Tag Archives: BW

SAPPHIRE and ASUG 2012 Orlando – Days 2 and 3

Finally it is my first week at home since mid May, and so it’s time to catch up on more news from the last days of the conferences. Hopefully you find below information interesting and relevant besides delay with making it published.

The thing that blew me out of my socks during the whole conference was a meeting with a group of start-ups, which are building their products using SAP HANA technology. This was the best show of taking the technology seriously. These guys are not big SIs or customers, who can make a wrong decision, fail, do finger-pointing, and then move on. For start-ups each decision is to live or die, and their founders are betting on the SAP HANA with their very own pocket-money. If you are interested to know more about innovative ideas coming from start-ups, or if you have your own idea and would like to know how to start working with SAP, have a look at “SAP Startup Focus Program“. It is real. I was contacted already by an Ukrainian entrepreneur with his own idea of a product using in-memory technology, and I was happy to refer him to this program.

The last day of the SAPPHIRE NOW was the “HANA day”. The whole keynote was focused on HANA, but it seemed to be built around the war with Oracle. The presentation of 100TB (of RAM) HANA system, which SAP assembled in their US data center, and the demonstration of fail-over capabilities were the answer to FUDs, which Oracle tried to disseminate earlier around SAP’s achievements in in-memory databases’ space.

No doubt the most exciting announcement for techies was the availability of free SAP HANA developers licenses!! It was a great achievement of collaboration between SAP and community influencers. You can go to SAP HANA Developers Center and get your HANA database development instance running in the public cloud few minutes later. Just to be clear: “free” is applied to SAP’s license, but not to the hosting cost. Make sure you read the post “Get your own SAP HANA DB server on Amazon Web Services” by Juergen Schmerder of SAP. Juergen is one of the heroes behind making SAP HANA available for the developers community.

SAP HANA Developers Center delivers a lot of materials to study already, but one more source is worth mention. At the same time the book “SAP HANA Essentials” by Jeff Word became available.

If you are interested to get this e-book for free, go to its registration web page and use a Voucher-Code 17C55987 to download.

As of today the book contains overview chapters, and will be updated with new and changing content over the next few months. [Disclaimer: I am one of reviewers working with Jeff on the content of this book]

Another interesting content, which was made available publicly during SAPPHIRE NOW, was “BW on SAP HANA Cookbook“. It discusses the aspects of planning, deployment, operations and modelling. Nevertheless, I always remember that one and only official documentation for SAP software is always help.sap.com, as SAP does not take responsibility for anything else published outside of the official help 😉

Quite interesting were as well two performance whitepapers:

  1. Analyzing SAP HANA’s Performance Test — SAP Changes the Total Value of Data Warehousing and Business Analytics” by Enterprise Applications Consulting.
  2. SAP and HP Breaking Analytic Performance Barriers with SAP HANA and HP AppSystems” by Enterprise Management Associates.

During the conference I had a chance to talk to Sharada Bose, who is a manager in HP’s performance group and who supervised the team running new SAP BW Enhanced Mixed Load Benchmark (BW-EML Benchmark). She said it had been an excellent collaboration between HP and SAP to deliver the results of this benchmark, and that the joint work was greatly appreciated by both companies. What was interesting about this new benchmark, Sharada added, is that the query part is completely ad-hoc and random. Most of the industry benchmarks, including the most known TPC-H, are based on a predefined set of queries. [Additional disclaimer: I am a day-time HP employee at the time of posting this blog, but observations and thoughts posted here are my own.]

I think information so far is wide and deep enough to take some time to read, digest and analyse. So, let me leave another interesting piece of information – new SAP BusinessObjects BI tool called Visual Analyzer – for a later blog.

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Filed under BusinessObjects, HANA, SAP

SAPPHIRE and ASUG 2012 Orlando – Days 0 and 1

This week I am attending SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual two-in-one conference. There are many interesting developments going on in SAP in the areas of cloud, platforms, mobility, but my focus is broad BI/EIM/DM and this is what I am after at the conference. Co-location of SAP’s premier business conference and SAP users’ largest event gives a interesting – and sometimes polarized – view on the state of the business: you see cool HANA-powered mobile-steered 3-D demos on the show floor and you listen to the real customers’ far-from-perfect stories.

