After fragments of rumors drizzling out on social media channels during January, SAP pulled off the official launch event of SAP S/4 HANA today. On stage at the New York Stock Exchange, Bill McDermott, Prof. Hasso Plattner and Bernd Leukert unveiled the next generation Business Suite 4 HANA.
So – the whole SAP ecosystem and existing SAP customers want to know: what is S/4 HANA all about? Will the world end as we know it? Here’s a quick breakdown of what’s in the box.
From the perspective of an end user – in the boardroom or on the shop floor:
It’s about letting companies run faster, in real time, with more accurate data.
It’s about having information at your fingertips, when you need it, at any level of granularity: imagine instantly drilling down from your profit and loss statement into individual days and transactions, visualized on the fly – learning new things about your company’s performance instead of getting bogged down by predefined reports and slow action.
It’s about new applications out of the box for analysis, prediction, simulations and recommendations.
It’s about a completely new user interface for the whole Business Suite – on any device (demoed on a smart watch by Leukert..)
From the perspective of the CIO:
It’s about being able to run your ERP, CRM, SRM, SCM, PLM all in one system with less integration overhead – in the public cloud or on-premise.
It’s about doing less modifications in the core and thus being able to digest quarterly core updates from SAP.
It’s about being able to provide fast analytics directly on top of transactional data.
It’s about having test scripts built into the Guided Configuration process.
It’s about reducing database footprint – by a factor of 10.
It’s about non-disruptive innovation in the sense that ECC 6.0 compatibility is promised – you don’t need to do a big-bang over-night migration to an all new S/4. You can even run SAP GUI for some limited time..
From the perspective of developers who have been struggling with the task of producing realtime business software on ECC 6.0:
In S/4 HANA, a lot of traditional database issues simply go away. The concept is: all transactional data is stored on atomic, line item level – no aggregates or pre-calculated totals. No aggregates means no need to update multiple database fields when creating new transaction items. No updates means fast atomic write-only inserts, meaning no table and field locking is needed, meaning massive parallelization is possible. All of this means: throughput skyrockets. Problems go away.
For developers, it also means new skills are needed. Good ol’ Dynpro is finally going seriously out of fashion. The next generation full-stack developer needs to be up to speed with HANA database modeling, UI5 front-end development and application logic running on the HANA Cloud Platform. Technically, S/4 HANA still runs on the ABAP stack, but especially for the Public Cloud Edition, extensions and customizations will be done on the HCP layer.
Admittedly – without yet being able to really get our hands on the gritty contents of the new shiny box, it’s difficult to conclude how massive the impact of S/4 will be. The increased speed of transactional processing and the flexibility of realtime analytics directly on the transactional system will definitely be of huge importance for pretty much any mid-size or large enterprise. But yet – it still remains to be seen what the real-world migration path will look like. I guess we will find out as 2015 folds out – and we will keep you posted!