparing a Reporting/Analytics Matrix tool where you list the features the business users require, the tools you have already invested in and the tools you are planning to buy. Again this can be both SAP and non-SAP tools. That will be a good starting point...and it gives a clear understanding in terms of gaps you need to address.


Comment From Robert: Do you have any advice for where on the BI maturity curve an org should be when moving to HANA? We are relatively immature, but want to accelerate maturity, so not sure if HANA is the key here?

Arun Narayanan: I wouldn't suggest moving on to HANA is a must. There should be a strong use case to move to HANA. There are both business benefits and technical benefits...

Let’s talk about the typical business benefits:  self-service to all information, reporting requests met on time, superior and faster decision making.

From an IT point of view, quite obvious benefits are meeting your SLA with faster data loading, modeling flexibility, and ability to address real time data needs


Comment From Ann: When do you typically create a universe instead of a calculation view and such through hana?

Arun Narayanan: Few key factors are:

1. Check If all the data is residing in HANA - For instance if it is explorer you can directly go after HANA views.

2. What are the BI tools you are using to visualize the data?  The BI universe becomes a common semantic layer and it can be consumed by multiple tools.


Comment From Miguel: Will SAP HANA replace BW in the long-run?

Shyam Avvari: Based on our discussions with SAP, we don't see SAP HANA replacing BW either in the near future or in the long run. In fact, our understanding is that SAP is investing more in BW to make the best use of HANA DB.


Comment From Robert: What is the BI tool most new SAP HANA customers work with, to get used to it?

Arun Narayanan: Most customers are comfortable with BusinessObjects, so it is Webi and Explorer for a tight integration with HANA.

Now with Lumira being introduced, customers are considering that. But I would still say BusinessObjects Webi and Explorer as the go-to tools for quick adoption. 


Comment From Juan ALcalde: Hadoop and HANA: Are they completely independent technologies or is there room for integration?

Arun Narayanan: Hadoop and HANA are independent technologies but can very well be integrated. In fact, our guys have done a case study on HANA + Hadoop + Predictive analytics. HANA is a great place to store high-value, often used data, and Hadoop is a great place to persist information for archival and retrieval in new ways - especially information which you don't want to structure in advance, like web logs or other large information sources. Holding this stuff in an in-memory database has relatively little value.


Comment From Guest: Can Tableau be used with SAP HANA?

Shyam Avvari: Yes, Tableau can be used with SAP HANA


Comment From Esteban: We are a smaller company looking to benchmark HANA for BI. Any suggestions on other SMBs that have done it?

Arun Narayanan: We always suggest having a strong use case for HANA, where in you can clearly track the ROI. Based on our experience the use cases we have dealt with vary  across multiple areas

1. To address business process challenges like inventory, pricing, Bill of material or month end closing process, profitability analysis etc.

 2. On the other end there is clear pressing demand to have real time analytics and ensuring SLA's are being met. Hence it is very critical to establish the use case. If there is anything particular let us know we can help you. You can reach out to me here.


Comment From Steve: Does SAP HANA come with any out-of-the-box BI tools?

Arun Narayanan: Within HANA there is data preview, where you can do various analysis. I wouldn't recommend exposing that for business users, but most customers talk to their  SAP contact about getting this bundled. I am sure it is worth checking with SAP. Also if you are doing POC's use analysis for Office, that doesn't need your BW or BOBJ environment to be up and running..


Comment From Michael COCQUEREL: SAP is promoting Business Suite on HANA with the advantage that it allows combining OLAP and OLTP in one unique system and so, reduces TCO.
As far as I have understood, the HANA Live component can be combined together with Business Suite components (ERP, CRM,SRM,…) but not SAP BW, which still requires a separated HANA system.
I also understood that “HANA Live” and “BW on HANA” are complementary products but none of them is supposed to replace the other one: “HANA Live” is more dedicated to Operational reporting while “BW on HANA” is more focus on strategic reporting.

The split between operation and strategic reporting is not so clear to me. I have the feeling that, whatever the report, it could be technically achieved on both products.

So, I wonder if it really makes sense to migrate BW on HANA instead of migrating the business suites backend to HANA, and use HANA Live for all reports together with the BO frontend. What is your point of view on the subject?

Shyam Avvari: The question has to be looked at from four different dimensions - Reporting, Advanced planning applications, Process related improvements and Integration with third-party systems.

