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Author's profile photo Ram Batulla

POV: HANA’s impact on ABAP Programming


What is HANA?

HANA (High performance Analytical Appliance) is a new In-Memory data management appliance released by SAP which is more of separate plug-in (Software & Hardware) for faster analytical activities. This application allows processing of massive quantities of real time data in the main memory of the server to provide immediate results for analysis.

HANA is a pre-configured analytic appliance. SAP’s hardware partners provide the hardware  and pre-install the SAP in-memory solution on that hardware.

How does it work?

Data is replicated from SAP or Non-SAP sources into HANA. For SAP Business Suite, there is a Replication Server & Agent that come along with HANA to transmit the data. For Non-SAP, Business Objects DATA Services tool can be used to replicate the data into HANA.

HANA has a Row store and Column Store for storing the data in relation and columnar format respectively. Columnar database is proven concept for high performance analytics. Introduction of calculation and aggregation engine at the database level is a huge advance in processing.

SQL and MDX processors are responsible for parsing SQL and MDX query requests and processing them.

HANA currently supports few clients like BO Explorer, Microsoft excel etc.

SAP HANA Studio is front-end which facilitates Data Modelling and administration. 

Does HANA support ABAP Programming?

HANA 1.0 doesn’t support ABAP. It supports few clients like SAP BWA (BW Accelerator), Microsoft Excel, SAP Business Object Analysis, MS Edition for Office. HANA 1.5 will support ABAP Programming/reporting which would mean that ABAP developers can write code to read/modify data in HANA Appliance.


Will HANA impact ABAP Programming style?

Traditional ABAP Programming style is more inclined towards reducing the load on Database and shifting the processing to Application server. This is more to do with Data Storage models and SAP 3-tier system architecture provided another layer for data processing. This restricted ABAP developers to confine to the concept of “pulling required data to Application server and processing data in App Server” and along came the complexities of buffering.

With the introduction of HANA, data is available in volatile memory so data can be retrieved and processed in same “memory”. At first thought, this gives a feeling that ABAP OpenSQL Programming style should be changed and some of the “banned” OpenSQL statements like ‘Order By’ etc should come back in to use. Well, Hold on!! Let’s not jump into conclusions, let’s analyze some specific scenarios from HANA perspective and decide on this – 


  • Scenario-1: There is a database table with 50 records in it and you wish to read the table 1000 times for values based on field F1.
    • Non-HANA: Since the database table is relatively small in size, make a copy of the table in your program and then read the desired record as and when required.
    • With HANA: Read data from database table as and when required and process it. Remember, with HANA query and data processing is happening at the same place!!!


  • Scenario-2: Let’s consider opposite scenario to Scenario-1. There is a database table with 10000 records in it and you wish to read the table 100 times for the values based on field F1.
    • Non-HANA: Since the database table is very large, it’s better to use SELECT SINGLE than porting the entire table into an internal table.
    • With HANA: Same as in Non-HANA read data from database table as and when required and process it. The only advantage here is there is no network traffic with every query as query and data processing is happening at the same place!!!


  • Scenario-3: Joins Vs Nested Select statements
    • Non-HANA: Join is the most preferred way to fetch data from two tables instead of nested select statement. No second thoughts about it from OpenSQL perspective.
    • With HANA: Join has its own advantages and Nested select has its own advantages from Relational database perspective. With HANA, the decision to use Join Vs Nested select statement depends on further requirements. If any intermediate processing has to be done, nested select is better than join.


  • Scenario-4: Optimize the cost of database searches
    • HANA or No-HANA, the cost of database search should always be optimized and concept of index is extremely important


  • Scenario-5: Table buffering
    • SAP provides buffering facility to increase performance. Since buffers reside in Application server it takes considerably less time to read data locally than reading it from database.
    • With HANA, no additional table buffering is required as all the database resides in volatile memory.


  • Scenario-6: ABAP Sort Vs Order by clause
    • Non-HANA: Optimized solution is to use ABAP Sort and reduce load on Database server
    • With HANA: It really doesn’t matter. Both the statements should be equally good or bad.



