SAP was founded in 1972 as a business applications company but really came into prominence in the 1990s with the ERP boom. Its ERP solution (R/3) was first released in 1992. The vendor employs more than 98,000 people worldwide and had revenues of $30.86 billion in 2019. Today, SAP is one of the largest business software vendors in the world.

SAP’s original strategy was to view BI as an extension of its all-inclusive ERP offerings. Therefore, SAP launched SAP Business Warehouse (BW) in 1998, a completely packaged and plug-and-play BI solution designed to complement SAP ERP applications. BW is a package consisting of connectors, relational data storage, subject-oriented multidimensional structured data marts and predefined content as well as tools for reporting, analysis and planning. The goal was to provide a plug-and-play BI solution that would make it fast and easy for SAP customers to benefit from BI.

There are different versions of BW available. Traditional BW runs on a standard relational database, but customers can purchase redesigned versions for SAP HANA. From an architectural perspective, there are two variants: standard relational database or SAP HANA. The first version uses well known third-party databases such as Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle for data storage. The “powered by SAP HANA” version uses SAP’s own HANA platform.

There have been many modeling objects in previous versions of BW including InfoProvider, MultiProvider, InfoCube, InfoObject, InfoSet and ODS. In the newer versions (powered by HANA), SAP has started to reduce the number available and introduce other types of objects. In all variants, an InfoQuery is used to query the InfoCubes and “flatten” the results of a query to a table, which can then be used as a data source for reporting tools. It is also possible to incorporate additional logic into queries and, for instance, define new formulas to calculate derived ‘key figures’ (measures). This BW Query concept remains the same with BW/4HANA. This document deals specifically with SAP BW on HANA (powered by HANA).

SAP has numerous implementation partners with a broad knowledge of its product set. With its ‘Cloud Extension Policy’ program, SAP enables customers to transform maintenance on unused software licenses into cloud subscription licenses. License fees are calculated per named user per month, and SAP distinguishes between BI and planning licenses.

SAP BW on HANA seems to be an intermediate step on the part of SAP to address known problems with its outdated SAP BW technology. However, its strategic alignment continues. The HANA database is often seen, as is SAP BW/4HANA, for on-premises analytics. Currently, SAP is investing heavily in the cloud, offering a combination of SAP Analytics Cloud as the user tool layer, SAP Cloud Data Warehouse as the analytical data store and SAP Data Intelligence for data pipelining tasks.

User & Use Cases

A wide range of tasks are performed with SAP BW on HANA. 86 percent of respondents do data warehousing and 82 percent perform data integration with the software. 57 percent of survey participants claim to perform data preparation using SAP BW on HANA. In our view, data preparation as an iterative process in which business users prepare almost code-free data sets for exploration is not what is meant here. It is more likely they are referring to data preparation for data warehousing. Similarly, we suspect that the 21 percent citing data interfacing have understood the term more as an interface for accessing data than as a technical interface between two systems for exchanging information in the sense of enterprise application integration (e.g., messaging, web services, API management).

SAP BW on HANA is widely used within companies. This is illustrated by the high median number of users (800) and the even higher mean of 1413. This is hardly surprising given that SAP technology is used primarily by large companies with more than 2,500 employees (75 percent). The median number of technical users who use SAP BW on HANA and implement use cases (7) is also surprisingly high.

Current use


Number of users using SAP BW on HANA


Number of technical users using SAP BW on HANA


Company size (number of employees)


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Peer Groups Data management products, Data warehouse technologies, Data warehousing automation products, ETL products, Global vendors (data management)
Number of responses28
ProductSAP BW on HANA
OfficesOffices in more than 130 countries worldwide
Customers> 437,000 (in total, not only BI customers)
Revenues (2019)$30.86 billion