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BW/4 or DWC

The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud brings companies closer to the goal of a data-driven enterprise. Because DW in the cloud makes your own performance measurable - with all its strengths and weaknesses.
Jasmin Kazi, q.beyond
Christian Kalweit, q.beyond
1 February 2023
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

Data-driven enterprises: SAP Data Warehouse Cloud brings relief

The majority of SAP users are about to migrate to SAP S/4, and the project presents companies with complex challenges. As a central IT component, the changeover takes a lot of time and those responsible have to consider a wide variety of aspects. In this context, they should also pay special attention to the topic of reporting. For example, what happens to the previous reporting system during the changeover - especially if different sources are available? Although S/4 collects a large part of the company's data, it is crucial to convert it into information. Only then can organizations include their complete facts and figures, interpret them and create in-depth analysis options. The way to get there is with a controlled data landscape. Clear the stage for the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud.

Complex system landscapes

Today's IT projects are characterized by complex system landscapes. In addition, the speed at which companies integrate new systems or replace existing ones is increasing. SAP existing customers take into account wide-ranging operational or business structures with central ERP solutions (ERP/ECC 6.0 or S/4 Hana). However, IT managers and business departments have to jump over numerous hurdles for the analysis. This is because they usually use different data silos for reporting. This leads to redundancies and makes it more difficult to process valuable information. As a result, the quality of the analysis is satisfactory at best.  

With ad-hoc reporting and self-service, companies are already trying to respond more to current information needs and supplement classic weekly and/or monthly reports. Topics such as planning, forecasting or augmented analytics are also common today. If the conversion to S/4 in the company is imminent, another reporting opportunity opens up: The Hana platform enables high-performance analyses in the operational system. The goal is to make maximum use of SAP data.

Utilize potentials

Conversely, this means that if companies fail to include additional reporting and analysis options when making the switch, they are leaving a great deal of potential untapped. The consequences: Recommendations for action slow down, productivity drops, the quality of decisions declines, and scalability is uncertain. Ultimately, the lack of innovation can cause the organization to fall behind the competition.

A hasty migration can also have its pitfalls. So if organizations rely solely on a technical solution option, such as embedded analytics, without a deeper analysis, they quickly run into limitations. This is because in this case it is no longer possible to import data from other
systems, to harmonize or even to historize them. Increased costs, dissatisfaction and time delays can be avoided with a timely consideration of the areas of reporting and analytics during the migration to SAP S/4.

S/4 and Data Warehouse

The migration to S/4 Hana must take place in 2027. This is when support for old SAP ERP systems ends. Since S/4 acts as the central source for reporting data, one point needs to be clarified during the changeover: How does the company want to be able to continue using it? One efficient solution: a modern data warehouse. Here, information from the operational systems can be bundled centrally. The main reasons for this are performance. Modern warehouse applications enable companies to merge and analyze large volumes of data from different sources, even virtually, in real time and without loading delays. The results: improved quality and complete business analyses through a holistic view of information.

The question of whether a data warehouse architecture offers added value has therefore already been answered. What is still on the minds of SAP specialists at the moment? When should they address the topic of analytics during the migration to S/4 - before, at the same time, or after? Not all options make sense. A simultaneous approach is usually difficult. Because, as is so often the case, internal experts lack free capacity. But if they wait too long, it can cost a lot of time and money. Conversion measures or subsequent licensing are then conceivable. That is why it is advisable to implement analysis and conception as early as possible - in other words, in advance.

BW/4 versus DWC

When deciding on an analytics platform, two SAP variants come into focus. BW/4 Hana as an on-prem solution or private cloud and data warehouse cloud (DWC) in the public cloud. DWC is to be seen as a leaner alternative. Which variant is best for the company depends on its own needs and requirements. For example, organizations can continue to use BW/4 on its own or make the switch to the data warehouse cloud. But a combination is also conceivable: Because the connection of the BW system to the Data Warehouse Cloud is already taken care of. 

For enterprise analytics, the business semantics service in the cloud environment in particular provides numerous benefits. The biggest advantage is that the start-up is faster. Compared to BW/4, the effort required for implementation is therefore lower. In addition to classic functions such as data visualization, virtualization and connection, there are also complete innovations, such as self-service modeling. The business layer, which is comparable to the BW workspace in BW/4, enables departments to generate models themselves. This also makes the days of data silos in individual departments a thing of the past. 

