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sap hanaSAP HANA is a data platform developed by SAP. At the core of SAP HANA is a relational database, which supports a wide range of Business Intelligence, ERP and other enterprise applications. Unlike earlier, disk-optimized databases, HANA resides in-memory, allowing the CPU to access data directly, instead of looking it up on hard drives.

Nothing has shaken up enterprise IT quite like SAP HANA. Although only initially released in 2010, SAP HANA’s innovative structure and blazing speed have already changed the way companies work with data. HANA hardware doesn’t come cheap; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. SMBs can still experience the benefits of HANA by migrating to an SAP HANA cloud.

What follows is a comprehensive guide to Symmetry’s top SAP HANA and S/4HANA insights that IT leaders need to know. These links allow you to jump to specific sections:

How is SAP HANA Different?

In a traditional Relational Database Management System (RDBMS), data is stored on-disk; if the RDBMS needs to access information, it must first load that data into memory, which is a relatively slow process. With its in-memory database, SAP HANA isn’t limited by the speed of the hard drive. Your ERP data is already in memory, so SAP HANA can read, change or add new data almost instantly. As of September of 2019, version 1809 of S/4HANA has been in release for a year and version 1909 of S/4HANA will be released in the coming weeks. It’s a good moment to look at how SAP HANA works today in contexts like GRC, finance and data analytics.

SAP HANA Database Speed and OLAP/OLTP Benefits

The primary benefit of a properly migrated SAP HANA database is its unparalleled speed and access to data in real time. Its architecture organizes and stores data in columns and in-memory which eliminates data copies, allows for faster loading, and uses less memory.

SAP HANA also benefits by combining OLAP and OLTP databases into one structure. This shrinks the database footprint, removes redundant information, changes index design, simplifies the architecture and allows businesses to analyze nearly any data on the fly.

The combined database dramatically speeds up both Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) tasks like processing orders, and Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) tasks, such as data analysis for reporting. Yet, storing so much information in memory brings a tradeoff in cost, as the hardware required to run SAP HANA is often expensive. An SAP HANA cloud can mitigate hardware costs, allowing businesses to get better ROI on an SAP HANA migration.

Ultimately HANA’s database leads to a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), more data-driven decisions, and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.

A Look at SAP HANA vs. Oracle and Other Traditional Databases

SAP HANA takes on the role of not only a database but also a platform and technology. Its unique speed enables quick access to useful data and Business Intelligence/real-time analytics, which is a significant competitive advantage.

HANA has many benefits that traditional databases like Oracle lack. It is in-memory and column-based (as opposed to traditional databases) increasing overall speed and productivity and boosting reporting and analytical capabilities. In turn, this decreases TCO. As a platform, it also easily integrates with third party applications. Traditional databases, in contrast, offer reduced agility and are less productive.

Therefore, SAP HANA helps transform and streamline businesses to keep up with the changing digital economy. Choosing to migrate can help your business increase productivity, flexibility and lower TCO.

Stream Symmetry’s SAP HANA playlist for more information and insights in an easy to watch video format.

Making the Most of SAP HANA’s Architecture

HANA’s architecture is superior to previous products but to get the most out of it, you need to be clear about why you are migrating. Typically, companies migrate in order to integrate cloud applications like Salesforce and Tableau and most importantly, improve productivity by adding Fiori.

Since switching from a traditional RDBMS to HANA may require a dual-stack split, Unicode conversion, and upgraded version of Business Suite, it is important to evaluate the integration changes involved so that you can leverage all that SAP HANA has to offer. The migration should start with a plan, including a listing all of your assets and objectives for moving to HANA.

Big Data Accessibility Enabled by SAP HANA Vora

SAP HANA Vora offers three primary tools on its main web interface: a data browser, a SQL editor, and a data modeler. Its in-memory processing engine thus runs on Hadoop, which is specifically designed for big data. Vora, ultimately bridges the gap between data stored on HANA and data stored on Hadoop.

Vora offers a wide variety of big data simplifications. It has built-in, standard business functions like currency conversions, easy integration and access to HANA data, faster previewing of data models for analytics, and more.

With SAP HANA being column-based, Hadoop being unstructured, and SQL being row-based, it is recommended to have an SAP Certified team to help with your HANA Vora training and deployment and combining these distinct data structures.

