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, it 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.
With BW/4HANA, SAP released its next generation data warehousing offering in 2016. The overall concept and goal of this package remains similar to the approach with BW: to provide software support for customers to integrate SAP operational data sources with big data sources and create a data warehouse which exposes its data to different front ends.
SAP BW/4HANA is a completely revamped version of SAP BW that runs on the SAP HANA in-memory database. The new product improves performance and scalability, simplifies operation and development, and supports a variety of in-database analytic functions. It is designed to support multiple analytic use cases, ranging from standard reporting and dashboarding to real-time analytics, predictive analytics and machine learning. In contrast to BW, SAP BW/4HANA does not include front-end tools anymore. Fundamental changes have made the data architecture smarter and more open to integrate with non-SAP data sources and tools.
For analytics in on-premises environments, the HANA database is often viewed natively as well as SAP BW/4HANA. Currently, SAP is ploughing much of its data and analytics investment into 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
54 percent of survey participants claim to perform data preparation using SAP BW/4HANA. 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. It is worth mentioning that the level of use of SAP BW/4HANA for data virtualization is relatively low. This is one of the first buzzwords we hear when it comes to combining external data or big data with data from SAP BW/4HANA in queries. We would have expected greater use of SAP BW/4HANA for data virtualization. However, only one in five companies currently use the product for this purpose.
SAP BW/4HANA is widely used within companies, as shown by the high median number of users (200) and the mean of 892 users. This is not surprising when one considers that SAP technology is used primarily by large companies with more than 2,500 employees (64 percent). In contrast, the number of technical users who take care of SAP BW/4HANA and implement use cases seems surprisingly high. An average (mean) of 69 technical users work with BW/4HANA, while the median is 10.
Number of users using SAP BW/4HANA
Number of technical users using SAP BW/4HANA
Company size (number of employees)
Summary of SAP BW/4HANA highlights
SAP achieved 18 top rankings and 21 leadership positions in its four peer groups in The Data Management Survey this year. The product is heavily used for data integration and data warehousing/BI tasks. 75 percent of respondents stated that SAP’s innovative strength is excellent or good. A near-perfect score for ‘functionality’ underlines the fact that SAP BW’s capabilities have been successfully and significantly improved for the implementation of BI and analytics use cases. In the opinion of SAP customers, SAP BW/4HANA offers significant added value compared to SAP BW on HANA.
Breadth of supported use cases – Top-ranked
Peer Group: Global vendors
Functionality – Top-ranked
Peer Group: Data warehouse technologies
Recommendation – Top-ranked
Peer Group: Global vendors
Want to see the whole picture?
BARC’s Vendor Performance Summary contains an overview of The Data Management Survey results based on feedback from SAP BW/4HANA users, accompanied by expert analyst commentary.Contact us to purchase the Vendor Performance Summary