If it's just about reporting, you can go with BW on HANA.

If you want to couple process improvements with reporting improvement, HANA Live on top on Suite on HANA would be more useful or appropriate.

Again, the other two factors - like usage of advanced planning applications or integration with other external systems / third-party applications - would have to be considered before deciding on whether one or the other is better.


Comment From Padma: Hi Arun, How are you? I am not sure if this question is relevant here as we are talking about reporting, but I wanted to understand on the basic concept.

What is importance of provisiong when we have BW on HANA and loading is done using DTPs into BW? Won’t the data be available in HANA when we load using regular BW loads? Thanks.

Arun Narayanan: You can go ahead with standard extractors and leave the set up as is for BW on HANA, you will still benefit with faster data loads, and flexible data modeling. SLT and Data Provisioning comes into the picture when you need real-time data, and you want the tables to be replicated immediately after certain business process. For instance, you need real-time inventory, and you want some information from MSEG & MBEW, then it is better to get those tables replicated using SLT.


Comment From Frank: If we have a small amount of HANA (not enough to put our entire BW on) is there an architecture that can support BW 7.3 NetWeaver (on Oracle) combined with BWA, SAP 4.0 Business Objects Enterprise and the small amount of HANA for BW? We want to do this rather than setting up a separate new BW instance to join with the small amount of HANA.

Arun Narayanan: You can go ahead with Native HANA option and replicate relevant BW objects like DSO's to HANA. Again I have not seen someone doing this in production environment, but I have seen that this option is being tried out.


Comment From Elfy: Does SAP have a BI tools selection matrix that we can use as a starting point for tool selection?

Arun Narayanan: Since there are lot changes in tools and connection, I have not seen any standard SAP BI tool matrix. We have designed a matrix for a  few of our customers.


Comment From Alex: (This is a bit off topic.) We use BW and the SAP Portal (no BOBJ). Our users use the portal to run and access queryies. We have different roles in the portal. With the implementation of HANA will we have to redefine our roles with in the HANA system?

Arun Narayanan: You should take a look at the user management option within the portal. The HANA security model is different, but it should work similarly to the way BOBJ users are mapped to HANA user IDs.


Comment From Junaid: What is your opinion on Tableau and Qlikview for consuming HANA models? Is there any clear value proposition over SAP BI tools?

Arun Narayanan: There are few customers who have gone through this path in terms of using Tableau and Qlikview. SAP introduced Visual Intelligence (now Lumira) a few years back, which pretty much have similar features and functionality. I have heard that a few customers had some challenges implementing authorization model when integrating HANA with non-SAP front ends.


Comment From Kumar: What are the considerations for implementing HANA on the Cloud as opposed to HANA-on-premise? Can you point out a few salient ones? Thanks.

Arun Narayanan: HANA on cloud is a wide term, we need to check which solution you are looking at. For instance we can have Suite on HANA (on Cloud), BW on HANA (on Cloud), Native HANA (on Cloud).

I have worked with few of our customers who have moved to Cloud for BW on HANA and they are very happy with the option. And Suite on HANA (on Cloud) is a recent set up.  SAP has recently announced Suite on HANA (on Cloud) for Production environment.

Points to Consider for Cloud/On Premise Options:

1. For POC/sidecar approach - It is best suited for On Cloud option. Investment is low and you can prove your use case and you can let go or reuse the system without too much of investment.

2. Established cloud partner - There are very few established partners for HANA on cloud, make sure you pick up someone with experience in this space.  Do let me know if you need any further information, we have partnered with someone who specialize in this area.

3. Cloud services options - Apart from the infrastructure and system, there are lot of options such as backup, security, administration services available. And these needs vary from organization to organization, so check out how you can minimize the cost and maximize your ROI for cloud. We have suggested hybrid models for some of our customers, and it works well.

4. Overall roadmap - We should ensure that the overall roadmap within your organization is taken into consideration. For instance, if your ECC/CRM/SCM is going to on-premise and only HANA is going to be on cloud, where do you want to host the SLT servers?  Also, certain questions like the going -forward strategy on moving the transaction systems on to the cloud, etc., have to be answered. My advice is "Start small and grow big. " You should see incremental benefits.


Comment From Stuart: We are also moving up the BI maturity curve and have a number of data marts (including BW) in play, and we are looking at our strategic next steps. So could you expand a little on the business benefits of going to HANA and the analytical tools it would enable?

