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SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform

BI 4 on HANA- Part 2: Why SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 is the best BI solution on SAP HANA?

We all know that SAP HANA is a great database and that is using public technology to grant access to client tools. This means that any BI solution in the market can access HANA and show off its capabilities thanks to the power of the HANA engine.

Some customers I met were really impressed by HANA and by the SAP BI solution but still wanted to understand why (and if) the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4 is really the best BI solution on HANA.

Apart from the non-technical benefit of having to deal with a single vendor for all your data chain (from where it originates, through ETL, into datawarehouse, to BI) which simplifies the project, the licensing, the support, the interactions with the vendor, there are at least two technical reasons which make of SAP BI 4 the best BI on SAP HANA.

SAP HANA is not just a relational database

As shown in the picture below, SAP HANA can be accessed as any other relational database using a plain standard ANSI SQL syntax when you are connecting to tables.

But when you are connecting to Information Models (Analytic views or Calculation views) the standard SQL doesn't suffice anymore.

The information models expose functionality which goes beyond the typical set of functions of a relational database. To name a few of those functionality, in information models you can set up currency or unit of measures conversions, you can define multi-language text results, you have hierarchies, you can pass parameters which modify the execution of a calculation view, you can pass variables filtering your results.  To be able to fully benefit of those functionality, the client tool connected to HANA needs to be able to do two things:

1. fully understand how an information model is defined so to adopt the correct SQL syntax

2. be able to extend its SQL to the requirements of the information models

Obviously changing a standard SQL generation technology is an expensive and architecturally complex task. SAP client tools have all the interest in investing in the technology and making such changes but this is not true for all BI tools in the market.

When you look at some BI competitors they might have the 'access to HANA' checkbox but when you go into the details you might find out that you have to use free-hand SQL to fully use the HANA functionality or that only part of the functionality is available.

The SAP BusinessObjects BI tools have been implementing those changes into their query generation or have been desgined ex-novo with those extensions in mind. The SQL generated automatically contains the necessary 'with parameters' keywords at the right place to trigger the conversions or pass information to calculation views; they use the necessary 'select distinct' syntax when no measures are queried or use the correct aggregation function when a measure is used; multi-lingual settings are automatically passed from the preferred user locale and so on.  Moreover, where SQL is not the best language to run the query, SAP client tools use other alternatives which provide the full functionality keeping the performance of the platform.

With the SAP BusinessObjects BI tools you don't have to worry about the syntax to use. They automatically get the best query to use HANA and all of its functionality.

SAP HANA should do all the work

The power of SAP HANA resides in its ability to perform very rapidly calculations and manipulations on the data it hosts. Those calculations are done as close as possible to the CPU of the machine onto which HANA is installed and there are appropriate and optimized engines which find the best approach possible based on the request and on the available data. This means that a good client tool for HANA has an architecture which delegates to HANA as much as possible the actions related to data manipulation.

Some client tools in the market can connect to HANA but then do a lot of data manipulation within their engines or, worse, request to download all of the data from an Information Model before being able to use it.

The SAP BusinessObjects BI client tools have adapted their architecture to the HANA way of working. They delegate as much as possible the charge to the HANA system. If we take, as an example, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, we can see that when the data source is HANA there is no need to extract the data and index it on the BI platform to create an exploration space. All manipulations in the interface are executed on HANA in real time. The same applies for Lumira, Design Studio or Analysis Office when connected to HANA: each click on the client tool is a different query to HANA. With Web Intelligence you have a few best practices to apply to delegate the calculations down to HANA and the good news is that those best practices are likely to get automatically activated when connecting to HANA in the near future.

Bottom line: all SQL enabled client tools can connect to SAP HANA but only the SAP analytics tools get the most out of it!

Thanks for reading so far and stay tuned for Part 3: Setting up shared relational connections to SAP HANA

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