SAP Data Warehouse Cloud: A post-TechEd round-up

 

This year’s SAP TechEd was the second edition held exclusively online; a format that undoubtedly holds both advantages and disadvantages for everyone. Although I am sure I’m not the only one who misses the personal connection with fellow tech-savvy SAP people, the online environment does allow attendees to consume content more efficiently. With back-to-back sessions and picture-perfect agenda schedules, it feels like there is more to experience than ever before!

Post Teched

Now that the annual blockbuster event is dwindling down after two days of exciting content, it is time to lean back and have a look at one of Walldorf’s key data and analytics solutions: Data Warehouse Cloud (DWC). What is new and upcoming for SAP’s Cloud data warehouse, celebrating its second anniversary in 2021?

The big bang: BW Bridge

Not many TechEd attendees will disagree with you if you claim that the biggest DWC-related announcement of this year’s edition, was the BW Bridge. Although the concept had been quietly communicated by SAP in smaller (digital) events several weeks in advance, the TechEd was the platform for the official launch of this new DWC feature. Because that is what it is; a new feature of DWC designed to help customers move from on-premise data warehousing to the Cloud.

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SAP BW Bridge is positioned as a method for moving from SAP BW to DWC in a non-disruptive way. During the design, SAP took three main challenges for BW users that wanted to move to the Cloud into account: The leveraging of BW assets and skills, the retention of instant access to SAP data during data reach expansion and the empowerment of users during enterprise-wide insight scaling. With this in mind, SAP proposed BW Bridge in two different scenarios as displayed in the image below:

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The first scenario is the known hybrid case, which can be seen in the context of SAP’s RISE program, where customers can combine their existing BW(/4HANA) system with DWC through data federation and the use of metadata from BW. Through this method, DWC is used to enrich the already existing data warehousing setup with Cloud functionality (note that Model Transfer is only available for BW/4HANA!). BW Bridge can also be used to switch from such a Hybrid scenario to a full move from BW to DWC, which brings us to the second scenario.

The second scenario is the new path that opens up through BW Bridge; it is a tool-supported move which places all existing BW objects in Data Warehouse Cloud. Subsequently, the BW Bridge conversion tool will convert the BW objects to their DWC artifact equivalents (more information in the graph below). The result is a fully-fledged ABAP-based BW instance in DWC, which supports BW cornerstone features such as DTPs, Transformations and Process Chains, but omits BW reporting functionalities. BW Bridge also supports the usual BW(4) objects (such as ADSOs and Composite Providers) and will have a dedicated Space in DWC, running in parallel to the other Spaces in the solution. Through this method, customers can use all existing data and data flows they could previously, without an on-premise installation. BW Bridge will also have its own lifecycle management for DEV – PRD, but it is currently unclear if any developments can be written back to the on-premise system.

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Limitations

If we take a closer look at the second scenario and the specific functionalities within BW Bridge, we can see that conversion options only work with BW versions of 7.3 and up. For older versions, customers would have to migrate up to SAP BW 7.5 first, and then from SAP BW 7.5 to SAP DWC BW bridge. Logically, this also means that legacy BW objects such as DSOs and InfoCubes are not supported. Queries are also not visible or executable, but will have to be converted as part of the BW data models before they can be used in DWC’s Business and Analytical modelling. SAP BPC and BI-IP will also not be supported (SAC in combination with DWC as a foundation and Group Reporting will be the respective alternatives for these use cases). SAP stated that further (technical) limitations of BW Bridge will be documented in a separate SAP Note that is to be communicated, so we should be on the lookout for that.

Pricing & availability

BW Bridge is presented as part of DWC, and is hence also billed in this fashion. The functionality itself is free of charge, but customers will have to license their data footprint (storage and computing capacity) in accordance with a to-be-revealed SaaS-model. BW Bridge’s tool supported move will be available in Q1 2022 for BW/4HANA, 7.5 and 7.4 customers and later that year for BW 7.3.