Arun Narayanan:   Before jumping onto HANA bandwagon, it is very critical to establish the HANA use case. As mentioned earlier, each organization has a business problem to solve that justifies the investment. Just talking about volume of data and performance doesn't directly justify the investment.

I am not sure as to the industry your organization is aligned with, but there are lot of use cases defined across industries. You can take a look at the following link to get a few pointers.

From an Analytics perspective, some of the key aspects where you can help your business users/power users include:

1. Real-time data

2. Ad hoc query on a larger data set

3. Operational reporting and integrating with UI5 (HANA Live)

4. Leveraging existing tools (Business Objects toolset) and integrating with HANA

5. Enabling Advanced Analytics (predictive analytics) with pre-built algorithms within HANA (Association, Cluster, Regression, etc.)

Comment From Ann: When using Explorer, does it automatically rearrange the facets, left to right, based on most common to least?  Or is there any method we can use to rearrange them?

Arun Narayanan:   If you have access to manage infospaces, you can edit the infospaces. There are options to rearrange the infospaces. Even for time dimension- specific facets, you have detailed sorting options.

Do let me know if there is any specific question. You can reach me at

Comment From Guest: We use Cognos reporting tools and have invested in BW on HANA. Any limitation/disadvantages to using Cognos as opposed to BOBJ?

Arun Narayanan:  To my knowledge Cognos is still not a certified front end for SAP HANA, but I have seen a few forum discussions where in IBM is planning to get Cognos certified for HANA.

Having said that, HANA supports JDBC- and ODBC-based connection. Also ensure that the HANA client is installed for these connections to work.

 There are few areas you need to watch out for:

1. HANA Version Upgrades and Cognos Upgrades compatibility check

2. Authorization/Single Sign on between Cognos and HANA

3. Feature check list between Cognos and BOBJ - There is no perfect tool, you just want to check there is no critical feature that your business users want and that is not available in Cognos tool set.

Comment From Juan Alcalde: Can I create the HANA view based on a composite provider created in BW workspace with local data and central data?

Arun Narayanan:  I have not come across a requirement where in you need to create a HANA view to combine BW Composite Provider & HANA tables.

But here is what you can try: You can convert the HANA View to transient provider and use the Composite provider to connect BW data with HANA view.

In this case, the HANA view can be an Analytic Index/Transient Provider based on a HANA model. 

Comment From Guest: Will it become possible to use the BI4.x Front Tools to call data from BPC, make andvanced predictions & forecasts, and write the predicted plan data / results back to the BPC InfoCube again? All by using a single BI4 front tool?

Arun Narayanan:  It is possible; I would need more details to see how exactly this can be done.  But to answer your question, here is one of the options:

1. You can move the BPC planning data to HANA (I believe you have BW on HANA, so data will reside in HANA).

2. You can use Predictive Analytics related Libraries (AFL/PAL).

3. You can call the stroed procedures based on the planning table inputs and algorithm based input/parameter/output tables.

4. Using BPC, you can read the tables and view the predicted data and then business users can view and change the data and repost it back to planning related structures.

Let me know if you can provide any example or a specific scenario and we can guide you through the process.

Comment From Guest: What analytics can be run on HANA cloud?

Arun Narayanan:  Any analytics can be run on cloud. It varies based on the setup you choose; you need to determine datasources and the front end tools you want to use and where they are hosted. That will be a good starting point.

Currently as a front end tool Lumira is a cloud-based offering from SAP. But we can take your whole BI space on cloud using different options (for instance, exposing only the business objects launch pad on cloud, without installing any client tool, is possible).

Comment From Guest: What are best tools options for creating executive dashboards with HANA data?

Arun Narayanan:  Business Objects Dashboard (formerly known as Xcelsius) is a good executive dashboard tool. I would recommend you to continue using that, unless you see any major shortcoming.

Moving forward, Business Objects Design studio is positioned as the tool to create multi-dimensional dashboard and data visualization tool that can be converted into mobile analytics apps. It can also integrate well with BEx Queries, Infocubes and SAP HANA views.

Comment From Guest: SAP HANA or SAP BW?

Arun Narayanan:  I guess your question is SAP BW on HANA or SAP Suite on HANA.  This is not a straightforward answer, since the functionality across BW and ECC varies. Each product is positioned for different purpose and to address different business problem.  It will be helpful if you can provide some background information so we can answer your question better.  You can email me your scenario.

