What’s Your SAP BI Strategy: BW on HANA, BW/4HANA or SAP HANA Enterprise?

With the evolution of SAP HANA, Business Warehouse (BW) has undergone significant transformation. The addition of SAP HANA as the database layer enables better integration, vastly improved performance and better business outcomes.

Companies that implemented BW before HANA and haven’t upgraded may experience challenges such as additional persistent layers, complex reconciliation issues, longer nightly batch data management, and lack of real-time data due to inflexible data loads in their BW system. Other companies may be considering an updated SAP HANA BW solution to harness the power of their data, increase innovation and decrease data management costs, among other benefits.

It may be time to rethink your BW strategy and move to a different offering that provides more of the technology capabilities you need.


SAP’s HANA software is designed to make the most of today’s hardware capabilities. It provides modeling abilities and other functionality that Oracle and SQL Server don’t offer, as well as tight integration with applications such as SLT and PI that pull information from the SAP system to transform it into a usable business format. It has a built-in web application server, data extraction engine, data federation engine, statistical engine, semantic layer and more.

But HANA’s biggest advantage is its speed and agility. HANA uses an in-memory and column-oriented database that provides faster data access, which enables more efficient querying and processing for better performance and analytics capabilities.

Which HANA Option is Right for Your Organization?

Choosing the right HANA solution requires an understanding of the capabilities of each offering and what it can do for your organization.


SAP BW on HANA is targeted to BW clients who installed BW prior to 2010, have a large number of data assets on BW, and can’t take BW out of their business landscape. It allows BW customers to migrate their legacy database platforms to HANA’s new architecture, leveraging the raw processing power and speed of the in-memory analytic platform without disrupting existing content or requiring costly redevelopment. BW on HANA eases the user into using some of HANA’s functionality, and uses HANA-specific operations to speed things up even more. However, while BW on HANA is fast, provides real-time data, and is more flexible, it is not fully integrated with HANA at the application level and doesn’t fully realize the benefits of the cutting-edge platform.


SAP BW/4HANA, released in mid-2016, is significantly different from BW on HANA. BW/4HANA is completely optimized for the HANA system, and combines the capabilities of SAP BW on HANA and SAP HANA Enterprise. It lets you benefit from HANA technology even before you’re able to migrate your data.

SAP BW/4HANA allows you to model data coming from SAP using a streamlined BW methodology and combine it with third-party data in either the BW/4 layer or native HANA. It then exposes the data, using a variety of methods, to BusinessObjects or any of the business reporting solutions you might have. BW/4HANA also drastically reduces the quantity of data objects, requiring less maintenance and storage. All future innovations will happen in SAP BW/4HANA.

Comparing BW on HANA and BW/4HANA

SAP BW on HANA and SAP BW/4HANA are different application suites running on the same database. BW on HANA uses SAP’s legacy BW software, but moves it to the HANA database, while BW/4HANA uses a re-engineered software suite designed to fully harness the power of the HANA database. Because BW/4HANA is completely optimized for HANA, it brings a much faster response than BW on HANA, which still has older, slower functionality.

Both applications let you pull data from other systems, but BW on HANA has fewer options available for data ingestion than BW/4HANA.

BW on HANA provides accelerated analytics and real-time reporting without requiring companies to commit to a complete system transformation. BW/4HANA provides a range of additional benefits on top of those performance improvements.

Can you use BW on HANA and BW/4HANA together?

If you aren’t able to take BW out of your business landscape for any number of reasons, you can use BW on HANA and BW/4HANA in combination. However, we recommend you implement SAP HANA Enterprise instead, as the new technology will let you do things faster and more efficiently.

SAP HANA Enterprise

SAP HANA Enterprise runs completely on HANA, pulling raw data tables from SAP into HANA. It’s a strong solution for companies that need to combine data from SAP and non-SAP systems. Because it’s implemented as a sidecar engagement, it offers the advantage of being able to continue using your existing system while using HANA as a secondary database.

HANA Enterprise uses traditional, or native, HANA modeling, which incorporates calculation views, but it also provides Core Data Services (CDS). We recommend users continue with calculation views for all but a few specific, non-traditional events, such as operational reporting in your existing S4/HANA processing system, as calculation views offer easier modeling and are better supported by the HANA promotion system.  If you are looking to develop more complex data models that combine data from multiple sources or tables, including non-SAP data, we recommend you use HANA models on BW/4HANA or HANA Enterprise.

Other Considerations

There are other issues to keep in mind as you’re deciding which HANA system is best for your company. Is your in-house experience deeper in BW or in SQL knowledge? You can leverage your existing resources most effectively if you take advantage of existing capabilities.  If your organization is a full SAP shop, then BW/4HANA may be the most attractive choice. But if you are integrating several different software applications, then HANA Enterprise could be a better choice due to its extensive integration options. Third-party technology and heavy integration can make an important difference in your selection.

Also, understand the impact of the technology on your organization. If you’ve wanted to get into HANA or expand your workforce’s skills into HANA, this a perfect opportunity to move away from BW and train your workforce to meet future demand.

The core question is whether you go down the pure BW path or the SAP HANA path. Assessing the best use and most effective implementation of SAP HANA based on your company’s unique needs is the most important consideration. As an SAP Gold partner with noteworthy SAP HANA expertise including data provisioning, Protiviti has the experience to help you choose and deploy the best solution to meet your specific needs and gain value from your SAP investment.

Visit Protiviti’s SAP consulting services page for more information on our solutions.

Don Loden

Managing Director
Business Platform Transformation

Sri Velicheti

Enterprise Application Solutions

Bruce Labbate

Enterprise Application Solutions

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