The Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC) is SAP’s newest Data Warehouse (DWH) product. The most widespread SAP DWH solution so far is the SAP Business Warehouse (BW). What will happen to the SAP BW now? Is DWC the creeping end of SAP BW?
With this article I would like to give our assessment of the topic and address the potential of hybrid architectures.
Does the DWC replace the SAP BW? Does the SAP BW still belong to the SAP DWH strategy?
SAP has taken a clear position: No, the Data Warehouse Cloud is not the end of the SAP BW or HANA SQL approach. In addition to the new Data Warehouse Cloud, the strategic data warehouse portfolio also includes SAP BW and HANA SQL. Even the abundance of the SAP BW roadmap does not suggest that SAP BW will “die” soon. SAP BW also has a very large customer base and fan base who have invested a lot of money in their systems and know-how. With the last release SAP BW / 4 HANA, customers receive a well-engineered solution that has been working very well over many years.
Medium term, i.e. In the next 3-5 years, I therefore do not expect the Data Warehouse Cloud to be positioned as a strategic replacement for SAP BW. Whether this will also be the case in the long term remains to be seen. The Analytics Cloud has developed very quickly and well within a few years. When the DWC also develops so quickly, it will be exciting. The DWC fits well into SAP’s cloud strategy and is based on SAP’s strategic architecture with the HANA cloud.
From today’s perspective, potential scenarios
How exactly the DWC will position itself is not yet conclusively clear at this point in time. There are potential scenarios that seem to make sense based on the technical basis and previous knowledge:
The simple Case: Accelerate Analytics
Customers can transfer data marts from their classic SAP BW systems to the data warehouse cloud. On the one hand, reporting is accelerated by replicating the SAP BW data due to the switch to the HANA cloud. On the other hand, customers get a very modern front end with the (embedded) Analytics Cloud. The added values appear quickly because the connection of SAP BW systems is quick and easy.
The scenario is suitable for customers who have a historically grown SAP BW system and are in principle satisfied with the data quality but want to realize the advantages mentioned above. In addition, the SAP BW data in the DWC can be expanded to include data from other systems (e.g. S / 4, etc.) very easily.
The data warehouse cloud for self-service data preparation
The Data Warehouse Cloud is very user-oriented. Data modeling has no longer to be carried out exclusively by IT, but also by the business. The DWC as a self-service data preparation tool? This is already possible today. The space concept helps with the containerization of these Line of Business (LoB) developments, although a few functionalities are still missing (e.g. space-2-space communication) that will be delivered later this year. In this scenario, the DWC can be an extension to, e.g. an SAP BW / 4 HANA system, which continues to take on the task of the central IT-governed data warehouse.
The business departments have already had the need for self-service data preparation in the past and have done so. At best, IT could provide the departments with specialized solutions (e.g. Tableau Data Prep, Analytics Cloud, etc.) and thus still had the opportunity for a certain governance. In the absence of other options, the departments often created local isolated solutions, of which the IT department had no knowledge in case of doubt (so-called shadow IT).
DWC has the potential to be a bridge between the IT needs of good governance and the desire for flexibility by the departments. The IT provides central quality-assured “standard data sources”. Using local LoB spaces, departments have the option of creating their own data models. Both target groups work in one system, but in different spaces. This creates space for mutual “understanding” but also the necessary flexibility. With the Analytics Cloud, SAP has already created a very user-friendly solution for departments that has been well received by the market. I see DWC as a good next (and necessary) step.
The data warehouse cloud as an enterprise data warehouse
Although DWC is currently still relatively far from the possibility of setting up an whole Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW), SAP is also positioning DWC as an EDW solution in the long term. I therefore see this scenario as realistic in the medium term. The space concept or containerization can lead to a stronger service-oriented DWH architecture. It remains to be seen whether an existing SAP BW will be superfluous or whether the data warehouse will logically consist of the SAP BW (or other previously available solutions) and the DWC, and will depend heavily on the respective customer situation. The orientation of the DWC shows the potential, but in practice there are still many functional hurdles to be overcome that are necessary for an EDW. The next few months will be exciting here, because with the separation between the business and data layer and the data flows, I expect significant enhancements. So my assessment maybe different at the end of this year.
Below is an exemplary illustration of a data warehouse in which the data areas of the DWH are separated by spaces. In this way, for example, communication rules can be defined for each space.
The data warehouse cloud for data warehouse virtualization
In this scenario, the DWC forms a virtual layer between persistent data storage in connected systems and the analytics front end. The decoupling ensures uniform semantics and central metadata management including data catalog. Persistence, on the other hand, is mainly managed by the connected systems. This can be, for example, a SAP BW, which in this case provides Data Warehouse Services (KPI calculations, high-performance data marts, etc.) to DWC. The virtual layer is thus roughly comparable to the virtual analytical layer of an LSA ++ oriented SAP BW architecture. In addition to the data warehouse solutions, other SAP or non-SAP applications such as SAP S / 4 HANA can also be connected. This task can be easily combined with the possibility of self-service data preparation. For users, the DWC becomes the central source for answering analytical questions (Central Access Point). In addition, there is the chance to integrate local departmental solutions “back” into a controlled environment.
According to analyzes by BARC and Gartner, DWH virtualization is one of the major topics in which companies want to invest more heavily in the coming years against the background of the most flexible and agile architecture possible.
Compared to other providers (such as Denodo), DWC offers significantly better, and above all SAP-native, integration options with SAP cloud and on-premise products, and is therefore particularly suitable for those customers who are considering how you can take the step towards data virtualization and hybrid cloud with your existing BW / 4 or S / 4 systems.
However so far the scenario can only be implemented to a limited extent. Restricted because the separation between data and business layer is not yet available and the metadata of the source systems would have to be reproduced in the DWC. Here, too, the next releases will be exciting when the Model Transfer Connection (metadata from SAP BW can be read out) and the business layer are introduced.
The Data Warehouse Cloud is an exciting new product on the market for SAP DWH solutions. Spaces and the separation of data and business layers are interesting concepts. Even if everything doesn’t work out yet. With the Analytics Cloud, SAP has already shown how quickly a SaaS solution can develop. Exciting updates are also planned for the end of the year. This arouses curiosity about the coming developments and future of the data warehouse cloud.
From my point of view, however, it will still take some time before a complex EDW can be set up with the DWC. What speaks in favor of SAP BW is that it is mature, has a filled roadmap and has already proven itself in a large number of projects. There is also a clear commitment from SAP to the long-term perspective of SAP BW. So, from my perspective you can surely recommend introducing a SAP BW / 4 HANA as a new Data Warehouse solution.
But will SAP BW be the only data warehouse solution for companies in the long term? Rather no. This probably never happened anyway. Just think of local solutions in the departments, local solutions in legal entities or data management solutions for special purposes (e.g. production-oriented data warehouse). I therefore expect more distributed analytical architectures in which a SAP BW will find its way. The data warehouse cloud can be a useful addition here.
This article was also published in german under this link.