Comment From Guest: Any plans by SAP HANA to integrate with ORACLE BI SUITE to enable finer cost / schedule analyses / reporting?
Arun Narayanan:  
HANA does support heterogeneous data sources like Oracle, Teradata, etc. With smart data access, data from these Oracle systems need not be provisioned in HANA before it’s accessed by a query in SAP HANA. The data can physically remain in its datastore, more like a virtual table.

From front-end tool set point of view, I have not seen any documentation that Oracle is a certified partner. But you should try installing HANA client, connect the HANA views via JDBC or ODBC connectors.

Comment From Veronique: Hello, we are going to migrate our BW environment to HANA and are wondering if we should go for the backend to BW 7.3 or BW 7.4, and what to use for our reporting environment (BOXIR3 or BI4), knowing that our current landscape is BW 7.1 with BEx Analyzer on the top and with some BOXIR3 Web Intelligence reports. Our aim is to unify the reporting layer (use only SAP BO tools , starting with Analysis for office and Web Intelligence).

Arun Narayanan:  Regarding BW 7.3 VS 7.4, I would suggest to go with BW 7.4 since there are more HANA-specific functionalities available (integration with BPC, new modeling editors, support for advanced analytics using PAL, AFL) in this version. Having said that, BW 7.4 has just been released whereas BW 7.3 is the well established version now.

Regarding BW XIR3 VS BI4, I would recommend BI 4. There are lot of new features, such as support for multi-source datasources within the Universe layer, Universe access to MOLAP, Universe direct access by the

Dashboard (Xcelsius), LCM integration, CMC monitoring of servers and thresholds, to name a few.

Comment From Guest: Will anything change with how we set up and use BOBJ Explorer reporting with HANA (other than, presumably, speed)?

Other than reporting speed, any big changes that we'll have to prepare for with BI tools with HANA?

How will BI tools work differently with  native HANA implementation (vs. BW on HANA or Suite on HANA)?

Arun Narayanan:   Let me split my answer into 3 parts.

BOBJ Explorer with HANA - There are options to go via Universe layer (connecting to HANA views) or directly you can go after HANA views for creating/managing infospaces. Both options have few advantages and disadvantages; you would want to take a look at this.

BI Tools with HANA - There are too many options related to BI Tools. For instance for executive dashboards there are two tools (Dashboards, Design Studio);  for mobility you can use SAP standard apps (Explorer, BOBJ Mobile app) or create your own custom apps. The way you want to handle authorization across these tools varies. Above all it is important to decide on the tool matrix --  which tool will be used when. I would strongly recommend having a reporting governance/operating manual to ensure the right tools are adopted based on your roadmap definitions.

BI Tools with Native HANA/Suite on HANA/BW on HANA - Whether you have SOH, BW on HANA or Native HANA you will be able to keep the reporting layer and front end tools common across these products. From a BI point of view, HANA acts as a data layer.

With BW on HANA, most of the customers do not change the front end layer, unless there is a compelling need. You can continue using BEx Analyzer.

Similarly with Suite on HANA, you can use HANA Live for Operational reporting and views can be enabled on Ui5 for better Mobile integration.

Your reporting strategy/roadmap will be the key to tie these datasources based on the investments you have made and to ensure you leverage your existing infrastructure. 


Bridget Kotelly: Thanks again, everyone, for joining us and for all your great questions!

And thanks again to Arun Narayanan and Shyam Avvari of SEAL Consulting for joining us today - and taking some time out for the Q&A! Thank you both!


Shyam Avvari: Thanks, Bridget, and thanks all. Thanks for asking some interesting questions and we will put in our best efforts to answer all the questions shortly.


Arun Narayanan:  Thanks, Bridget, for moderating the session today.

I would like to thank everyone for attending the session today, lots of interesting questions. I hope our answers were helpful. Some of the scenario specific question need a follow up. I would encourage to drop in an email to us at or

If you are planning to attend SAPPHIRE, we can schedule a meeting for an in-person conversation and we can walk you through few demos. (Booth # 331 at SAPPHIRE NOW 2014). You can schedule the meeting directly  here.

SAPinsider Online: Thanks again to everyone who joined us - and for all the great questions! We'll be posting the transcript shortly here on the Q&A page, including responses to questions that were not answered during the live chat.  




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