Developed by German software company SAP, Business Warehouse (SAP BW) is primarily used to integrate data from various sources to transform, consolidate and cleanse the information in preparation for storage. This process is an integral part of data warehousing, which today, is an essential business function.
Data warehousing is defined as the process of extracting, transforming and loading of data into warehouse, so it can be accessed by end users and applications. Obviously, it’s essential to generating business intelligence and decision-making. In this article, we outline the fundamental features of SAP BW and how businesses can fully leverage the platform.
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SAP BW architecture
The analysis, interpretation and reporting of data are crucial to gaining the competitive edge. Data enables companies to optimise processes so they can rapidly react to market demands. SAP BW provides organisations with a high-performance infrastructure to evaluate and interpret data. With this information, management can make informed, data-driven decisions.
In essence, SAP BW comprises a three-tier architecture:
This is the location where data is stored physically. It includes DataStore Objects (DSO), Persistent Staging Area (PSA), and InfoCubes (multidimensional datasets which are used for analysis in queries, etc.).
SAP BW’s application server is based on an OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) processor. OLAP basically does multidimensional data analysis. It is basically used to get the data stored in database server.
Finally, the presentation server manages data access and reporting.
High-level process flow
The SAP BW process begins with access mechanisms, which retrieve data from multiple, diverse operational data resources. For instance, the tool could pull data from billing applications, web analytics or incident logs. These data are replicated through a transformation model and then stored in the data warehouse (DW).
The description of data elements in the DW, the data sources and the conversion rules that connect them are referred to as ‘metadata’. Metadata is the means by which end-users find and identify data in the warehouse. Further to this, data conversion and movement procedures are performed whenever a revision is required. Various parts of the warehouse may need updates at different times and some at regular periods and others on specified dates.
A typical SAP BW flow would comprise:
- Data extraction from source systems (SAP or non-SAP).
- Staging the data in a Persistent Staging Area (PSA). This platform is used to hold all the data extracted from various sources.
- The data is then cleansed, loaded and stored the data in Data Store Object (DSO).
- These data can be viewed via various dimensions in Infocube.
- The data are made available to Business Explorer by the OLAP processor.
- Finally, the data are made available to Open Hubs, SAP/non-SAP systems, etc. as per business needs.
The advantages of SAP BW
Primarily, SAP BW is a ready-to-go solution that is easy to adapt as per an organisation’s individual needs. Equipped with Business Content, SAP BW comes with ready-made extraction routines, metadata, InfoCubes, information models, reports and channels that guarantee analysis and reporting capabilities, straight out of the box. SAP BW provides seamless links to planning and execution applications that allow businesses to act instantly on insights, dramatically improving the performance of business processes across departments.
However, SAP BW also provides incredible flexibility. Administrators can modify or add data sources, metadata, InfoCubes and reports as and when. This openness ensures that SAP BW is easily integrated into other SAP solutions, including SAP R/3. Moreover, SAP BW isn’t limited to SAP products; it can be easily combined with practically any internal or external data source, including existing data marts, with third-party reporting and analysis tools, or planning and execution applications.
Closing the loop
Essentially, SAP BW provides business with the capabilities to close loops and iron out kinks in their data storage processes. With platforms like SAP BW, problems such as non-standard processes, manual or partially automated processes, multiple non-integrated systems, duplication of data entry or processing efforts – all of which have become increasingly common across enterprises – are eliminated. To address these issues, enterprises should move towards implementing proper data warehousing solutions like those provided by SAP. With these tools, companies can move forward in their growth journey in an orderly, dynamic manner.