By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. September 21, 2016
You shouldn’t be ashamed if you missed the introduction of SAP’s BW/4HANA on September 7th. The event hosted in San Francisco by SAP and AWS executives was just blocks away from the iPhone 7 launch extravaganza. Frankly, when you consider the global import of Apple’s scratch-prone Jet Black iPhone 7 and wireless AirPods (both of which appear to have emerged from the Archie McPhee catalog), it was surprising that SAP and AWS were allowed in the same county.
But chances are that BW/4HANA will still be delivering value to SAP and AWS customers long after Jet Black iPhone 7’s and AirPods are replaced by magical new Apple gizmos. That’s part of the long term charm of enterprise-class technology, and why BW/4HANA is worth more attention than it initially received.
Building a next generation data warehouse
In essence, BW/4HANA is a new product replacing SAP’s Business Warehouse (BW) software that is optimized to run on the company’s HANA in-memory database platform. BW/4HANA can run on-premises in HANA appliances, and will also be available as a service running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), with other third-party cloud platforms expected to follow.
SAP called it, “a next-generation data warehouse that will significantly reduce data movement and duplication by analyzing data wherever it resides, whether in data lakes with the SAP HANA Vora engine or in legacy systems within or outside the enterprise.” BW/4HANA “will also integrate live streaming and time-series sensor data collected from Internet of Things environments via (the) smart data streaming … option in SAP HANA.”
At the same time, AWS announced X1 for BW/4HANA which it said will enable companies “to fully realize all the benefits of the SAP HANA in-memory database management system on the AWS cloud. AWS X1 instances:
- Offer 2 TB memory, and are powered by four 2.3 GHz Intel Xeon E7 8880 v3 (Haswell) processors.
- Are certified to scale out deployments of up to 7 nodes or 14 TB of RAM for any OLAP based scenario supported by SAP HANA.
- Offer up to 20 Gbps of network bandwidth and 10 Gbps of dedicated bandwidth to Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) at no additional cost.
- Are certified by SAP to run production environments of the next-generation Business Suite S/4HANA, Business Suite on HANA (SoH), Business Warehouse on HANA (BW), Data Mart Solutions on HANA, and now BW/4HANA on the AWS Cloud.
- Are currently available in US East (Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), EU (Frankfurt), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Singapore), and Asia Pacific (Sydney) regions, with the support in other regions coming soon.
So what’s the big deal?
Good enough, but why should you care about this? For a couple of reasons. Though it certainly isn’t the first appearance of SAP HANA as a cloud service on AWS, the new X1 instance of BW/4HANA significantly extends AWS’ HANA offerings, expanding the number of nodes and total memory capacity clients can employ by 7X. That means that AWS customers can scale certified AWS X1 instances that are larger than many if not most dedicated SAP HANA appliances.
Given the simplicity of engaging AWS and implementing instances on its cloud, the new service is also likely to inspire experiments and project development by a wide range of SAP customers that may have balked at the CAPEX dedicated SAP HANA appliances and systems require. The scalability of the new offering also means that regardless of their size, organizations considering whether to implement or how to get the most out of SAP’s data warehousing solutions have a highly flexible new option to consider.
That said, SAP’s BW/4HANA solution isn’t for everyone. As easy and affordable as AWS has made the process, setting up a business warehouse is never a trivial event and, once enabled they tend to stay that way. As a result, the new service seems likely to resonate initially with current SAP customers though that could change over time, especially if AWS’ X1 instances inspire significant experimentation.
Those points aside, SAP’s and AWS’ complementary BW/4HANA solutions qualify as notable technological and strategic advancements for both companies. The effort should help SAP increase interest in and use of its Data Warehouse solutions and HANA in-memory platform, and aid AWS in expanding its cloud innovations and leadership position. Most importantly, the new cloud services and solutions are likely to measurably benefit commercial organizations and deepen their engagements with SAP and AWS. That should be good for business and good for the evolution of cloud computing.
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