SAP reinvents Business Suite with HANA in biggest launch in company history

SAP Business Suite is reinvented in SAP S/4HANA, where the S stands for Simple and the 4 for the fourth generation.


Bill McDermott, SAP’s CEO

Today, at the New York Stock Exchange, SAP announced SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA), a reworking of its venerable Business Suite product for the economy and society of today, which has been completely reworked for the HANA platform, and will only run on it.

“We thought it would be very appropriate to have the biggest launch in SAP history held here, at the NY Stock Exchange,” said Bill McDermott, SAP’s CEO, in a live webcast. “Companies now can run simple. We now have fulfilled the dream of taking our core asset, the Business Suite, and reinventing it as S4 HANA.”

McDermott said that when he and former co-CEO Jim Hagerman-Snabe were appointed to lead the company in 2010, they took a very serious account of the company.

“We knew we had a great core business – the SAP Business Suite,” he said. “We recognized the world was changing fast, that users wanted the same experience in the office on Monday that they had in their living room Saturday afternoon. Going to mobile would be the key there.”

“The second thing we had to do was address the incredible breakthrough of the Internet of Things,” McDermott continued. “Yesterday’s disk-based database could not solve the problems that would be presented by this new world, so SAP invented HANA. 6000 customers later, HANA has now hit scale and is the fastest growing database platform in the world.”

That meant, McDermott said, that Business Suite now needed to be redeveloped for HANA’s in-memory program.

“With SAP Business Suite SAP S/4HANA, the thing we had to do was reinvent that great core,” he said – S stands for Simple, 4 stands for the fourth generation, and it’s radically simple.”

SAP S/4HANA fully leverages the latest in-memory and real-time capabilities of SAP HANA, in cloud, on-premise and hybrid deployment options.

“It’s a massive simplicity of the data model, in which TCO goes down and flexibility goes up” said Hasso Plattner, SAP’s co-founder and Chairman of SAP’s Supervisory Board.

“To tell a company that had lived on a database model for nearly 40 years, with a real time system, which was the foundation of SAP – to take this all away, to take the totals away – this is a shock and this is the basic foundation of SAP S/4HANA,” Plattner said. It is simplified to the highest degree to the lowest number of tables.”

Plattner stressed that the system has been completely rebuilt for HANA. Told five years ago that it was impossible to rewrite SAP’s 400 million lines of code, he replied “if SAP is not able to rewrite the 400 million lines of code it will die.”

HANA’s strength is its ability to leverage in-memory databases and real-time analytics to eliminate traditional database response times.

“Thanks to HANA, we don’t have to distinguish any more between transactional system and analytical systems,” Plattner said.

There is a catch though, and it is because the system will only run on HANA, customers using say, an Oracle database, will need to migrate to the SAP stack to use the new offering. As an incent to do so, Plattner stressed that SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA has a terrific new user interface, replacing the old one, which he acknowledged was years out of date.

“The weakest point in SAP’s system was the UI, which we were reluctant to change because we had millions of users on the system,” he said. “Now we get a completely new UI. Everybody will say, ‘a little late, SAP’, but I told you why. We believe we have the best UI now because it’s the newest.”

Plattner said they would keep the old interface and reporting “for a while,” for customers who don’t move right away. He did not detail how this eventual transition would work for people on the old software, but did say that it would be non-disruptive.

Plattner also acknowledged that modules for every industry are not available yet.

“We do the ones first where we have the most customers,” he said.

SAP S/4HANA will also expand the SAP portfolio of cloud solutions such as those from SAP companies Ariba, Fieldglass and SuccessFactors.