It’s been just two week since the end of my first SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 implementation project (my day life is a technology consultant), and the everyday life stories are closer to my heart than bright roadmaps. My first experience with SBO BI 4.0 was  polarized as well. On one hand the breadth of tools portfolio and user’s UI are way better than what SAP/BW could offer with its BEx applications. On the other hand, from the administration point I would expect much more from BI Platform’s CMC, as a single tool for administration, monitoring, and trouble-shooting. Yet all of these are a subject for a separate post. The point here is: with the realise  4.0 of SBO BI, I can easily say that it’s now at the stage where BW customers can and should start looking at the adoption of BusinessObjects BI tools as the front-end for BW data warehouse. Not completely there yet, but certainly incomparably better where it was three years ago. I ran into some discussions with fellow SAP Mentors over that statement. As I was complaining that we waited long 4 years for good BW/BO integration, my dear colleagues with pure BusinessObjects background, like Mico Yuk here, were complaining that SAP almost completely forgot about them and about innovations for the non-BW customers. What is your opinion?

The first ASUG education session I attended was by Jeff Duly on the topic of SBO Explorer, accelerated implementation by their BW shop. Besides few minor issues, the business response was overwhelmingly positive, just to confirm the statement that SAP’s decision to acquire mature BI tool set in 2007 was the right one (see also remarks above about the need to continue the integration and unification work).

The second ASUG session on my radar was the SAP HANA Ramp-up customer story. On the closer look, the story was rather about the benefits of BI implementation, as the customer moved from manual collection of data from four source systems and the development of reports in the MS Excel to the BI solution using SAP BusinessObjects’ WebI and Xcelsius as the front ends and SAP HANA database as the repository for the new data warehouse. What was extremely interesting in that session are lessons learned. I think they were extremely important to repeat them here:

  1. Data. SAP HANA database by itself helps with the processing speed, but without proper data quality, you will get garbage out just faster. I blogged about this a year ago in “Critical Success Factors for SAP HANA implementations
  2. Ramp-up means “bleeding edge”. Experienced professionals know the meaning behind someone’s sentence “We learned a lot during this implementation” 😉
  3. Realistic speed depends on complexity. In reality the performance of the query processing depends on many factors, major of which – when I/O bottleneck is eliminated – is the complexity of tables’ joins.
  4. UI rendering time. SAP HANA database dramatically improves performance in data retrieval, but it is still only one of few steps on the way between user’s request click and the final display. Accordingly to presenters, the times to transfer data from HANA to the end-user machine and then get it displayed could go up to 20 seconds – leaving the impression of “long processing” even when the query processing in HANA had taken only 2-3 seconds.
  5. Realistic time frame. They kicked off the project in May of 2011 with the plan of go-live in September 2011. But the acceleration of the data processing does not translate into the acceleration of project phases (although no doubt mean less frustration for everyone ;-), and the project went live 4 months later than expected.

The customer implemented the project with engagement of SAP Consulting and as I look around it is the case for almost every HANA implementation right now. If you are not a consulting arm in the one of the hardware vendors (HP, Hitachi, IBM etc) and if you are not one of the IT advisory companies (Deloitte, CapGemini etc) already working with the customer on the broad scale – it is difficult to get on the HANA implementation projects. It may be a cold shower for many smaller System Integrators (SIs). As HANA fewer spreads many of these SIs are establishing “HANA Centers of Expertise” and “HANA practices”, putting directors in place, making press announcements, but do not have projects… Here at the SAPPHIRE I met two of these “directors” already, who approached me asking how HANA implementation projects look like and what works and what not.

My first advise for them was: re-think what you want to do, analyse the broadening spectrum of HANA applications, and then try to focus. The thing is that SAP HANA world is huge and expanding and you cannot be in all places at all times. Especially if you are a small SI or a boutique firm.

