Data Warehousing and SAP BW Overview

The main reason for implementing classic data processing systems has been the acceleration, cost reduction, and automation of processes in individual business areas. In this way, enormous potential for accessing information has sprung up in enterprises over the last few decades. To gain a competitive edge, decision-makers in modern, globally operating enterprises rely ever  more frequently on the effective use of this information; information that is unfortunately often spread across the most varied of areas in the business environment.

This is precisely the challenge that modern data warehouses attempt to meet. What is required are complete solutions that cover the whole process from the collection of source data to the final analysis. Solutions that are able to differentiate between metadata, dimension data, aggregation data, facts, and finally, solutions that include all of the necessary tools.

In heterogeneous system landscapes, the extraction and preparation of consolidated transaction data and master data from components and source systems from other providers, presents a particular challenge. The increasing demand for high-quality business information means that in addition to an integrated data-collection process, the options of a detailed data analysis and multimedia presentation of the analysis results are also required.The demand for data warehouse solutions that incorporate all of these features is immense. The following section looks at the most important demands that are made on a modern data warehouse to establish the criteria that decide how efficient a given data warehouse solution is.

Decision makers urgently need reliable information from the production, purchasing, sales and distribution, finance, and human resources departments. They require an up-to-date and comprehensive picture of each individual area of the business and of the business as a whole. The highest demands that are placed on the data collection process therefore originate from the underlying data sources.

The information must be stored in a homogeneous and consistent form at a central location from where it can be called up. For this reason, modern data warehouses require a separate database. This database enables a stand-alone application environment to provide the required services.On the presentation side, efficient analytical techniques with meaningful multimedia visualization are indispensable. The system must be able to cope with the information needs of the most varied of user groups.The demands made on the source systems are not so high. What is needed here is economic and comprehensive preparation of the data that is required by the data warehouse.

SAP Business Information Warehouse

It is against this background that SAP decided to develop its own data warehouse solution. In the SAP Business Information Warehouse, reporting tasks are gathered together in a stand-alone business component that is assigned to its own SAP system and runs on a separate server with its own database.All of the requirements and objectives mentioned so far have been met in the conception and architecture of the SAP Business Information Warehouse.A decisive advantage of the SAP Business Information Warehouse is the metadata repository. It gives you access to all of SAP's business know-how gathered over 29 years in software development for the commercial components can be configured as SAP source systems to make them available to the whole of SAP Business Content in the form of DataSources for a SAP Business Information Warehouse.

Operational environments (OLTP systems) are characterized by the following criteria:

  1. Detailed transaction data is essential
  2. ŸCurrent data is essential
  3. ŸPerformance requirements are relatively predictable
  4. ŸPatterns showing how users work in the systems can be predicted
  5. ŸData can be optimized for performance
  6. ŸHardware/software can be optimized based on performance characteristics
Decision-support environments (OLAP systems) are characterized by the following criteria:
  1. Integrated data is essential
  2. ŸHistorical data is essential
  3. ŸPerformance requirements are not predictable
  4. ŸPatterns showing how users work in the systems cannot be predicted
  5. ŸData can be optimized based on performance characteristics
  6. ŸHardware/software can be optimized based on performance characteristics

A data warehouse is:

  1. ŸDurable (non-volatile) - the data is stable, meaning that data from the second quarter of 2000 stays consistent over time.
  2. ŸSubject-oriented - the data focuses on the major subject areas of the business - customers or products.
  3. ŸTime -dependent - each set of data correlates with a specific time component.
  4. ŸIntegrated - data is combined from various operational systems and environments - manufacturing data, sales data, invoice data, and so on.
  5. Developed for the efficient processing of queries - the technical environment and data structures are optimized for answering business questions and not for processing transactions.
  6. Designed to be easily accessible - users are able to access the information they need easily and efficiently.

The open BW standard interfaces (BAPIs) enable the seamless integration of third-party extraction tools and third-party analysis tools.The data staging interface (staging BAPI) on the extraction side, and the analysis interface (OLE DB for OLAP: ODBO) on the reporting side, allow other software providers to certificate their products for use in the complementary software program (CSP).