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Data Marketplace

Another interesting feature that is currently in its beta phase, is the Data Marketplace in DWC. SAP’s point of view here, is that Spaces are great for business users, but can be difficult to utilize in conjunction with external data. This poses challenges with regards to time-to-value, budgets and of course, security. DWC's Data Marketplace allows users to share their Space data without actual data distribution and security risks, as well as pull in external data. It provides insights into the data based on the authorizations of the external source or partner, via dedicated integration solutions in DWC. The idea is that single-click integration options replace expensive projects to make third-party data available in DWC (a few partners are shown in the image below).

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Integrating with Data Warehouse Cloud

SAP is going all-out to ensure that DWC is compatible with both SAP and non-SAP solutions, as was illustrated by the Data Marketplace in the previous section. For general data extraction, DWC offers a generic database connector as well as an ODBC interface. For BW, Data Intelligence’s (DI) Data Flow functionality is used within DWC (as opposed to the ODP framework). Smart Data Integration (SDI) (which comes packaged with DWC) and Smart Data Access (SDA) are also offered for data replication purposes.

Analytics Cloud

With respect to integration with its flagship analytics solution, SAP has recently improved the synergy between SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) and DWC through the SAC add-in for Excel, which presents DWC as the first supported live connection in the add-in (DWC support for AFO is not planned, as the SAC add-in is the strategic way forward).

Additionally, SAP will slowly move the foundation of SAC’s planning suite to DWC. Initially, SAC planning will connect directly to DWC where the data will be replicated to SAC. Later, SAC will evolve to the point where it can directly work with data that resides in DWC (without replication), thus making DWC the place where both the Actuals and Planning data resides.

S/4HANA and data federation

DWC’s integration with S/4HANA is aimed at unburdening the ERP solution, by shifting the metadata and analytical loads to DWC through federation. ABAP CDS views/models can be directly accessed in DWC via a connection to S/4 with an ODBC interface, whereas data consumption via an OData API is planned for early 2022.

To run effectively, integration options in DWC are supported by a combination of local tables (created in DWC), remote tables (virtually streamed from the source system) and views (on top of either or both the aforementioned tables). To avoid problems generally associated with data federation, such as heavy loads on the source system(s) or logic complexity, DWC uses replica’s of remote tables and views (see image below). Finally, data flows can also be used to stage local tables for performance improvements, which is similar to BW’s DTP and Transformation functionalities.

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What else…?

Quite some new DWC content has already been discussed in this blog, but there is a lot more that was shared during and around 2021’s. TechEd; way too much to discuss here! Therefore I will list a few of my other favourite developments below, and post a follow-up link for eager readers.

  • One catalog vision: SAP plans to launch the Enterprise Business Data Catalog in the second half of 2022. It is intended as a single-point-of-access for all analytical content in the IT landscape that brings together cataloguing solutions such as SAP Analytics Hub and SAP Data Intelligence Data Catalog.
  • Authorizations: DWC focuses on granular, customizable authorizations down to an object level. New developments in this field include remote BW/4 authorizations and improved Data Access Controls.

  • Hyperscaler support: SAP is expanding DWC’s deployment options: AWS is currently already available, but Azure, Alibaba Cloud and EU access will soon follow.

  • Command line interface: A recently released feature that is available as a standalone Node.js module,
    allowing users to automate routine tasks via coding starting with basic space management.

  • Modeling: Expansions aimed at improved time-dependent dimensions and hierarchies in DWC, as well as more LoB content and best practices for the Business Builder. Change tracking and model synchronization: More extensive change tracking and version support intra-and-cross tenant. Synchronized data changes with SAC across consumption models, in order to tie projects together and simplify automation.

Closing remarks

To close this blog off, let’s review the most frequently asked question during this TechEd: does all of this mean that DWC is now replacing BW(/4HANA)? The answer is no. BW 7.5 will remain supported until at least 2030 for extended maintenance (mainstream maintenance until 2027), whereas for BW/4HANA this support will continue up until 2040 at least. SAP BW/4HANA and SAP SQL DWH remain SAP's strategic solutions for on-premises and private cloud data warehousing, while SAP DWC will be the strategic public cloud product for Data Warehousing moving forward (the latest innovations will come to the Cloud first!).

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Lars van der Goes

Lars van der Goes is a Business Intelligence Consultant at Expertum. Lars combines strong functional skills with broad knowledge of Analytics principles, products and possibilities.

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