What is SAP S/4HANA?
SAP S/4HANA is an acronym for the SAP Business Suite 4 the HANA Database. We call it the "next generation" of SAP business suite software because it replaces the previous version of SAP's business suite, SAP ECC (SAP Enterprise Central Component), the same way a new Android or Apple mobile device replaces the previous device versions.
SAP S/4HANA is the digital core of an organization, meaning it is the financial system of record with the universal journal being the single source of truth. The software is inherently designed with analytics, including predictive and forecasting capabilities, always in-mind. Data is collected from transactions and fed into analytical applications that provide information to help customers make the right decisions across all lines of business.
SAP S/4HANA can be easily integrated with other SAP and third party applications through the SAP Business Technology Platform. It also has an extensibility framework where non-developers can easily make customizations and enhancements through apps that guide you through the process of building extensions that will be stable through future release upgrades.
The SAP Business Suite software is built on the SAP HANA database, and the user experience is enhanced with the SAP Fiori user interface to provide a consistent and intuitive user experience, both in desktop and mobile apps. Core Data Services is an analytical layer that sits on top of the SAP HANA database to facilitate the retrieval and modeling of data in the analytical SAP Fiori apps.
The SAP Fiori Launchpad is the central entry point to SAP S/4HANA for all users on mobile and desktop devices. The launchpad is an employee's personal home page where they can see and launch the applications permissioned for their assigned role(s). SAP Fiori is the design language that creates a consistent look and feel across all apps, regardless of whether the app lives within SAP S/4HANA (for example, the Manage My Timesheet app), or opens a new browser tab to launch an integrated SAP or third-party solution (for example, the Concur Travel Expense app). Hundreds of SAP Fiori apps are available across different lines of business and industries, covering a wide range of transactional and analytical tasks. In the SAP Fiori Launchpad, users can access embedded support, including guided simulations that align with business processes, video tutorials, and help information that's in-context of the app you're currently working in. Users can also make personalizations to make their view of the launchpad fit their needs best.
Core Data Services (CDS) is a common set of domain-specific languages and services for defining and consuming semantically rich data models. In other words, the CDS layer provides a universal language to read and process data across different applications. You can create CDS views to model data from the database for analytical purposes, or to generate application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow other applications to consume the data. In general, CDS views are intended to be consumed by a user interface (UI), analytical applications, or other solutions.
The SAP HANA database is an in-memory, column-oriented database designed to store, receive, and query data. The in-memory computing engine enables SAP HANA to process data stored in RAM (Random-access memory; also called "main memory") as opposed to reading it from a physical disk drive. Think of RAM storage as your own short-term memory and disk storage as your long-term memory. If you are asked to recall something you just learned 10 seconds ago, the information is still in your short-term memory and is easily accessible. If you are asked to recall something you learned 10 years ago, it's going to take much longer to sift through all of that data and identify the correct information. For databases, storing data in main memory instead of disk provides faster data access and, by extension, faster querying and processing.
The structure of the SAP HANA database tables are column-oriented, meaning all data for a single column is stored in the same location. This is opposed to row-oriented databases that store all data for a single row in the same location. Think of a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel with user data - the columns are headers that define a certain type of data to be stored in each column (first name, last name, phone number, address), where each row is an entire user record with details about one individual person. When running a query, a row-oriented database selects each record (row) of information that has something relevant to the query, then discards the data that's not relevant. A column-oriented database applies a filter to the column(s) relevant for the query and selects only the necessary data that is requested. Because column-oriented databases only search for the data in a query, instead of casting a wide net and discarding information they don't need, they are much faster and more precise. In-memory, column-oriented databases are designed to handle large volumes of data, which is necessary to feed analytical applications that generate predictive analyses and to train AI chatbots or other types of technology that learn through exposure to data (for example, Machine Learning).
How can SAP S/4HANA be deployed?
SAP S/4HANA can be deployed in a public cloud, private cloud, or on premise to fit customer needs.
With SAP S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition, customers can see results right away with ready-to-work business processes built on proven industry best practices. Companies can stay ahead by getting the latest business processes and technology innovations with semi-annual release upgrades in August and February, which are automatically installed in your system by SAP on the dates defined in the release schedule. The fully extensible platform enables companies to customize business processes to their needs and easily expand as business requirements evolve with the cloud architecture.
With SAP S/4HANA Cloud Private Edition, customers can move to the cloud at their own pace. A comprehensive library of ready-to-run business processes make it easy to start with a baseline, while the customization flexibility enables companies to build highly tailored business processes that support industry requirements. SAP releases annual upgrades to enable customers to stay current with the latest innovations, while providing flexibility for customers to roll out innovations on their own time line.
SAP S/4HANA (on premise) and SAP S/4HANA Cloud Private Edition have the same functional scope, including the end-to-end line of business processes, support for all 25 industries and annual upgrades. The primary difference between the two is the license (perpetual or subscription), and where the infrastructure lives (on-site or in a remote data center). In addition, there is no requirement for SAP S/4HANA customers to install upgrades when they have purchased the on premise deployment. With private edition, customers are required to stay within mainstream maintenance, which requires at least 1 upgrade every 5 years.