SAP announces SAP BW 7.4, promising simplicity and flexibility

SAP claims it has answered customers' demands for more open, nimble data warehousing software with the release of SAP BW 7.4.

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SAP this week announced the release of SAP BW 7.4, which the German software maker said is faster and offers more flexibility compared with previous versions of its Business Warehouse software, due to expanded use of technologies like Smart Data Access.

"People want to keep the size of their footprint of their data warehouse down. Smart Data Access allows you to keep the footprint down by virtually being able to much more easily reach out to a number of different data silos in a much more nimble, easy way," said Dan Kearnan, senior director of marketing for SAP business intelligence and SAP HANA, the company's in-memory platform.

Smart Data Access allows users to create virtual tables on HANA that access data stored in other databases. They can then create SQL and views on these virtual tables.  The views can then be accessed in SAP Business Warehouse (BW) via virtual cube or virtual master data functionality, according to BI expert Ethan Jewett.

In other words, Smart Data Access enables remote data access to any other source or system without having to move or replicate the data itself into HANA.  SAP calls this ability to weave in a network of additional data sources as the "in-memory data fabric."

The news was announced at the SAP HANA 2014 conference in Orlando this past week.  Although the release was available to customers late last year, SAP said it decided to hold off and make the announcement at a larger event dedicated to HANA and related technologies.

SAP BW 7.4 also simplifies the data modeling process in a number of ways, according to Kearnan.

"[Users can bring] data into the modeling process directly from HANA without having to surface it up through queries and cubes, which is often what you have to do with BW. We've cut out a lot of the modeling steps that were seen as redundant and unnecessary. The quicker IT can provision the data so that a business user can make use of it, the more of the [IT] hero you are."  

Kearnan added that SAP has also combined a number of modeling interfaces so that the modeling process itself now requires fewer steps. 

SAP BW 7.4 enables systems to work faster, Kearnan said, by more deeply integrating BW with SAP HANA.

"We started the speeding up process in 7.3.  In 7.4 we doubled down on that.  We're now driving more of the machine-intensive processing, or business logic, down at the HANA layer.  It's not at the application layer," Kearnan said.  "Now, the BW application layer is [just] the recipient of that data, and HANA does the heavy lifting."

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