Added value in day-to-day business 

The Data Warehouse Cloud makes daily work easier. Starting with simplicity: The Data Warehouse Cloud is not only aimed at IT specialists, but at all employees - regardless of the department. With intuitive tools, they take over data modeling themselves. In protected areas, teams can compile and prepare data themselves and use it for the desired analyses. This is because the Data Warehouse Cloud provides a no-code/low-code solution. In the end, this leads to employees working independently.

In addition, it has a high scalability. It is particularly interesting for medium-sized companies that they can start with small amounts of memory and processors. As demand increases, it is possible to increase this step by step. As SAP cloud software, the Data Warehouse Cloud receives new functions every three months. Continuous innovation is therefore a given. The software-as-a-service solution is a purely web-based application. Therefore, no installations or facilities are necessary. IT therefore saves capacity because maintenance and servicing are the responsibility of the cloud provider. 

Step by step to the DWC

How can companies optimally and efficiently integrate the data warehouse cloud as part of an S/4 transformation? A five-step approach is advisable for implementation:

Step 1: The company should first examine all existing reporting systems - whether ERP or data warehouse systems such as BW or BW/4. They should also include the current pain points of the analytics users. This provides information about the desired target state. In addition, the shadow IT with supplies from ERP or S/4 comes into focus, such as Excel or Access. Here, it is important to analyze and evaluate the effects of a transformation on previous data warehouse and reporting systems through simplification items such as eliminated tables, new interface technologies/extractors (ODP, CDS, etc.) or changed field lengths (material number, amount fields, etc.).

Step 2: What is actually required? The organization should address all requirements. What are the requirements for previous reporting as well as augmented analytics? And what are the requirements for reports or planning processes? In addition, it should gather information on the environment of the ERP system, such as IoT, web store or social media.

Step 3: All the requirements recorded must now be evaluated. This results in a categorization that provides information about the implementation, for example in the new data warehouse cloud. A classification can be made according to operational and data warehouse reports.

Step 4: By analyzing the actual architecture and including report directories, a reasonable structure can be derived. This results in the possible further procedure.

Step 5: Once all aspects have been clarified, implementation in the data warehouse cloud, conversion or expansion of an existing solution follow. A roadmap can support the last stage. 

It is important that the investigation or a test installation can also show limits of the data warehouse cloud for the concrete target state. A high data volume or the number of users with certain functions can lead to increasing costs in cloud use. It is therefore essential to analyze the specific use case and all the requirements for a data warehouse application in detail in advance.

Conclusion: Data/Business Warehouse

The SAP Data Warehouse Cloud can put companies on the fast track. The accelerators: harmonized data from different source systems and empowered employees across the enterprise. Data can also be analyzed end-to-end across different operational systems with DWC. For example, integration can occur in the sales process with Salesforce CRM and S/4 Hana. For the maneuver to succeed, however, preliminary work is required. Organizations can find support from experienced experts, such as q.beyond. After all, BW/4, Embedded BW/Analytics or DWC are just a few architectural options. Finding the right solution for your own organization sometimes requires external expertise.

Jasmin Kazi, q.beyond

Jasmin Kazi is Senior Consultant Analytics at q.beyond

Christian Kalweit, q.beyond

Christian Kalweit is Head of SAP BI Solutions at q.beyond.

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Working on the SAP basis is crucial for successful S/4 conversion. 

This gives the Competence Center strategic importance for existing SAP customers. Regardless of the S/4 Hana operating model, topics such as Automation, Monitoring, Security, Application Lifecycle Management and Data Management the basis for S/4 operations.

For the second time, E3 magazine is organizing a summit for the SAP community in Salzburg to provide comprehensive information on all aspects of S/4 Hana groundwork. All information about the event can be found here:

SAP Competence Center Summit 2024


Event Room, FourSide Hotel Salzburg,
At the exhibition center 2,
A-5020 Salzburg

Event date

June 5 and 6, 2024

Regular ticket:

€ 590 excl. VAT


Event Room, Hotel Hilton Heidelberg,
Kurfürstenanlage 1,
69115 Heidelberg

Event date

28 and 29 February 2024


Regular ticket
EUR 590 excl. VAT
The organizer is the E3 magazine of the publishing house AG. The presentations will be accompanied by an exhibition of selected SAP partners. The ticket price includes the attendance of all lectures of the Steampunk and BTP Summit 2024, the visit of the exhibition area, the participation in the evening event as well as the catering during the official program. The lecture program and the list of exhibitors and sponsors (SAP partners) will be published on this website in due time.