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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
I was recently working with a customer who was very interested in using SAP HANA as a data-mart for their SAP Applications. During our meeting, the customer expressed that the IT department was excited about the benefits that SAP HANA could bring to the organization. The next step in the internal process was to demonstrate the value of this project against other initiatives at the executive level. This customer needed a SAP HANA project to prove value, but the approval process required the value before the project could start - a frustrating chicken/egg scenario!

For those who may be encountering a similar problem, I would like to share a little-known, two-part solution: SAP HANA Express 32GB and operational business content for SAP ECC (SAP HANA XSA). Together, this free solution allows any customer to apply the power of SAP HANA to a SAP ECC system.  Some potential benefits include:

Example Deployment Architecture

SAP HANA Express does not require certified hardware for installation. SAP HANA Express 32GB can run on laptops, desktops, VMWare environments, or bare metal servers. Although SAP HANA Express only needs 8GB of memory, I recommend an architecture similar to the diagram below for the use case discussed in this article:

After installation, all the necessary tools are available including the SAP Web IDE and the SAP HANA Cockpit. A dba or developer can then use these tools to install the free SAP ECC Content. The final architecture may resemble the following:

SAP HANA Express Overview

SAP HANA Express is a stream-lined, production-suitable version of SAP HANA designed to run on a different class of hardware than its full-featured counterpart. The 32GB version of the software is available for free via a registered download - see link below.

One important note that I tell customers is to not underestimate how much raw data can fit into the first 32GB of a SAP HANA system. Assuming 8 GB of DBMS overhead and 4X compression, a customer may (no guarantees here) be able to store up to 48 GB of raw, uncompressed data in the system.  Depending on factors such as the actual data sizes, concurrency, etc., one may even be able to start an initial project with a couple of use cases.

In addition, SAP HANA Express features powerful advanced analytical engines for keen insight into the data. The spatial engine applies geometries to structured data to answer questions like, "How many customers bought my product within a circle's radius of one of my stores?". The developer can utilize the graph engine to analyze relationships between entities. A great example of the graph engine in action is Bill of Material processing, comparisons, etc. Finally, the text analytics engine makes sense out of unstructured data and can even understand the author's sentiment.

For more detail on the included features, please see the feature scope description linked below in the getting started section.

SAP ECC ERP Operational Reporting Free Content Overview

The great thing about the free templates (other than being free) is jump-starting the initial SAP HANA project. The free content includes integration, data modeling, and reporting templates. The content is provided as-is; however, the developer may modify the objects to fit use case requirements.

With SAP HANA, a best practice is to model and expose the underlying data via Calculation Views.  I often tell customers to consider the calculation view as a "universal data object." Any person, process, or system that can access SAP HANA can access a calculation view - externally the calculation view looks just like a table.  Thus, a nice benefit of using the included calculation views is that end-users (or other processes) could be given self-service access to the data immediately after deployment.

Two important notes regarding the free SAP ECC Operational Content: (1) The content is compatible with any SAP HANA 2.0 XSA deployment (i.e. SAP HANA Cloud) - not just SAP HANA Express; (2) A SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) subscription is mandatory to utilize the SAC stories.

Expanding Past 32 GB of Capacity

If you are ready to start applying the power of SAP HANA and struggling with the chicken/egg scenario, then SAP HANA Express 32 GB with the free SAP ECC operational reporting content might be a great first step. I encourage the reader to take advantage of the free SAP HANA capacity and the free SAP ECC operational content. Go after the low hanging fruit and demonstrate quick wins to the business. Even the 32 GB version of SAP HANA Express can simplify and accelerate processes - setting the stage for new innovations.

Once value is proven and the initial SAP HANA Express system is at capacity, I then recommend one of the following SAP HANA expansion strategies:

  • Upgrade SAP HANA Express to 64GB, 96GB, or 128 GB of capacity via the SAP store

  • Migrate to SAP HANA Cloud and continue using SAP HANA Express as the development environment

  • Deploy a licensed version of SAP HANA Enterprise either on-premise or to a system hosted in the cloud

Get started today with the unofficial starter kit!
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