Last week, SAP Business Warehouse 7.3. This is just the upbeat for the launch of the next big version of BW which is planned for later this year. This will provide major new features to the existing, more than 20000 active BW installations which make it one of the most widely adopted SAP products. I like to take this opportunity to highlight a few focus areas that shape this new version and that lay out the future direction.
First, let me sift through a notion that many find helpful once they have thought about it, namely EDW = DB + X. This intends to state that an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) sits on top of a (typically relational) database (DB) but requires additional software to manage the data layers inside the data warehouse, the processes incl. scheduling, the models, the mappings, the consistency mechanisms etc. That software – referred to as “X” – can consist of a mix of tools (ETL tool, data modeling tools like ERwin, generated or own programs and scripts, e.g. for extraction, a scheduler, an OLAP engine, …) or it can be a single package like BW. This means that BW is not the database but the software managing the EDW and its underlying semantics.
In BW 7.3, this role becomes more and more apparent which, in turn, is also the basic tint for its future. I believe that this is important to understand as analysts and competitors seem to focus completely on the database when discussing the EDW topic. Gartner’s magic quadrant on DW DBMS as an instance of such an analysis; another is the marketing pitches of DB vendors who have specialized on data warehousing like Teradata, Netezza, Greenplum and the like. By the way: last year, I did describe Comparing SAP BW and an Oracle DW which underlines the significance of “X” in the equation above.
But let’s focus on BW 7.3. From my perspective, there is 3 fundamental investment areas in the new release:
- In-memory: BWA and its underlying technology is leveraged to a much wider extent than previously seen. This eats into the “DB” portion of the equation above. It is now possible to move DSO data directly into BWA, either via a BWA-based infocube (no data persisted on the DB) or via the new hybrid provider whereby the latter automatically pushes data from a DSO into a BWA-based infocube.
More OLAP operations can be pushed down into the BWA engine whenever they operate on data that solely sits in BWA. One important step torwards this is the option to define BWA-based multiproviders (= all participating infoproviders have their data stored in BWA).This also paves the way for write-backoperations in the context of planning.
- Manageability: This affects the “X” portion. Firstly, numerous learnings and mechanisms that have been developed to manage SAP’s Business-by-Design (ByD) software have made it into BW 7.3. Examples are template-based approaches for configuring and managing systems, an improved admin cockpit and fault-tolerant mechanisms around process chains. Secondly, there is a number of management tools that allow to easily model and maintain fundamental artifacts of the DW layers. For example, it is now possible to create a large number of identical DSOs, each one for a different portion of the data (e.g. one DSO per country) with identical data flows. Changes can be submitted to all of them in one go. This allows to create highly parallelizable load scenarios. This has been possible in previous releases only at the expense of huge maintenance efforts. Similarly, there is a new tool which allows graphically model data flows, save them as templates or instantiate them with specific infoproviders. And finally: there is now a new, ABAP-only version of the Planning Modeler. This makes the JAVA stack optional for BW-IP, thus a further option to reduce the TCO.
- Interoperability with SAP Business Objects tools: Now, this refers to the wider environment of the “EDW“. Recent years have seen major investments to improve the interoperability with client tools like WebIntelligence or Xcelsius. Many of those have been provided already in BW 7.01 (=EhP1 of BW 7.0). Still, there are a number of features that required major efforts and overhauls. Most prominently, there is a new source system type in BW 7.3 to easily integrated “data stores” in Data Services with BW. It is now straightforward to tap into Data Services from BW. Consequently, this provides a best-of-breed integration of non-SAP data sources into BW.
This is meant to be a brief and not necessarily exhaustive overview of BW 7.3. A more detailed list of the features can be found SAP Business Warehouse 7.3. Over the course of the next weeks and months the development team will blog on a variety of specific BW 7.3 features. This links can be found SAP BW Developers SDN Blog Series Accompanying the BW 7.3 Ramp-Up Phase.