My second advise was: SAP HANA itself is just an element of the broader SAP’s database portfolio. If you want to focus on the SAP database business, you need to make sure that besides HANA you can speak Sybase as well. If you want to focus on the SAP business applications powered by HANA (like Rapid Deployment Solutions – RDS), you need to speak the broad portfolio of SAP applications in the LoB or Industry area, which may not be powered by HANA today. If you want to focus on analytics, you need to speak broad portfolio of SAP BusinessObjects – BI and EIM – as well, and know how to build solution in SBO, which runs on HANA database, but as well on MS SQL Server, Sybase IQ, HP Vertica etc.

Going back to those who want to focus on the HANA as the database business with SAP, it is important that you separate hype from reality and understand the April 10th announcement of “SAP Real-Time Data Platform”.

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Filed under BusinessObjects, BW, HANA, Rant, SAP, Sybase

HANA vs Exalytics: Where two fight the third one wins? Or is there a fight really?

The recent release of Oracle Exalytics brought third round of a verbal fight between SAP and Oracle and surrounding social (press, bloggers, forumers) comments. On a closer look you will find most of the arguments and comparisons pretty shallow and a based on rhetoric, then facts, be this from SAP side or Oracle side. Those keep discussion lively and catch the attention of many, but certainly do not please us – technologists, who are left-brained. One thing is for sure: megaplayers like SAP and now Oracle directed everyone’s eyes at the long existed, but previously niche, market of in-memory databases. Smaller, but established players, do not plan to waste 15 minutes of topic’s  fame, like Mike Allen, VP Product Management at Terracotta, cited in “Big Data Buyer’s Guide…” by Enterprise Apps Today:

At the end of the day SAP HANA and Oracle’s solutions are still databases – running on dedicated hardware that has to be sized to the problem in hand – that are accessed across a network. […] Terracotta BigMemory stores data right where it’s used, in the memory where the application runs. This makes it much faster.

Well, good luck to Teracottas, VoltDBs, Altibases etc, but for the moment let us move back to SAP HANA vs Oracle Exalytics debate. Indeed, at the moment SAP HANA is much closer in comparison to Oracle Exalytics, than to Oracle Exadata or to generic Oracle Database. I said “in comparison”, and not “in competition”, because to compete the products should stand against each other in customer bids, and not in vendors’ verbal arguments. So far I haven’t seen a single place where HANA and Exalytics stood against each other in the customer’s choice. I obviously do not see everything that is happening on the market, and therefore will greatly appreciate any additional facts in the comments to this post. On the surface there are many similarities between the two:

  • both are using the word “in-memory” to describe the major characteristic of their major software component,
  • both are sold only as software+hardware combo, although with Oracle Linux and Oracle Sun hardware with Intel Xeon chips in case of Exalytics, and with SuSE Linux and Xeon-based hardware from six (and counting) SAP’s hardware partners in case of HANA
  • SAP’s initial major and most promoted use cases for HANA database were analytical data marts and planning applications, same (but only these) are use cases for Exalytics;
  • both are Fast Data solutions, requiring to couple them with Big Data solutions – Exadata in case of Exalytics, or database from Sybase family in case of HANA.

So, what make them different and why we don’t see really a fight on the market between the two, although for sure both vendors are searching prominent example to announce their superiority and victory?

