SAP is planning to release a new major flagship Data Warehouse application BW/4HANA on February 25. A recent webinar unveiled some of the innovations. In this article, Jan van Ansem highlights some of these changes and explains what they mean for customers.
Innovations planned for the first release of BW/4HANA 2.0
Building on BW/4HANA 1.0 improvements
Let’s start with some of the innovations which started in BW/4HANA 1.0 and are now further developed in 2.0. There are lots of features added to the BW/4HANA Web Administration Cockpit, covering tasks such as authorisation management, direct file, data tiering and master data maintenance.
The Eclipse modelling tools have been improved, specifically for workflow modelling, and the analytical engine will be able to push down even more operations (for example the handling of query conditions). The integration with native SQL is somewhat improved: ADSO’s will automatically generate a SQL View, presumably in addition to the option to generate a Calculation View.
The improvements are a natural progression of where we currently are in BW/4HANA 1.0. None of these would rush me into bringing an upgrade forward, but they are certainly nice to have. It is interesting to see that the BW/4HANA team is still further developing Eclipse capabilities. SAP have announced to discontinue HANA Studio, and with project Blueberry in mind (BW/4HANA as a Service) I thought we would see more functions migrating to a web application. Not yet, it seems.
Innovations in BW/4HANA 2.0
If data protection is a challenge for you in Data Warehousing, then you will be pleased to see that BW/4HANA 2.0 comes with two innovations which will potentially help you alleviate the pain. The first innovation is the introduction of a Data Protection Workbench. This enables you to audit where and how personal identifiable information is used. There is also a workbench function to delete data records on demand when required to do so. I believe these features are not a true innovation but rather the mainstreaming of what was rather an obscure function in BW: LOPD logging. This functionality was built to comply with the Spanish Data Protection Law. (LOPD stands for Ley Orgánica de Protección de Datos de Carácter Personal). If you are really interested in the legacy functions then check note 933441. I expect the new Data Protection Workbench is a further incarnation of this, and hopefully richer in functionality, more user-friendly and better documented.
The second innovation to keep in mind when planning your data protection strategy is the integration with HDI (HANA Deployment Infrastructure). Within HDI you can use calculation views with embedded data anonymisation algorithms. Until BW/4HANA 2.0 it was not possible to consume these HDI artefacts directly in the Data Warehouse application. Now you can, and this opens up a lot of opportunities, of which data anonymisation is one. If you are interested in anonymising functions in calculation views then this blog from Andrea Kristen is good starting point.
The next thing to mention is the welcoming back of a feature that had disappeared in BW/4HANA 1.0: Integration with SAP Data Services. A lot of customers were surprised to see that this widely used Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tool could not directly interface with BW/4HANA 1.0. This has now been rectified. Not only that: I expect the interface will be much improved as well. The old ‘hooks’ for interfacing are no longer in place in BW4/HANA (InfoPackages and PSA tables) so my expectation is that the new interface will automatically generate some HANA tables as a staging area. This will be much better performant and much easier to build and maintain. In addition to an SAP Data Services interface there is now also an interface for SAP Cloud Platform Integration (CPI). If you are using 3rd party ETL tool then it is still bad news I’m afraid. You will need to interface at SAP HANA level and then integrate the tables in BW/4HANA. This is technically not different from what I expect the SAP Data Services interface will look like, but it does mean you are moving outside the scope of the BW/4HANA application, so you will need a different license for that.
The last innovation I want to mention in this article is the replacement of Technical Content with new ABAP CDS views. Based on the screenshots I saw it looks like the reports have a fresh look and feel, but I expect the metrics about the usage of the BW/4HANA system will be similar to what they were in the old Technical Content. The big win is that with ABAP CDS views you no longer need to activate and look after a lot of load processes to be able to report on application statistics.
Looking further ahead, what else is on the roadmap?
SAP have planned to bring artificial intelligence to the BW application. This should help with automating simple admin tasks: System health monitoring and prediction of error events, further automation of multi-temperatured data management and other load monitoring and re-load activities. I believe this is the way to go, but at what pace we can see meaningful use of AI for BW management functions remains to be seen.
Probably in the not so distant future, BW/4HANA 2.0 will have capabilities to integrate with SAP Netweaver Process Integration (PI) and deeper integration with SAP Data Hub. Especially the latter – integration with SAP Data Hub, will be something to keep a close eye on. SAP Data Hub is getting mature now and it is easy to see its usefulness in many scenarios. Two-way integration between SAP Data Hub and BW/4HANA, in the form of seamless data integration and shared change management and repository capabilities will make SAP Data Hub an even more attractive tool to manage a complex data landscape.
It seems the BPC add-on will be missing in the initial release of BW/4HANA 2.0. This is a bit of a déjà vu as BW/4HANA 1.0 was also initially released without a BPC add-on. Back then, it did not take SAP long to release the BPC add-on, and I expect this will be the same this time around (BPC 11.1 for BW/4HANA 2.0).
Your journey to BW/4HANA 2.0
BW/4HANA 2.0 and BW 7.5 will both be in mainstream support at least until 31th Dec 2024. For any other BW product versions the mainstream support will end 31st Dec 2020. If you are on an older BW version, should you go BW 7.5 or BW/4HANA 2.0? The migration path to 7.5 is easier (unless you are going greenfield, you will have to go to BW 7.5 first before you can go to BW/4HANA anyway). Up until recently BW/4HANA 1.0 did not have tremendous benefits over BW 7.5. The modelling tools were simplified, data tiering better integrated and some innovations, like the BW/4HANA Web administration cockpit were only available on BW/4HANA.
With BW/4HANA 2.0 there seem to be more significant benefits: Data protection capabilities, SAP Data Hub integration, and improvements in optimisation and user interface. For some companies the lack of support of SAP Data Services was a show-stopper, but this is now no longer the case. On top of this, the innovations on the roadmap look very promising as well. With this in mind, the business case to move from 7.5 to BW/4HANA could look a lot stronger.
References and disclaimer
At the time of writing, BW/4HANA 2.0 is not yet released. The main source I used is can be found in this blog: https://blogs.sap.com/2019/02/05/recap-sap-bw4hana-2.0-webcast-bw4hana-asug-qa/ and/or in the webcast recording (you’ll find the link to the recording in the blog.
SAP is always keen to point out that any information about features of future product versions reflect SAP’s intention at a certain point in time, and actual products and are all subject to change.
I have not mentioned all announced features and changes for BW/4HANA 2.0 but handpicked a few which were of special interest to me. The aforementioned blog and webcast will give you a more complete overview of what is to come.
I describe some features based on how I expect they will be. My expectation is based on some screenshots or comments in the webcast, as well as a personal interpretation, based on my experience. I hope to get my hands on an actual BW/4HANA 2.0 system soon and will then be able to describe more accurately how new features work. For now, I hope you found my take on the BW/4HANA ‘sneak preview’ useful.