Getting to know BW/4HANA
A wise comic character once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. I recently received the responsibility to research SAP’s next-gen data warehousing product, BW/4HANA, through my company Just-BI. I would like to share with you how I learned more about BW/4HANA and became a member of the Fantastic 5 (you read that right: 5, not 4) in the process.
My first proper introduction to SAP BW/4HANA was its product-release, which I watched online. The event surprised me: it had all the makings of an Apple gathering minus Steve Jobs. There was talk of the future; there was optimism and excitement galore. Even the usually stoic German SAP presenters seemed more energetic than otherwise. I watched a very excited SAP spokesperson with a strong British accent exclaim that BW/4HANA was the next big thing in Data Warehousing. That made me curious: is it that revolutionary? I set out to find out.
The Fantastic 5 Team
Being a junior BI consultant the idea of getting to work closely with several senior consultants on a new product excited me. On the first day of the project we gave a name to our project team: The Fantastic 4. The reason: Our product owner Glenn is a big Marvel fan and our team consisted of 4 people. Also, because we aspired to do fantastically well like the Fantastic 4 comic book franchise (not like the movie franchise, which has received mixed to very negative reviews). There were some striking similarities. Our product owner Glenn is knowledgeable like Mister Fantastic, our Scrum Master, Hassan, has a bouncer-like presence and our team member Anisha can project force fields with her sharp remarks just like Sue Storm. Also, during the project we received a 5th member, our BO expert Shweta, causing us to start a new franchise: the Fantastic 5!
This is what our team looks like:
I’m the guy whose arm is on fire. The real-life resemblance is uncanny.
My first assignment was to find a suitable dataset for our research. After I found 2 suitable and entertaining datasets, we divided the tasks. My task was to check out all the BW/4HANA object types and compare them with the classic BW object types.
All about the ADSO
I had a look at Open ODS Views and HANA CompositeProviders, but I spent most of my time investigating ADSOs. I was pleasantly surprised by the ADSO model templates, which simplify the modeling process. For a detailed read on ADSO functionality, you can have a look at my article here.
ADSO modeling properties, the keyword is flexibility
The first thing that I noticed when I started working with BW/4HANA was the Eclipse layout. Compared to the BW RSA1 transaction in SAP GUI, there’s remarkably less clutter. It would have been even better if they had replaced the old SAP GUI, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. Secondly, I saw that the Graphical Data Flow Modeler has become the central place to model data flows. No more modeling in RSA1!
What’s next with BW/4HANA?
So what did we conclude after all our hard work and research? Alas, we did not make any epic discoveries. For the most part BW/4HANA is functionally the same as in BW 7.5. I would therefore advice customers to hold off investing in BW/4HANA until SAP has released a few feature packs and the product has matured.
However, the future of BW/4HANA looks interesting. On the horizon we can see further integration with the SAP HANA native platform and Hadoop. It will be easier to expose data models to native HANA so that they can be used by SQL-based front-end tools. It will also soon be easier for data scientists to extract large volumes of unstructured data from Hadoop and run their algorithms on them.
Secondly, our BPC consultants will be happy to hear that BPC is planned for the end of the year (although they wished it was here yesterday already). Thirdly, life will also probably become easier for BW administrators as Automated Data Lifecycle support and Web based administration are expected to come in later this year.
Time to Develop
At the beginning of the project I thought I would just be learning about Advanced DSO’s and Graphical Data Flow Modeling. In the end I learned much more, including what it means to be responsible for a PoC project. I feel proud to work at a company where freshly starting consultants such as me can get the opportunity to work with the latest technology. BW/4HANA is full of ambition and promise on the one hand, but still needs time to develop to its full potential. I wouldn’t use the word fantastic just yet. However, I expect BW/4HANA to become better and better as it is SAP’s BW development platform of the future. I look forward to researching it when it does, and getting better myself in the meantime. In the words of Johnny Storm: Flame on!