Choices are good. That’s why it’s helpful that SAP offers more than one path forward from today’s heterogeneous SAP landscapes to the future state of S/4HANA. Some companies running SAP may elect to migrate fully from their existing instance right to S/4HANA. Others prefer to take a route known as Suite on HANA migration. This involves moving SAP ECC off of whatever database it runs on and onto SAP HANA. There are pros and cons to this approach, which we will review in this article.
First, Why Does This Even Matter?
Should we be concerned about Suite on HANA migration? Yes. As you have probably heard, SAP will be ending support for ECC in 2025. You will have to be running S/4 HANA by then. You can, of course, migrate directly to S/4 HANA, but that is not optimal for everyone. You will have to do something between then and now, however, and preferably sooner. If you wait until 2024 to make up your mind, your IT department will resemble the toy department on Black Friday. It’s time to start thinking about this.
As an intermediate step, you may want to continue running ECC, but change its underlying database to the SAP HANA platform. Today, you can run SAP ECC with a variety of third-party databases, including Oracle, Microsoft SQL, Sybase and IBM DB2. Support for this architecture will also be ending in 2025.
SAP HANA is a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) like these others, but it is different in two notable ways. It is an in-memory database, which means that all the data it accesses is held in solid state (RAM) memory. This makes SAP HANA far faster than disk-based alternatives. SAP is also a column-based database. This also contributes to better performance, but it has ramifications on the database migration process.
One point to clarify: Industry-wide, migrating ECC to SAP HANA is known as “Suite on HANA.” This is a little bit confusing, because ECC is part of SAP Business Suite. SAP ECC is short for “ERP Central component.” It is the core of SAP Business Suite, which also contains SAP CRM, SAP SRM, SAP SCM and SAP PLM. In any event, the main challenge in migration seems to be moving ECC onto SAP HANA, so perhaps that’s why people refer to ECC on HANA as Suite on HANA.
Comparing SAP ECC on HANA with S/4HANA
Making the choice between Suite on HANA migration and a complete migration to S/4 HANA requires an appreciation for the differences between ECC and S/4HANA. S/4 HANA has a different application layer from ECC. It will only run on the SAP HANA database. In addition, S/4 HANA has a front end developed using the Fiori tools. It’s a three-tier architecture, with Fiori as the presentation tier. Fiori-based user interfaces can be more intuitive and consumer-like than traditional ECC front ends.
Why Suite on HANA?
Taking the differences between ECC and S/4 HANA into consideration, it becomes apparent that implementing S/4 HANA with all of your existing customizations and business rules might amount to a fairly serious project. If you want to defer this work, you can adopt SAP HANA as your database as a first step and save yourself some stress.
Many of our clients have taken this route, treating Suite on HANA migration as the first stage of an S/4HANA migration. In addition to keeping things relatively simple, making Suite on HANA your first step in an eventual S/4 HANA migration offers some immediate benefits, including improved performance. Suite on HANA has demonstrated marked performance benefits over ECC running on traditional RDBMs.
This performance bump comes partly from the in-memory state of HANA. It decreases the overall memory footprint. The column-based structure also contributes to speed by combining Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) and Online Transaction Processing OLTP into one database. OLAP does multidimensional analysis of business data, enabling complex calculations, data modeling and trend analysis. OLTP, which has traditionally been a separate type of software, supports financial transactions, order processing and so forth. Now, all of this happens in one RDBMS, enabling gains in data processing throughput.
Business Suite on HANA could also help with business-oriented internal discussions. The move can demonstrate the value of HANA while controlling costs and minimizing disruption. Improved Return on Investment (ROI) from Suite on HANA emerges from faster reporting, better visibility and improved productivity.
The Suite on HANA Migration Process
One positive thing to note is that the migration to put ECC onto HANA is fully automated. The migration tools are able to convert tables to columns. ERP cluster tables also get de-clustered during the migration process. SAP HANA Studio then lets you choose between column or row tables for custom applications.
Regarding batch processes and dialog processes, SAP offers optimizations with SAP HANA. Some of these are automatically available, e.g. SE16 look-ups. Others must be activated, such as IMG. Others still are only available as innovations, e.g. sFIN , which is available either as add-on for on-premise or as cloud applications in public or private cloud deployments.