With digital proliferation at an all-time high, enterprises expect the future demand for cloud software to increase manifold. Amongst the various cloud platforms available in the market today, Microsoft’s Azure stands out owing to its wide range of products and services that are designed to build, run and mange applications. There are real advantages that comes with Azure cloud for running generalized workloads, mission-critical workloads in SAP, and digitally transforming businesses. Security, availability, and reliability are the three key benefits that enterprises can expect from the Azure cloud platform.
Having SAP-based data within Azure is very helpful when it comes to implementing scenarios such as fraud detection, churn reduction, or predictive maintenance. For example, one can identify equipment such as machinery or trucks, which must be serviced through their maintenance history (stored in SAP) and sensor data (streaming into the Hadoop cluster). Then, one can generate new maintenance orders automatically in SAP, based on a machine learning/prediction scenario implemented on the cluster in Spark and Scala, using MLLib.
New insights can help companies empower employees, reduce costs, better understand customers, prevent supply chain disruptions, and build new capabilities that they were unable to build before. Some of these capabilities include:
- Easily bring SAP data into Azure to monitor and map supply chains with real-time insights
- Gain a full picture of market conditions, and use AI and machine learning to predict inventory needs and adjusting supply chain processes
- Gain new insights from advanced analytics in Azure by integrating SAP data with unstructured data from across the enterprise
- Tap into more than 100 Azure services and SAP connectors, access the SAP Cloud Platform, and applying intelligent analytics on that.
- Integrate with Microsoft 365, Teams, Power Apps, and Power BI to discover insights that drive new customer experiences
- Use SAP and Microsoft business intelligence tools to create a comprehensive real-time dashboard view of operations
The Azure platform fulfills the SAP requirement for high-performance compute, high-performance storage, enterprise-grade connectivity, and management & governance.
Data extraction strategy
SAP has a combination of different environments where SAP data is stored. Some customers are transitioning from SAP ECC to S/4HANA. Some have SAP BW installed, and are expanding that or reducing their investment in business warehouses.
Offloading old and rarely accessed data to external storage reduces the cost of running SAP HANA- which is commonly used for scenarios such as real-time stream analytics, spatial data processing, predictive analytics, and extract, transform, load (ETL) processes. Customers mainly look for SAP integration from SAP ECC, S/4HANA, and a SAP business warehouse or SAP BW system with Azure cloud.
In the past, a lot of customers have developed ABAP code that ran within the SAP system. This would run queries, collect data, and post that data back to the SAP system, which is time consuming and cumbersome. Also, ABAP resources are hard to come by and are not cheap. It lacks business flexibility to accommodate change in business requirements and follows a lengthy process. Customers are mainly looking for a process, a tool, or a set of tools that are reliable, performant, and can scale to millions of records.
Customers have a lot of business data in SAP so the tool must manage and process that data. Also, the process must be secure and auditable ideally certified by SAP. For the customers, the solution must be cost-effective to implement and be maintained over many years. The solution we choose to extract SAP data into Azure must be compatible with the SAP system releases. This must be SAP-certified for SAP ECC, S/4HANA, and have support for SAP NetWeaver and ABAP environments.
Datavard meets the above needs and can be used to ingest data from SAP HANA and SAP Business Warehouse (BW) into various supported Azure data stores including Azure Blob, Azure Data Lake, and Azure Synapse, etc., to build intelligent solutions. It leverages Azure’s first-class information management services, big data stores, advanced analytics tools, and intelligence toolkits to transform data into intelligent action.
Customers are renovating their technical landscape to get significant operational gains. Datavard helps in building critical capabilities for customers in the digital age by transforming the customer’s landscape and their data to reflect a new business reality. This could be platform migration to the cloud, a harmonization or a standardization before taking the journey to S/4, or a post-merger integration, and so forth.
Next is turning the customer’s data to a trusted and well-managed business asset. Datavard supports archiving where the customers want to reduce the CO or the complexity of the footprint. It also supports you with technology that has built-in smart and intelligent automation.
In general, customers are just trying to figure out how to get to S/4 and B/4 in the most efficient way. From that point of view, Datavard has a data lifecycle management suite which can really help close a lot of gaps in the services portfolio to bring the customer an end-to-end data management solution. Datavard does archiving and housekeeping for BW and ERP. From the decommissioning point of view, it can offer customer a real end-to-end scenario in their S/4 or their BW4 migration.
Figure 1: The Capabilities of the Datavard Transformation Suite
Traditionally, ERP data is archived for legal reasons. Because cloud storage is usually more economical than HANA, a data integration tool called Datavard GLUE can help integrate SAP and non-SAP data in the same data lake and provide customers a 360-degree view of their data. The key tenets of this unique, cost-effective tool include:
- The Transform suite is used to migrate BW to HANA.
- The Validate tool is used to quickly validate and compare data sets before and after any action between source-to-target system migration or for in-place upgrades to ensure that the data stays the same.
- Monitor services for monitoring of complete solutions running in HANA. It is an ABAP- based solution to monitor DB, OS, and NetWeaver at the same time. It leverages various notifications and rules to monitor the landscape and respond to issues which can raise from multiple systems.
- HANA systems tends to be expensive due to licenses and hardware. So, the Archive tool can be used to migrate SAP HANA data, which is no more used but needed due to legal reasons, to storage systems outside SAP like Azure Data Lake. This ensures data is still available to SAP via virtualization, but no data is consumed in the SAP DB system.
- Integrate is used to bring data outside of SAP in a copy-paste manner to support analytics and data processing use cases.
Salient features of GLUE
- Easily replicates and translates SAP data
- Native integration with SAP
- Automatic trigger-based delta extraction
- ‘Push’ approach to extraction
- Same SAP lifecycle management applicable
- Use ABAP code in extractors to integrate business logic
- Supports 20+ targets (cloud/on-premises)
- No additional hardware required-runs on SAP NetWeaver
- Supports SAP ERP and BW object types and any other ABAP SAP system
- Fast and agile development
- High transfer speed, performance, and parallelization
- Leveraging SAP authorizations secures sensitive source data by replicating data protection and authorization
- SAP transports and Software Logistics (TMS)
- Integrated into existing SAP workflow
Figure 2: SAP Data Integration with GLUE
Data modeling process
Figure 3: The Data Modeling Process
There are advantages and disadvantages involved with using either ERP or BW as the source of SAP data. At one glance, it may be much easier to simply access data through SAP’s Business Warehouse, because some of the data discovery, contextualization, and cleansing required is already performed during the load of ERP data to SAP BW. However, it depends on a case-to-case basis.
Moving ahead with Datavard
There are enough and more reasons for enterprises to migrate on-premise SAP data to Azure cloud. This offers significant cost savings, opportunities for innovation and most importantly, a chance to future-proof SAP investments. And Datavard appears to be the tool-of-choice for enabling this migration as its wide range of transformation and data management product offerings provide a clear competitive advantage over others.