Development: Integration and Collaboration

The SAP range of products has proven to be a powerful solution for companies that want to reduce their costs by integrating business processes and improve their supply chain.SAP products also support the development of Internet-compatible business processes. Here are a few examples:

ŸŸBusiness-to-Business Procurement was started in 1999. Business-to-Business Procurement:  Ecommerce business processes that enable employees to order goods and services directly from other companies. SAP B2B Procurement is an application provided by SAP that supports these business processes. A desktopWeb browser enables employees to order goods and services directly. The whole business process is supported, from the purchase requisition to paying the bill, and seamless integration with the ERP system is guaranteed. The advantages for companies include tighter control of procurement processes, a reduction in procurement costs, and less pressure on the purchasing department (fewer manual, paper-based operations).The Internet era has brought about new standards in easy-to-use user interfaces. The EnjoySAP initiative has redefined the interfaces of SAP applications to meet these new demands. Workplace

The Workplace gives users access to all the internal and external services and information that they need to complete their tasks.The application runs directly in a browser and delivers an easy-to-use and navigable Web-based frontend. This gives users access from their Workplace anytime, anywhere.

The Workplace is completely role -based and delivers to each user the information that is relevant to them. Available activities are displayed in a launch pad on the left-hand side of the Workplace portal. Users are required to log on once only. Once they are logged on, users are able to call any of the SAP applications that are relevant to their role. SAP applications are displayed using the new SAPGUI for HTML, which means that they are able to run directly in the browser.Internet applications and services are easily integrated into the Workplace.The Workplace is an active environment. The information that is important to users is displayed using MiniApps on the right-hand side of the portal.

Launch pad: Lists of activities that are tailor-made to fit each user's role. These activities can refer to functions in components, in non-SAP components, or on the Web. When a user carries out a function, the launch pad remains visible at all times. This makes navigating in the portal easier. MiniApps: MiniApps give users warnings (called alerts) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators ) corresponding to their roles. Other examples of iView are: email, calender access, search engines, company-specific news, a selection from the BW reporting cockpit. Marketplace

The Marketplace is a public bus iness portal hosted by SAP.Anyone who is buying or selling can participate in the Marketplace.This portal is not intended for SAP applications or SAP customers.The aim of the Marketplace is to promote business collaboration between companies over the Internet.

The four main components of the Marketplace are:

Ÿmyhome: Personalized homepage for registered users (with favorites from the Web site).

Communities: High-content data organized according to industry (supported by SAP).

One-Step Business: The part of the Web site from which users are able to call the Internet pages of other members, to find out about and order products and services directly from this member.

Services: Internet services

BW in Context:

BW plays a central role in SAP’s strategic initiatives.Data warehousing is needed in many different applications. This is why the other applications in the strategic initiative use BW functions. This ensures that data is handled consistently in all the applications, and reduces the amount of training that is required to implement these applications.With you can integrate BW reporting as a MiniApp within the Workplace. 

BW and the Business Framework

The SAP Business Framework Architecture covers all of the requirements that must be met by a modern data warehouse solution. Under this motto SAP has recently transformed its R/3 system into a family of software components.This strategy is the result of discussions about issues such as how to implement new functions more quickly, flexibility, and openness. The technical prerequisites for transforming standard business software into individ ual components are met by existing tried-and-tested ALE and BAPI technology.A business component provides self-contained business functions with stable interfaces. This type of component has its own development, implementation, and maintenance cycles. Some components run on their own dedicated database.

The business components use object-oriented interface technology based on BAPIs (Business Application Programming Interfaces). A BAPI is a method belonging to a SAP business object. It represents a new level of interoperability between encapsulated SAP business components that can be networked.SAP uses application link enabling (ALE) and SAP business workflow to guarantee the integration of the whole system. This means that business processes can be applie d across different applications. 

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