SAP HANA and Hadoop – Understanding the Differences Between Each

SAP HANA and Hadoop are each ideal for different kinds of data. HANA provides fast, real-time access to enterprise data but on the other hand, Hadoop provides inexpensive storage of large amounts of unstructured big data on distributed and clustered hardware.

Given each solution’s benefits, SAP offers two ways to leverage both together: Spark, a tool that combines SQL, streaming, and complex analytics, and SAP HANA Vora, a tool that builds structured data hierarchies for Hadoop data that can be stored in-memory to run quickly like in HANA.

HANA and Hadoop each have their advantages and disadvantages, which makes deploying both in your business a wise strategy to utilize the best of both offerings.

Drive Analytical Insight With SAP HANA Live

Leveraging SAP HANA Live is proven to be a resourceful and effective method for drawing real-time operational reporting and analytics. You can also gain strategic business insights by using SAP Business Warehouse (BW) in conjunction with SAP HANA Live.

Both SAP BW and SAP HANA Live deliver SAP content the same way. However, BW provides historical reporting, while HANA Live provides transactional data reporting. Live utilizes real-time transactional data to interact with flexible, reusable, and native SAP HANA modeling, which used together with BW delivers advanced and strategic business analytics for any organization.

Although SAP BW is still more effective for drawing historical data analysis, HANA Live proves more effective for gaining real-time insights by analyzing operational data. Therefore, it may be advantageous for your business to use both together to gather a variety of valuable analytics.

Comparing SAP Business Suite on HANA vs S/4HANA

S/4HANA is SAP’s next generation business suite. Depending on your business’ needs and existing landscape, the benefits of S/4HANA may or may not be most relevant compared to what Business Suite offers.

S/4HANA has proven especially helpful for businesses in the financial industry due to its financial management and accounting benefits. Designed to use Fiori, it offers more flexibility than Business Suite in analyzing data in real-time and automating various activities. More businesses will likely undertake the complex move to S/4HANA as more functions are added, through which its benefits over Business Suite become more obvious.

Moving to either S/4HANA or Business Suite on HANA is fairly simple, but both require good SAP Basis support.

Top Considerations for HANA on Azure

SAP HANA on Microsoft Azure now supports production workloads and continues to compete with AWS on price and performance. We recommend most organizations use a managed cloud partner, however, due to its stability, performance, agility, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Thus, it is important to consider the top limitations when running SAP HANA on Azure.

Allocating the wrong resource pool and not right-sizing your HANA environment can lead to ineffective systems that lower overall productivity, KPI achievement, and reliability. Likewise, HANA on Azure’s lack of flexibility could poorly affect your ability to deliver.

While Azure can help you reduce costs for non-mission critical applications, it proves less beneficial for core functions like SAP hosting. The Managed SAP HANA Cloud takes care of any risks that Azure may pose, such as configuration, hosting, security and administration, with greater stability.

Three Key Concepts for SAP HANA on AWS

Running SAP HANA on AWS offers flexible, scalable, and affordable hosting for cloud workloads. As more companies shift to cloud services for mission-critical applications due to improved customization, automation, stability, and third-party support, AWS becomes an attractive option.

It’s important to consider three main things when migrating to AWS:

  1. Choose the right partner who can provide proactive maintenance and tuning
  2. Pick a managed services provider (MSP) with broader technical abilities that can adapt to changing needs over having many specialized partners
  3. Have solid infrastructure competency by working with good application performance monitoring capabilities and tools.

Migrating to AWS helps your organization buy infrastructure and can even include multi-cloud options. Taking these considerations in mind, AWS can help positively affect your business performance and costs.

What is SAP HANA Going to Do for My Business?

The speed of SAP HANA creates systemic incremental benefits across your organization. Everything from sales transactions to complex analytical applications run much quicker, boosting customer satisfaction and worker productivity. The speed of an SAP HANA cloud or installation also allows businesses to process data in real time; they can react based on up-to-the-second information, which means better decision making.

Additionally, organizations can perform types of analysis that weren’t feasible on older systems. A complex organization-wide analysis that might have taken hours or days on an older system can usually run in just minutes (or less) on SAP HANA.