After analyzing some of the basic programming scenarios, programming with HANA seems to be a complete different world that ABAP developers should watch out for. While the database programming best practices still hold, developers will have the flexibility to utilize data processing statements which were considered expensive without HANA. Another completely new dimension to ABAP Programming will be columnar database concept which is also a part of HANA appliance.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Judging by the title, guess you really seem to have a greater affection to ABAP? Its a great skillset, indeed. This, i'm just writing in some tidbits & pieces from various blogs/tweets, some views etc... HANA is compatible with any BI (business intelligence) application that supports common query languages like SQL and MDX, ideally the very purpose this was designed is to eliminate middle layer necessity. There was an interview by Oliver Bussman, SAP CIO, Meenakshisundaram, where they had mentioned reg heavy resource drain on the system; His idea was 'It’s not a big skill set problem, You don’t really need to learn about SQL'. The point he wanted to make is when apps run on cloud, there's lesser customization of erp core tenants. 2add a few points too... HANA's aim is to churn the core functionality of ERP & adapt to itself, esp referring to the DBSL library that becomes available to support BW & other ABAP AS based applications to run on next version of HANA. But, its more constraining.... Isn't it? Like for example, in comparision to the #bydesign sdk, its more similar; but would force developers to re-think & have a different outlook on its 'extensions' only & not touch the core source. (the byd 2.5 sdk was more tunic, if you know a bit of c#, you'd need to have an outlook entirely towards buildling customization from scratch rather than thinking in lines of existing routines/methods/enhancements etc) Well, a it's not a complete kool-aid, the process in it is... What SAP promised in HANA is, the need for writing the so-complex  currency conversions, routines, wherein programming challenges is very minimal. (Hope its best to use some REST APIs; but they musn't be depriciated with new releases though..) The point is existing applications written in ABAP are now replaced with its advent; which now would be replacing data warehouses and speeding queries. What I guess is without 'external services', the new application breeds cannot entirely rely on 'massive data consumption' out of SAP systems; the reason I wish to highlight is because, I assume from all buzz/hype, the SAP's strategy is moving & evolving towards on- demand/cloud. Flipside: SAP partners need to be answering the grudging customer calls & compling on the multi-year contract customer migrations to the core. I just took this excerpt from a blog : 'I don’t want 20 years of ABAP carried forward into new technology. It’s just not feasible to deliver breakthrough performance and cost savings,' said Dr. Plattner. Stirred by the growing popularity of eco-systems of amazon, apple, google, etc, SAP is rapidly aiming to move on app model, which makes "you don’t need to write them in ABAP with HANA" thing, albeit with some scepticism. So, where's GATEWAY? Indeed we are too unsettled with the questions revolving around ABAP/Java : ) W.reg to You're pov on "For Non-SAP, Business Objects DATA Services tool can be used to replicate the data into HANA." : its correct changes are replicated, but rep-agent in sybase is for async replication b/n heterogenous sources only right? We must have a biz content in cases such as this.... as the changes are captured at DB level; and BizObjs must 'understand' the DB schemas involved. Just a set my povs.... Typos regretted... Nice blog.. Keep posting!
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      "you don’t need to write them in ABAP with HANA"

      This is the main point. E.g. in BW there are hundreds of ABAP lines to activate data in a DSO. SAP will try to replace them by a DB stored proc.

      And that's where the whole uncertainty comes into place. You will probably be able to slightly adjust your SELECT statements and internal tables to get some advantages out of HANA. But I'm doing a lot of very complex programming on BW-IP planning functions and complex ABAPs in transformations. Just the effort to fetch the data to the application layer and put it back to the DB layer afterwards means that all this coding is inferior to a stored proc.

      So the question that remains to be answered: Will ABAP be only available for us oldtimers or will there be a place where ABAP will be superior to stored procs? I'm not deep enough into HANA to fully answer the question but I'm looking forward to seeing the answer.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Great blog post. Business apps have grown up under the influence of the relational data model. Your query comparisons are very timely - it reflects application behavior changes that are now practicable. Developers using HANA will be able to rethink some application capabilities, data relationships, and discard old contraints.  Am a bit reluctant regarding the enthusiasm, as I remember when we had too much RAM and got inefficient, fat code. Performance and efficiency need to be maintained, even with HANA's blistering speed.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      If you consider that standard / classic RDBMS cache most data, i.e. the - like HANA - run most queries from RAM (especially the examples you use above) then most of your HANA-specific arguments break down.
      Furthermore: in most cases, it is prohibitive to bypass a join on the RDBMS by implementing a naive nested loop join in the application server. Commercial RDBMS have a variety of join strategies and algorithms to choose from (hash, sort-merge, partitioned, index-supported etc.). So making this a HANA-specific argument is nonsense.
      HANA's strengths don't come from the pure fact of "in-memory" alone.
      Author's profile photo Rosendo Perez
      Rosendo Perez
      Just to clarify that there won't be HANA 1.5, it will keep as HANA 1.0 but SP3.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      1. Database locks?
      2. New Data or Change Data?
      3. Is ABAP able to fetch from in memory and from database at the same time?

      Was wondering about these scenarios too.....

