First things first – it is good to be back, blogging on SCN ! Thanks to SCN team for merging my accounts, and enabling me to start contributing again. Going forward, I will blog here more, along with my personal blog http://andvijaysays.wordpress.com
As some of you might have heard, a couple of weeks ago – I joined SAP Labs. And I am working in a team that deals with customer engagements. Our intention is strictly to enable more customers to get value out of the innovations that come out of SAP.
My first area of focus is BW on HANA. Many of you know that I spent a significant part of my career in BW, BPS, IP, BOBJ , BPC etc. And one of my few regrets when Hana came out was that I was no longer a full time hands on techie to use it with these products for solving problems for my clients. Well, now that I work at SAP Labs – and am not “selling” any more, I guess I can make amends and do some hacking 🙂
Growing up with SAP technologies, I was already used to aggregates, long running process chains etc as part of a normal project. And as a consultant, my objective was always to bend technology to very close to its breaking point – so that customers did not have to do crazy compromises in their business process. And then came Hana – and I realized that the “new normal” was going to be rather different from “old normal”. And the pace at which Hana is progressing “new normal” is a hard concept – we will probably need to start talking in terms of differential calculus or something to keep up 🙂
Few days ago, Hasso and Vishal announced Suite on Hana. This brings up some interesting scenarios in how a customer’s SAP landscape will evolve. And I am just going to view this from a BW/BI person’s point of view. The day after Suite on Hana was announced, I had dinner with a CIO in San Jose, CA. He asked me this question “Now that Suite works on Hana, do I even need BW?” . And then in the next 3 days, I heard this question from several other people.
The short answer is “Yes, you do – for several more years at least”. However, Suite and BW will share some of what BW used to do alone till now. When Suite works on Hana, it can take some operational reporting needs that were solved till now in BW. This is a good thing – users will get more value, and IT will have a leaner BW system to maintain. If you are a BW customer or consultant, now would be a good time to decide on what should reside in BW and what should go to Suite. There are some DW specific things like consolidatoing data etc that should continue on BW. And nothing stops you from using Hana models exposed though BW. In short, you have plenty of choice.
BW has amazing business content – which for the most part has been under utilized by customers and consultants. With Hana cutting down on layers in BW – for example, cubes that were put in place simply for aggregational ease, or aggregates which were mini-cubes within cubes – BW will be a lot cleaner to maintain and enhance. A common complaint in BW shops is that any new report will take a lot of time for IT to turn around. This will not get solved by Hana becoming the database alone, but it should help a lot.
BW 7.3 already has a lot of cool features – for example, you can compare spreadsheet data with datawarehouse data on the fly without any remodelling. I am yet to see a finance user not getting excited when I have shown this to them. The real power of course is with Hana providing super fast number crunching in BW on top of the ability of users to merge data from spreadsheet.
Then there is mobility – the future of BI is definitely trending towards mobility. A big difficulty of doing powerful analytics using mobile devices is that if the source systems take a lot of time in delivering results, the user will generally get upset and stop using the solution. And in the past – when we solved it by pre-aggregation etc, we lost the ability to stay nimble and respond to changes in reporting requirements quickly. Now with Hana , this should be considerably easier with fewer compromises. Of course bandwidth could still be a villain in the mobility story.
Historically, BEx and customers had a love-hate relationship. This got a lot better since BOBJ products became the BI platform of choice. A few years have passed since SAP did the BOBJ acquisition – but my feeling is that there is still a lot of ground to cover for the BOBJ and BW communities in understanding each other. For customers who have BW, BOBJ and Hana – there are a lot of possibilities. And from recent blogs and tweets from several SAP mentors, I am fully aware that there are points of contention on semantic layers, licensing and many other topics. However, while those things get sorted out – we don’t have to sit around idle. BW , BOBJ and Hana all talk to each other – and integration can only get better with time. There are plenty of use cases that can be solved with where things stand today – and I hope that fact does not get drowned while other topics get discussed.
And then there is BPC and IP – I am partial to planning since some of the most interesting projects I have worked on have had big pieces of planning functionality. Performance is a big deal in planning – since it has always been a problem from business users to dive into more and more detail when it comes to planning. It is not just the amount of detail – it is also the ability of doing more and more changes to a plan to adapt to an ever changing market. With Hana sitting under BW, planning gets a boost. And more good things are in the works all the time .
Moving BW to Hana is not exactly rocket science at this point. Several customers are now using BW on HANA – so I would think the rest of the world would not even need POC projects, and can move directly with real projects. If you are not in 7.3 version of BW yet, you would need an upgrade. And then of course you need to migrate the database to Hana. Most migrations can be done over a weekend or so – with larger sized systems needing a little more time. You do need some HW for Hana , so remember to consider that as you are planning your project.
The actual technical migration is not a complex activity – and between SAP and partners, there are plenty of experts who can help with getting that done. Of course you need to do some testing. One advantage of migration projects is that a lot can be verified by just doing the same process in old system and new system, which is not very time consuming. Also, if you diligently check statistics of usage – you can probably narrow down the scope of testing significantly. And once you have migrated – you can of course do design optimizations at your own pace to make use of Hana. If you need help – SCN is an awesome resource for you to get your questions answered.
I am very excited to get started with the “new normal” for BW in 2013, are you? Let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.
I am especially keen to see what roadblocks you see in the way of more customers using BW on HANA. I don’t know if I can solve it for you every time, but trust me I will do everything to get rid of those roadblocks wherever possible.
And did I say I am super excited to be back on SCN? 🙂