  1. First and the foremost: the position of the product on the vendors priority list. HANA is the center of the SAP’s technology strategy: to-be the heart of all-things-SAP plus a platform with which SAP tries to attract ISVs. For Oracle Exalytics is just an answer to first technical use case released by SAP for HANA, i.e. high-performing analytics on data marts.
  2. From the go-to-market, I see both as products to be up-sold or cross-sold, and therefore positioned in vendors’ own shops, rather than going to brand new industries and customers and clash there. There are certainly examples of HANA and Exalytics sells into new accounts, but I do not see these happening in volumes both vendors are after.
  3. Exalytics has BI engines and tools pre-installed, while HANA doesn’t. Those who follow HANA’s history right from the beginning may remember that SAP initially wanted to include BusinessObjects BI tools run-times on HANA appliance as well, but finally did not. Instead today HANA database has lightweight application server (called XS Engine) built-in. As such Mark Hurd of Oracle was right in last Q3/2012 earnings call: “… one of the nice things about Exalytics is you plug it in and your existing Hyperion EPM system runs faster. Your existing Oracle BI runs faster. With HANA, one of the problems is you plug in HANA and then you start to write programs, because it’s not compatible with anything.” The thing though is that with HANA you can obviously write programs, but as well you can plug it into some of the SAP applications: ERP accelerators, SAP NetWeaver BW, SBO Analytic Applications.
  4. And that’s another difference: Exalytics works only with Oracle software, and HANA’s strongest case is in interoperability with SAP products. HANA database will not work with Hyperion EPM (even if provocatively invited by SAP), and Exalytics cannot be used with SAP BW. Although interestingly now the use case for SAP BW puts SAP HANA database into the competition with Oracle Exadata, which has been certified for SAP NetWeaver installations.

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Filed under Exalytics, HANA, Oracle, SAP

BW 7.3 Orange (powered by SAP HANA) is just the beginning

In the podcast “Debating the Value of SAP HANA” mentioned in my previous post, we ran into the discussion if SAP NetWeaver BW 7.3 SP5 powered by SAP HANA (project “BW Orange”, or simply “BW-on-HANA”) is the killer app or not for SAP in-memory technology. My answer was “Yes”, but here I would like to go into the grades of shade beyond this binary question.

There are very few customers out there, who would not complain about some aspects of the performance of SAP/BW. I had been presenting sessions on BW performance at different conferences since 2008, and they always resonated with the audience. BW-on-HANA, which comes with the major promise of performance boost for both front-end (querying/planning) and data warehousing parts, will resonate with almost every BW customer. I see it in my day job as a consultant.

It is a no-brainer that reading all data at the speed of RAM, instead of disks, will resolve lots of I/O-heavy processing. You may share my memories of frustration, waiting for long-running BW operations – queries, DTPs, extractions, where the only proof that the work session is still alive was to go to transaction DB02, find your running SQL and then see slowly but steadily increasing numbers under “blocks read”. This should be a song of the past with BW running with HANA system. The advantages of in-memory data retrieval are obvious, and there should be no discussion about this aspect of BW Orange.

But I/O bottleneck is not the only reason for slow performance. Accordingly to SAP’s own statistics presented during SAP TechEd’10 USA in ERP about 20% of the processing is happening in the database layer, and the rest 80% is in application (ABAP) layer. Obviously in this case super fast database can resolve only 20% of performance issues. Althought the ratio 20/80 will be different for BW, as more heavy BW joins or massive inserts are done, the problem remains the same. Through the years BW (like most of the other ABAP-based systems) was built to run lots of the intensive processing in the application layer. Analytics (OLAP and Planning) Engine) being the prominent example. DSO activations, SID calculations, user exits are some more examples from the data warehousing part of BW.

Therefore BW Orange release introducing some applications optimizations, which are specific to SAP HANA and cannot be reused by BW running on any other database system. You may have heard about those by now:

  1. HANA-optimized InfoCubes, i.e. different technical design of underlying database tables, and different querying technology,
  2. HANA-optimized DSOs and the new activation process executed in the db layer,
  3. New Planning Applications Kit, which allows execution of BW-IP standard functions within HANA db.

As you see the list of optimizations is not going through all BW components. Additionally, optimizations are not 100% applicable, i.e. in some cases tables layouts remain the same as on regular databases and processing is executed in ABAP layer, like in case when DSO is  supplied by RDA real-time data acquisition (see OSS Note 1665322 – Conversion for SAP HANA-optimized DataStore objects). In some other cases “Remodeling might be required to leverage Hana optimization when starting from an existing scenarios” (OSS Note 1637199 – Using the planning applications KIT).

The human brain and hands are not yet completely eliminated, and we all are just at the beginning of the extremely interesting journey.

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