SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on SAP HANA

Editorial note: this blog has been updated.  I hope you’ll still review and understand that my point of view hasn’t actually changed at the end, but the content is important for you to understand. Thierry’s comment clarified my misunderstanding from my prior conversations with SAP.  Here goes…

I hope you know me by know. SAP BusinessObjects is my passion. However, I’ve also been quietly pecking away at SAP HANA. Today I want to tackle SAP HANA as an application layer database for SAP BusinessObjects. Is it ready for primetime? No. But read on anyway.

SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on SAP HANA

SAP HANA is the talk of our technology space. It is often discussed in the circles of migrating SAP’s apps and analytics. The other exciting thing to me is the ability to leverage it at other application layers. In this case, for the SAP BusinessObjects databases. If you are reading this blog you are no stranger to a reference to the Central Management Server (CMS) database or the Auditor database. The “brains” and the usage history of an SAP BusinessObjects system. I’d also venture to say that most of the world runs SAP BusinessObjects on Oracle, SQL Server, or DB2 as the application layer databases. In SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP4, SAP introduced the ability to rest those databases on SAP HANA.

The Bottom Line

Let me get straight to it. There is not really a compelling reason today to run your CMS and Auditor databases on SAP HANA. The first, and most compelling reason, is that SAP HANA looks to SAP BusinessObjects just like a traditional database. It makes it no different than any other database in terms of letting the application do all of the work vs. the SAP HANA database. After the tables are generated, you’ll note they are row based. So why mess with it? No SAP HANA specific optimizations are in place as of this release other than the default in-memory support. Second, SAP has not actually white-listed the application for allowing SAP BusinessObjects to run on a common SAP HANA database alongside your other SAP HANA applications.

On the bright side, SAP has made this option available in order to simplify landscapes. However, following our own long standing position, I’m not a fan of putting the CMS/Audit databases on the same instance as a reporting database. Plus, SAP HANA is expensive. This use case doesn’t really compel me so much.

The bottom line is that SAP BusinessObjects can run on SAP HANA for the CMS and Audit databases…but it’s just a database that might be faster. Let’s get techie anyway because if you are going to go there, be prepared.

Running SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on SAP HANA

Back in the lab, I have a standard SAP HANA box running and ready for me to drop my SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on. But, before I do ANYTHING, I do the needful, and that is consult the Product Availability Matrix (PAM). The first thing to note is that SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP4 only supports SAP HANA SP3 and SP4. To get SAP HANA SP5 support, SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP5. That’s a lot of “SAP” and “SP”. Stay with me.

SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP4 PAM (click to enlarge)
SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP4 PAM

SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP5 PAM (click to enlarge)

SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP5 PAM

That said, get ready to carve out a day to install SAP BusinessObjects SP4 full install and SP5 with any current patches you need. If not already done, also take the time to install the SAP HANA client installer in order to get the ODBC driver for SAP HANA on your SAP BusinessObjects server.

There is also one humongous issue here. Start the install of your SAP BusinessObjects BI4 SP4 build and note…there is no SAP HANA option. Really. Let’s walk through the initial install steps. Back when Greg and I wrote the SAP BusinessObjects BI4 Systems Administration book, I really feel stupid we didn’t catch this to mention it there….so I am now. Confession over.

First, instead of a full install, go for a custom.

Choose Install Type
Very innocent. Well done. In the first panel of the custom install, turn off the integrated database. Today, it’s Microsoft SQL Server and it’s beastly. Use something somewhere else.

BI4 on HANA 02

Next, actually select the target database (a few screens in). Note something odd. NO SAP HANA. That’s right. We actually have to start building a cluster against a different database first. OK. For my purposes, I used an Oracle database (gasp) to get started. We can deal with this.

Select Database

OK. It is what it is. Get through your first build, but don’t feel like you have to actually configure anything. Just get it installed with other Enterprise servers (Explorer?) and let’s move on to the SP5 patching. This is incremental. Just get it done and get back to me tomorrow.

If you wish to multi-task, you may go ahead and set up your ODBC connection to your SAP HANA database. This blog assumes you’ve created your database(s), created user accounts that are privileged to work within those databases, and area ready to start creating that ODBC connection.

Plug into the 64-bit ODBC connection and create a new system data source against the SAP HANA driver.

BI4 on HANA 06

With the driver selected, you must name your ODBC connection, point it to the data source, and define the port (important).


You’ll note in the port portion of this “Server and Port”, I’ve left “nn” in here. “nn” is the instance number you used when you created your SAP HANA box.

Test the connection with the Connect button, supplying the user and password you created on SAP HANA and click OK. Hopefully, by this time, SP5 is all laid down and you are ready to move on. It’s time to move on to the Central Configuration Manager (CCM) to finalize the install of SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on SAP HANA. Before you dive in head first, I dug up this tasty bit from the Administrator guide about installing SAP BusinessObjects on SAP HANA:

Copy your data from the default CMS database, selecting HANA as the destination database. For more information, see “Copying data from one CMS system database to another”.

Meh? I beat this installer all over the place, tweaked my HANA user settings, all to no avail. I really did have to copy from that source CMS (Oracle) into the target CMS (SAP HANA) via the CCM. The deceiving piece is that you can attempt to add a new SIA through the CCM and it pretends that it will let you. However, failsauce.

Wrapping Up

With my CMS now successfully running on SAP HANA, I feel vindicated. No, there are no real perceived gains in performance but a rigorous benchmark is truly warranted on systems bigger than I have at my disposal. However, the forever-optimist in me looks forward to this working when the CMS optimized for in-memory support. Sure, I can do some fancy ETL and replicate some Auditor data into SAP HANA but I don’t think that is strategically where the value will be. I’d suggest you start thinking about future-state business case and the gains you will get when the CMS is optimized for in-memory. It should be worth it.

On a semi-related note, my friend Patrice Le Bihan and his colleague Pierpaolo Vezzosi just hosted an web cast on SAP BusinessObjects WITH SAP HANA. They covered using the BI tools with SAP HANA data sources vs. basing the platform upon it.

Do you have a different point of view here? Is SAP HANA for the sake of SAP HANA worth making this move?

One thought on “SAP BusinessObjects BI4 on SAP HANA

  1. Nice thorough write-up Eric! You are correct that the primary driver for SAP to support running the CMS on HANA is to simplify landscapes and reduce TCO. Soon it is even expected to be on the HANA “whitelist” of applications and therefore run on a common HANA database shared with other whitelist applications. That being said, all data in HANA – being stored as rows or columns – is always loaded and processed in memory and although no code change was made to the CMS to delegate more calculation to HANA, some specific workflow might already enjoy performance improvements. We plan to run some benchmarks later in the year and hopefully we will post news on that front.

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