What are the differences, similarities between SAP BWA and HANA?

SAP BWA paved the way for the HANA in-memory database, so are the two all that similar? Ethan Jewett lays it out in this Ask the Expert column.

What's the difference between SAP BWA and HANA?

SAP Business Warehouse Accelerator (SAP BWA) is one of the ancestors of HANA, so there are definite similarities between the two SAP technologies. Both are in-memory, columnar, parallel database architectures. This means that both systems can distribute large queries evenly among hundreds of processors across several servers. However, BWA is very narrowly focused on its use case as an analytics accelerator and lacks many of the capabilities that allow HANA to act as a full database and application platform. For example, BWA requires that whenever data changes, its columnar indexes are fully rebuilt.

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HANA allows for much more fine-grained updates, allowing indices to be rebuilt much less often, making HANA workable as a transactional and an analytic database. HANA also provides standard interfaces (like SQL and MDX), a modeling environment, analytic and statistical function libraries and a full-fledged application platform on top of its database capabilities in the form of XS Engine and River -- all things that BWA never really aspired to.

So is there any place for BWA anymore? Not really. If a company already has BWA and doesn't want to go through the potential expense and disruption of migrating to BW on HANA, then it might make sense to stick with BWA for the moment. But the future looks to be BW on HANA. On the bright side, BW on HANA may not be as expensive a proposition as it seems at first, because BW and HANA both provide ample options for keeping data in cheaper, disk-based storage systems like SAP's Sybase IQ or Apache Hive while still getting good (but not as good, in most cases) performance.

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