SAP HANA Benefits Key Industries

SAP HANA offers a suite of benefits including an in-memory column-based database that improves flexibility, memory, performance, and speed, improved reporting, and real-time analytics. These benefits especially help these three industries change how they analyze data to innovate:

  • Biotech research involves complex logistics and governance needs, so it is vital to control costs. HANA helps free up time to innovate and conduct research, as well as provide solid monitoring and maintenance.
  • Luxury car manufacturing also faces complex and competitive market demands. HANA helps provide the customizability and real-time analytics this industry needs to provide customers the most recent information.
  • The construction industry uses HANA to process large volumes of data, given the range of products, services and customer channels.

Ultimately, businesses in these three industries can leverage SAP HANA to improve data analytics and thus allocate more of their time to making strategic business decisions.

What Hardware Does SAP HANA Require?

SAP provides support for certified SAP HANA hardware. They work with manufacturers to produce equipment that will meet the architectural and performance requirements of the HANA environment. But that’s not the only option.

Choosing the Right Hardware for Hosting SAP HANA

While standard workloads allow you to provision virtual machines flexibly, operating in the cloud and free from hardware, SAP HANA hosting and other high-performance workloads prove more complex and demanding.

HANA hosting in the cloud provides many benefits that virtualization offers, but it is more customized, demands fast access to storage, and requires regular monitoring from the hardware level up through the application level. It also needs regular maintenance and cloud hosting specialists to examine the entire infrastructure stack.

Since HANA cloud is more individualized and has high-performance storage, swapping out hardware parts is not as simple or cheap. That’s why it helps to have a hosting specialist who can provide more insight and support than basic monitoring packages can.

SAP HANA Integration Hardware Costs and Options

There are a variety of hardware costs associated with supporting an SAP HANA solution. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the costs of owning your own hardware versus the benefits of adopting HANA in the cloud.

While organizations might adopt an SAP HANA appliance, specifically designed for heavy HANA processing needs, appliances have an expensive TCO (about $416,323 the first three years). They also fail to provide lasting support since storage, memory, and processing power needs continually evolve over time.

Another alternative, Tailored Datacenter Integration (TDI), may only require organizations to purchase the extra power needed, but the integration with old hardware makes it less reliable and requires quicker hardware replacement.

Given the costs of both appliances and TDI, moving to an enterprise cloud may be advantageous due to its reduced TCO, increased agility and speed, and ease of maintenance.

SAP managed services providers such as Symmetry can offer a third option: the SAP HANA cloud.

An SAP HANA cloud slashes the costs of purchasing, configuring, and running on-premise hardware and decreases the burden on internal IT, allowing them to focus on core business tasks. Companies need to make sure they’re hiring an SAP-certified team; with mission-critical infrastructure; the costs of hiring an under-qualified team far outweigh the savings.

Why You Should Want SAP HANA Certified Professionals

SAP HANA Certification may require an initial investment in time and effort, but the rewards have proven that it’s worth it. HANA Certified professionals support a variety of areas from migrations and implementations, to hosting and continuous monitoring and maintenance. In fact, many careers in HANA now require a minimum level of certification.

There are three types of SAP HANA Certification, with each certification tailored to a specific focus:

  • Development Associate
  • Technology Associate
  • Application Associate

Given that some people have previously become certified for old editions or have SAP experience but are new to HANA, SAP has a specific learning path that will help certificate seekers be prepared. SAP HANA Certification is online, and features live classroom courses and curriculum for a variety of included topics.

What’s New With SAP S/4HANA 1809

SAP announced SAP S/4HANA 1809, the fourth annual release of a major update to the product in late 2018. 1809 succeeds S/4HANA 1709, the previous version. Version 1809 expands on what SAP refers to as the “New Generation of Intelligent ERP,” which is built on a new digital core. The digital core itself comprises four distinctive characteristics:

  • Automation and an architecture for a scalable foundation
  • Real time analytics support—with analytics embedded in processes, e.g. simulation, prediction capabilities and decision support
  • More rapid implementation
  • Support for micro services in an open architecture

SAP S/4HANA Finance Certification

SAP S/4HANA Financial Accounting, also referred to as SAP S/4HANA Finance is a finance suite running on the SAP HANA database platform (previously known as SAP Simple Finance). S/4HANA Finance is simple when compared to the sophisticated Financial Account and Controlling (FI/CO) module in the SAP ERP suite. However, S/4HANA Finance takes advantage of speed inherent in the SAP HANA database and the resulting fast data processing and analytics. SAP Fiori software provides a modern User Experience (UX) for this finance suite.