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I was wondering on same thing from some time. You have captured good details on changes in style. You may want to add few more points particularly on probable change in style of Database access and related operations
      1. Changes in Select Queries --> Either changes in ABAP Kernel will be required to incorporate many Open SQL statements OR new syntax might be required to access HANA Database (In-memory Database to be precise) which support access via Row / Column. Whole new set of processing paradigm may be required for columnar operations.
      2. Database updates --> It may be either restricted as local or consider synchronizing back to core system.
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      ERP on (in) HANA (no replication required) seems to be in the future plans. It will be interesting to see the recommended architecture/landscape. Will we still have multiple app servers around a central database(HANA appliance)? If so, relieving some stress on the central database and processing on the app server (data sorts, holding data in internal table etc.) may be still a good idea. However, if the scaling of system addresses both data and processing power, what will be a good strategy to take advantage of the new capability ?
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Really  a nice initiative and great effort went in Preparing this Blog.. I Would like to appreciate RAM BATULLA for throwing light on some hot trends.. Thank You
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi Ram,

      In my opinion, I think you're underestimating the impact that HANA will eventually have on the SAP architecture.

      Currently, SAP intentionally limits the load on the database layer, and uses the CPU / memory of the application layer, as this layer can generally scale out more easily (e.g. by adding additional application server instances).  In this architecture ABAP statements are used to extract and manipulate data in the memory of the application server.

      With HANA the capacity and scalability of the database layer are both dramatically increased.  With this architecture, continuing to extract and manipulate data at the application layer (e.g. using ABAP) no longer makes sense, as these functions can be done more quickly and efficiently in the memory of the database layer.

      So, what does this mean for ABAP Programming?  Most likely, the complete removal of the need for the majority of data and application logic.  Like you said in your conclusion, "a completely different world".


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I have no first hand experience, but I would agree with Jon's statement. For performance reasons the way we code to get around database logic is amazing.

      We do it this way to avoid logic at the databbase level in so many different ways. One way is pulling everything into an internal table and then doing the logic on it. Who hasn't done that? That makes it quicker because the data is "in memory" within the ABAP program. We hit the database once instead of multiple times with a select single. And yes, some of this is because we are running on an AS/400.

      But won't it be nice to do our logic at the "database level". We wouldn't have to pull all the records into an internal table to do the logic. Instead select single could be used. And yes, I also think it won't be a good way to program all the time.

      Now I could be completely wrong. But that's one of the things I think HANA can help with. The data is now in memory instead of at the DB level. It's like using the tables that aren't changed often - they reside in the buffer.

      All of our ABAP code would eventually have to change to take advantage of HANAs capabilites. A whole new way of thinking / programming.



      Author's profile photo Matthew Billingham
      Matthew Billingham
      If we program according to a layered paradigm, the selects will all be in the data access layer. That shouldn't be affecting the logic of our application. Just rewrite the data access classes to use HANA (if available!) instead.

      btw - I smiled scenarios 1 and 2. As most of my programming nowadays in in BW, if a table has less than 50'000 records, it's a candidate for full memory buffering!

      Author's profile photo Thiru Siva
      Thiru Siva

         Good to see your effort. Well done.


      Author's profile photo Darisi Satish Kumar
      Darisi Satish Kumar
      Hi Ram ,

      Its really helpful for us to get 1st level knowledge on how HANA usesful for ABAPers

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I think we will need to use new technologies together in the near future, because the requeriments are more and more complex, as such, we have to converge mobile sets, internet, enterprise apps and so forth. The business rules are far hard nowadays than in the few past years. So, sometimes we need to choose a mix of resources, using SQL and NoSQL for instance.
      Author's profile photo Trond Stroemme
      Trond Stroemme
      The only real difference I see here is that HANA will remove the need for internal tables, possibly with the exception of aggregate or combined tables for storing intermediary results. I believe any seasoned ABAP developer can make this transition to the HANA programming paradigm in less than 5 minutes.

      However, I miss the OO-approach here. In an ideal world, we would not so much be talking about "reading thousands of entries from VBAK", as "accessing the sales order object"... I've been playing around with the Shared Memory Objects technique recently, which (as far as I can see) applies the same principles as HANA, but in a more logical and (I dare say) intelligent way, by creating and storing objects - containing data and business logic - in memory.

      If all we do is adapt our select statements without revising our holistic coding approach, then the gain is rather short-sighted.

      Author's profile photo Sandeep Kumar
      Sandeep Kumar
      After reading your blog one thing is clear that the good old ABAP is not the need of the hour !!! In coming years we will see more and more technologies to consume and adapt to HANA.
      Author's profile photo Kumud Singh
      Kumud Singh
      Hi Ram,

      With lot of buzz about HANA, I was expecting a whole revolution, but this seems very little of a change.
      Is ABAP coding going to get impacted so little?
      Also, is HANA available to be used by clients?



      Author's profile photo Peter Inotai
      Peter Inotai
      What is the difference from ABAP point of view between working with HANA in ABAP and for example the traditional ABAP with fully buffered tables (for example reading customizing)?