Getting into SAP HANA (part 1)

Posted by on Aug 12, 2012

According to the number of tweets in my TL the SAP HANA hype is getting bigger and bigger each day, so I guess it is time to step in. But, where to begin? I’ve been watching this whole development over the past year from a far distance so I know a bit about the purpose and possibilities of HANA, but I don’t have the complete overview and I also lack the hands-on experience with the HANA tools.

Last week I got the SAP HANA Studio software from the SCN site. Installation on Windows 7 went without any problems. At Interdobs we rent a HANA box on Amazon Web Services (in the cloud) and I managed to launch it and connect to it with SAP HANA Studio. With AWS you only have to pay for what you use, so this is obviously a cheaper way to start with HANA than buying a 80k box which you also have to maintain yourself.

So, having everything set up and ready to go, my journey ended a few minutes later. The HANA box was obviously very very empty (besides some technical tables) and I had no idea what to do with it; how to build tables and load some data.

Time to take a few steps back. Sven van Leuken posted a link on his blog about a ‘free SAP HANA certification’. This is a nice start! Not only is this a test to check your HANA knowledge, it also provides an introductory/overview course for HANA.

This 80 minutes online course covers the following subjects (login required):

  • SAP HANA Solution Overview for Solution Consultants
  • SAP HANA Technical Overview
  • SAP HANA Overview of Data Provisioning
  • SAP HANA Overview of Data Replication
  • SAP HANA Overview of Information Models
  • SAP HANA Data Analysis and Reporting

After the course you can take a test and if you pass (yeah you will pass, it is easy if you pay some attention) you’ll get some kind of certification that you now are a Level 1 SAP HANA Solution consultant, whatever this means.

Anyway, after watching this course I had a far better understanding of the HANA landscape, its building blocks and possibilities. But, it remained quite high-level and didn’t cover the actual usage of the SAP HANA Studio tooling. Let’s look into that another time!

To be continued…

Posted in: Knowledge sharing, New technology, SAP

Dilbert on Big Data (SAP HANA)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2012

Todays Dilbert is a very funny comic about the Big Data (wiki) hype that has been going on for a while now. I’m watching all of this big data/HANA stuff a bit from the sidelines, though I did get all the SAP marketing promo and saw some impressive live demos of SAP HANA in combination with several of the BI4 front-end tools.

Unfortunately most of these demos only showed me how fast it was (“And now we loaded 100 million records in just a second…”) instead of solving an actual problem. At the Experience HANA site you can find a large number of ‘real’ use cases and ideas for big data. Check it!

Posted in: New technology, SAP

A first look at ZEN (SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio)

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012

This week we got access to the beta program for one of the new upcoming SAP BI tools: SAP BusinessObjects Analysis Edition for Application Design, codename ZEN. I played around with it for about an hour to get a quick first impression and to see how fast I would be able to create my first ZEN app with some interactivity.

If you haven’t heard about ZEN before you should check the following blogposts:

The user guide gives the following definition of ZEN:

SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for application design enables application designers to create analysis applications and dashboards for browsers and mobile devices on top of BW and SAP HANA data sources. It is the product of choice when full support for BW and HANA data models and engine capabilities is required. The product offers a design tool that allows you to create applications in an easy and intuitive way without the need for native HTML and iPad UI programming skills.

Looking at the SAP BI tools, the features of the current BEx Web Application Designer (WAD) and SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) will be merged into this one tool (to rule them all!). Note that ZEN is now in beta, ramp-up is planned for end 2012 and it will be general availability not before the middle of 2013!! So we have enough time to learn about this new tool.

The ZEN software installer required me to install Internet Explorer 9 on my Windows 7 VM. This could lead to some problems in production environments that are using WAD, since WAD only works well with Internet Explorer 8. At one of my current projects we now also have this problem after upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7 with IE9. Check SAP note 1635870 for more info on this issue.