SAP BW on HANA

Release 1809 is auspicious for SAP BW on HANA. SAP BW is optimized for SAP HANA’s in-memory architecture. SAP BW on HANA increases business analytics performance due to the speed SAP HANA’s in-memory database. Running on ultra-fast solid-state memory, BW on HANA is able to generate reports in hours that once might have taken days with a database running atop Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). In addition to being able to run Business Warehouse (BW) on SAP HANA, it’s possible to run other databases such IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle.

S/4HANA and GRC

Businesses that run SAP are now shifting from SAP for Business to the new S4/HANA platform as well as other new applications that feature Fiori interfaces. These changes may inadvertently expose risks and gaps in compliance, e.g. deficiencies in Segregation of Duties (SoD) in financial transactions. S/4HANA and GRC must be considered together to avoid such compliance problems.

Sarbanes Oxley compliance requires proper SoD execution. It involves separating approval tasks that arise in the process of spending or receiving money. The goal is for no single employee to be able to execute every step of a transaction. This opens the door to fraud, errors and abuse. To mitigate this risk, it is essential to implement Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) controls. We enable this through ControlPanelGRC®, our software solution for GRC. ControlPanelGRC® delivers comprehensive compliance automation for companies that rely on SAP.

Running SAP HANA from a Basis Perspective

As SAP HANA and S/4HANA grow in adoption, our customers are asking about SAP Basis vs. SAP HANA. We compare the roles of an SAP HANA Basis and SAP HANA admin to those of a car mechanic and driver. The car won’t work right if its engine isn’t tuned. Nor will an SAP HANA system work properly, no matter how well it’s configured, without a constant focus on its underlying systemic elements—the purview of the SAP Basis admin.

The Basis admin oversees the performance of the server running SAP HANA. Processes performed by the Basis admin determine the SAP HANA appliances, based on pre-configured ratios of installed RAM, CPUs/cores and disk. The Basis admin also manages connections between SAP HANA and various SAP system elements with which it communicates. These elements are also under the Basis admin’s control.

S/4HANA Migrations Are On The Rise

An S/4HANA migration is more or less mandatory now that SAP ends support for legacy ECC software in 2025. Now is a good time to start thinking in concrete terms about when and how to migrate to S/4HANA. Waiting too long could create risks of a rushed or poorly-executed migration at the last minute.

We work closely with enterprises in migrating SAP environments to S/4HANA in the cloud. We understand the concerns and questions that inevitably arise. To help bring greater transparency to your migration, we developed a free S/4HANA Technical Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Assessment modeling tool. This provides a detailed analysis of an enterprise’s SAP environment. Together we’ll help determine what steps are necessary before considering an S/4HANA migration by:

  • Addressing the total cost of ownership of hosting vs. a technical refresh
  • Providing a recommended overall technical architecture
  • Providing product recommendations
  • Identifying potential product/license consolidation opportunities
  • Providing preliminary S/4HANA migration budget considerations

In short, SAP HANA is the future of the enterprise cloud. If your IT infrastructure is still onsite, SAP HANA is the perfect reason to move to the cloud. An SAP HANA cloud can provide more detailed intelligence, faster transaction processing and better SAP application performance across your organization. Contact us to learn more about the benefits Symmetry’s cloud hosting and IT managed services can bring to your business.

Curtis Gaska - Solution Architect

Curtis Gaska is a solution architect on Symmetry's expert SA team, delivering complete SAP® technical solutions from upgrades to complex landscape implementations. Curtis pairs his sound SAP technical expertise with sales skills to knowledgably advise clients, and prospective clients of Symmetry’s services and product offerings throughout each stage of the sales cycle.

Curtis has a unique ability to deliver technical knowledge to create customs solutions per the client requirements, by not only taking the technical specifications into consideration but also the business drivers particular to that organization in turn creating an optimal SAP environment. This skilled approached includes scoping, planning, and execution of various projects including Migrations/Upgrades/Installs, Hosting and ongoing Managed Services. He also stays abreast of the latest technologies such as road mapping solutions for client’s to leverage SAP HANA® in their current environment to then be hosted in Symmetry’s state-of- the -art Datacenter.