IT Infrastructure and Analytics

BW/4 HANA – First Impressions on SAP’s Latest BW Product

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Let’s discuss SAP’s BW/4 HANA, the latest offering in the HANA roadmap for our customers. Here’s my perspective on the reasons behind creating the product and impacts this solution has for you as the customer with a roadmap outline of how to eventually move to BW/4 HANA.

What is BW/4 HANA?

SAP BW/4 HANA is SAP’s next generation logical data warehouse (LDW) solution. It is an evolution of SAP BW on HANA (aka SAP BW powered by HANA) that is completely optimized and tailored to run only on the SAP HANA platform. It is designed to be a simplified, high-performance, open platform for historic and legacy enterprise data. BW/4 HANA is “cloud-first”, it is available in the AWS cloud and for download as an on-premises or managed cloud (HEC, Virtustream, IBM Softlayer etc.) edition.

What is the motivation for SAP to create BW/4 HANA?

Until 2011, all of us have heard the term “SAP BW” and heard client pains around the performance issues, data integration issues to name a few. SAP introduced a high performance “columnar” database called HANA and immediately we saw some satisfactory results within the client community. Post 2011-2012, we have many clients migrating BW to HANA DB, referred as “SAP BW on HANA,”but even after migrating to HANA, we heard pains from the clients around data structures are too complex to maintain, data foot print is not reducing hence HANA investment is becoming costly to name a few.

To address these pain points, SAP took a first step towards simplification with the announcement of SAP BW 7.5 powered by HANA and subsequently taking it a further leap in 2016 with advanced capabilities running completely on HANA platform as an open data warehousing solution.

Here are some key highlights of the next generation Logical Data Warehousing:


  • Simplified Data structures (Modelling objects reduced from 10 to 4)
  • Superior control of Data latency and higher virtualization
  • Simplified Data life cycle management with advanced multi temperature management
  • Reduced development efforts with more Agile data warehousing solution


  • Open Data warehouse development
  • Support of external structured and unstructured data
  • Simplified data integration of non-SAP sources


What is the impact to customer base?

There is no immediate impact to the existing customers nor mandated to move to BW/4 HANA. However, with appropriate impact analysis and a business use case customers can identify the opportunity to move to BW/4 HANA. For new customers, choice must be SAP BW/4 HANA.

Customer running SAP BW on any DB (Oracle, DB2 etc.)

First thing firsts, whether BW/4 HANA shift is required or not migrating current version of SAP BW to SAP BW 7.5 sp4 on HANA is highly recommended. Once the migration is complete analyze if you have very large number of old (and soon may be obsolete) object types exist in the system. If yes, it is worth migrating to BW/4 HANA to leverage the “conversion tools” for converting old object types to new object types. With this conversion, you will reduce the data latency and increase the data virtualization thus reducing the overall warehouse data footprint.

Customer running SAP BW on HANA

For current BW on HANA customers it is very important to do the system performance analysis before deciding to move to BW/4 HANA. If you have already applied LSA++ (Layered Scalable Architecture ++) concepts there may not be an immediate need to move to BW/4 HANA. With LSA++ customers have seen the benefits of reduced data footprint. Hence for this customer base the motivation to move to BW/4 HANA is to leverage openness with BW/4 HANA for Big data integration.

New customers (Greenfield Implementation): Start the data warehousing journey with the next generation logical data warehouse, SAP BW/4 HANA


What is the transformation/upgrade path to move to BW/4 HANA?

There are three recommended ways to transform your existing SAP BW to BW/4 HANA

  1. Migration: For existing SAP BW customers
  2. New Implementation for existing customers: Install a fresh BW/4 HANA system and transport the objects from old BW (on any DB) to BW/4 HANA system
    • On any DB -> Migrate to SAP BW 7.5 sp4 on HANA -> Install Add on to BW/4 HANA -> Convert the old object types to new
    • On HANA (<BW7.5 sp4) -> Upgrade to BW 7.5 sp4 -> Install Add on to BW/4 HANA -> Convert the old object types to new
  3. Landscape simplification: If in the client landscape, there are more than one BW systems exist (regional BW systems) -> Install fresh BW/4 HANA -> Selective Data migration from regional BW systems to BW/4 HANA system


It’s recommended that clients take a closer look at the existing SAP BW system and compare it with what BW/4 HANA offers in terms of simplicity, openness, and high performance. Strategize what is your Data warehousing need and growth going forward; ensure whether the current data warehousing solution can sustain for the next 5 years with the same and/or reduced total cost of ownership. After such impact analysis, the road map will be clear and answer lies within the analysis.

Contact Us:

IBM’s SAP Business Analytics Practice is the largest and most experienced group of SAP HANA resources among consulting firms. IBM provides the following capabilities:

  • Reference Architecture Assessment
  • Readiness for BW on HANA assessment
  • HANA Big Data Integration readiness assessment
  • Readiness for LSA++ conversion assessment
  • Offerings for HANA Migrations and LSA++ conversion

Additionally, IBM provides end-to-end capabilities from cloud to advance industry solutions along with cognitive capabilities.

Have a question? Leave a comment below or email us here.

NA, SAP Business Analytics COE - Enterprise Analytics Competency Leader

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