Data Warehouse Cloud – a replacement for SAP Business Warehouse?
Author – David Bradley, Solution Architect, NTT DATA Business Solutions UK
Is BW dead?
I have been working with SAP Business Warehouse (BW) for over 20 years and throughout that time I have often been asked whether ‘this is the end of BW?’ Whether it was the introduction of HANA as a standalone data warehouse or S/4HANA with the power of HANA to drive S/4’s embedded analytics, the ‘is BW dead?’ question would raise itself again. Now with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the question is being asked again.
SAP Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC)
*Source – SAP
So does this mean that existing SAP BW customers or those customers that are currently considering moving to SAP BW, should instead focus solely on DWC? As with most technology decisions, the answer is that it depends on the individual customer’s use case and requirements.
Will there be instances where migrating current solutions to DWC is the answer? Yes indeed, but more often the answer will be hybrid.
*Source – SAP
Hybrid is now becoming the answer to a wide range of analytics decisions and might be seen by some as an option to avoid committing either way, but in the current landscape where more and more solutions are being offered as cloud solutions in addition to the on-premise, hybrid is often the right decision.
Hybrid offers businesses the opportunity to enhance and extend their existing on-premise solutions and investments with cloud-based solutions.
SAP BW/4HANA 2.0 and beyond
With the introduction of SAP BW/4HANA 2.0 in 2019, as SAP’s vision for a modern packaged data warehousing solution, SAP solved a number of the issues that have often been aimed at SAP BW. SAP BW/4HANA 2.0 is:
- High performing
- Able to easily access business applications and modern data sources
- Open to 3rd party applications
For more information on SAP BW/4HANA 2.0 see my previous blog
SAP’s strategy is clear that they see BW/4HANA and DWC working together and this can be seen from the future roadmaps for these products and the Hybrid scenarios outlined in these.
BW itself also has a strong future roadmap, with a ‘BW/4HANA 3.0’ initially mentioned, now identified as ‘BW/4HANA 2021’ on SAP’s Product Availability Matrix.
However, even with SAP BW/4HANA 2.0, we still see business users downloading data into Excel and other 3rd party applications to manipulate this data and combine with other data sources. Often the reasons provided for this include:
- Limited data access
- Lengthy time to value
- Lack of real-time data
- Need to supplement with offline data
Using the Hybrid scenario, existing data warehouses can be extended using SAP Data Warehouse Cloud:
Self-Service BI for Business Users
So the scenario can exist where IT still own and manage the business’s core data, for example from a SAP S/4HANA system, which is loaded to BW/4HANA to provide the corporate reporting. Key users within the line of business functions can then access this core data within DWC via Spaces.
Spaces will be a familiar concept to those of us who have been involved with BW for a while, as BW Workspaces were introduced in BW itself to allow business users to combine additional datasets to existing core IT managed BW data. DWC Spaces are much improved than BW Workspaces and are very intuitive to use.
Data within these core systems can therefore be made available in DWC, either persisted or virtually, and through the use of Spaces and the semantic Business Layer, this data can be accessed by business users. Different Spaces can be utilised to provide different datasets to different functions. Within these Spaces, users can then combine the data with additional data sources to provide the required analytical analysis. DWC can access data from a range of sources, including SAP source (both on-premise and cloud), OData, Microsoft and Oracle.
So you could combine your corporate sales data from the BW/4HANA system with localised weather data uploaded directly into DWC to analyse how the company’s sales are affected by the climate.
Or use DWC for data simulation for cost price or sales price impacts on the components.
The use cases are endless. Whenever users are needing to download data from existing sources to further transform or combine with additional datasets, then DWC could be the solution.
NTT DATA Business Solutions is currently engaged with a customer to implement SAP Data Warehouse Cloud. The customer has a varied data landscape that contains a mixture of SAP and non-SAP systems as well as on-premise and cloud-based solutions. BW is part of their SAP on-premise landscape and this is primarily used as the EDW platform for all on-premise SAP related data and this will remain in place going forward. They are looking to embrace the DWC technology to house and transform all non-SAP related data into a single platform and then merge this data with their BW data to provide a holistic view of their business. They definitely see BW and DWC as being complementary to each other and hence the reason they are implementing a hybrid solution.
Basically, DWC allows you to remove the IT dependency on analysing your enterprise data alongside other data to support your planning and reporting, providing self-service analytics.
BW/4HANA integration into DWC
Currently, DWC can access BW data either through the application layer via the BW queries or directly at the database level. This data can be accessed virtually or imported into DWC.
As part of the SAP Roadmap tighter integration is planned between BW/4HANA and DWC with the transformation of BW data flows into native DWC modelling scenarios, the transfer of BW queries to DWC with semantics and the metadata import to DWC.
SAP Analytics Cloud
As you would expect SAP Data Warehouse Cloud integrates fully with SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), DWC actually comes with SAC embedded within the product, so the data available with SAP Data Warehouse Cloud can easily by visualised within SAP Analytics Cloud. Alternatively, an existing SAC solution can also connect to DWC to complement any existing SAC analytics.
For more information on SAP Analytics Cloud, you can read Tanisha’s blog
So to conclude, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud is not currently a cloud-based replacement for SAP BW/4HANA, but a solution for business functions to get access to and the ability to merge data from various sources from within their organisation and externally, with limited involvement from IT, where both IT and the business users can work collaboratively.
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