Setting up the connection to the SAP BW system was easy; just copy-pasting the settings from the SAP logon settings. There is no ‘check connection’ option, so you have to execute the app to check if your settings are correct. Interesting is the option to create multiple SAP BW and SAP HANA connections. Also it seems like you don’t need a live connection to work on an app. In WAD this was required.

The program looks a bit like WAD and Xcelsius, with several components to choose from on the left, a canvas in the middle and on the right the properties of the selected component.

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Posted in: Knowledge sharing, New technology, Preview, SAP, SAP BusinessObjects, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, ZEN

Book review: Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012

For the past months I’ve been busy reading (and listening) a bunch of interesting tech books so it’s time for another review. It looks like SAP Press is updating its book portfolio this year, since after the Integrating SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform 4.x with SAP Netweaver book I posted about in January we now also have a second edition of Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects, and in April the successor to Creating Dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects is planned for release.

This is a good thing. We’ve seen lots of changes in just a few years; BI4 has been release, new product names are introduced, integration has been improved and so on. If you are just entering the new SAP BusinessObjects world and you would follow the ‘old’ books and documentation it would only get you confused and probably frustrated. We don’t need that. The book is updated for release 4.0 FP3.

So let’s have a look at this new Reporting and Analysis with SAP BusinessObjects book, which is again written by Ingo Hilgefort, who is one of the ultimate gurus on SAP BusinessObjects and SAP BW tooling and integration and has been blogging and writing books on these topics since SAP acquired BusinessObjects a few years back. Follow this guy if you want to keep updated and learn more.

This book is really an overall overview of the complete SAP BusinessObjects reporting portfolio. It starts with the basics by describing the different reporting capabilities in just a few pages. A lot of SAP BI consultants still can’t name the five main BI tooling areas so there is nothing wrong to start with this again.

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Posted in: Books, Knowledge sharing, New technology, SAP BusinessObjects

Siri meets Business Intelligence

Posted by on Jan 10, 2012

As you may know, Apple’s latest iPhone, the 4S, has a virtual assistent in it called Siri. You can ask Siri questions or tell it do something for you, just by using your voice. For example “What will the weather be tomorrow?” or “What is my next meeting about?”. This is very cool stuff!

So, as we have seen this big move towards mobile business intelligence over the last two years with tools like RoamBI, MicroStrategy (and now even SAP has awoken), how cool would it be to go one step further and let Business Intelligence meet Siri?! Think of commands like “Who is my top sales guy in Germany for 2011?”, “Call this person now!”, or something like “Siri, give me the total sales for customer BMW”.

Dutch SAP BI colleague Ronald Konijnenburg checked the possibilities to make this work and came across an interesting tool called Siri Proxy:

Siri Proxy is a proxy server for Apple’s Siri “assistant”. The idea is to allow for the creation of custom handlers for different actions. This can allow developers to easily add functionality to Siri.

After installing Siri Proxy on a Ubuntu (Linux) machine and checking some existing plugins from the Siri Proxy community he took up the challenge to write his own plugin. This plugin should be able to execute SQL statements and query any database (in-memory or not). With some technical help on the Ruby programming (Ruby is the language Siri Proxy is written in) a working plugin was created in a very short time period.

As a proof of concept a MySQL database was installed on the Ubuntu environment, with a simple table containing the key figures Sales and the objects Sales rep, Customer and Date, loaded with some random data. Now, by asking Siri a question like “Give me total sales for customer Google”, the spoken words are translated into a SQL statement that looks something like SELECT * FROM Sales.Sales WHERE Customer = ‘Google’. After executing this SQL statement on the table the sales amount will be returned. Siri now can nicely tell you the answer.

Check the video below to see a demonstration of Sire meeting Business Intelligence. The second video (click the more… button below) gives a bit more background info.

Again, great job Ronald! So what’s next? Siri talking to SAP HANA?

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Posted in: Fun, New technology