What is SAP S/4HANA? – Business Introduction

SAP S/4HANA is a shortened version of SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA. Basically, it is a new generation of SAP Business Suite. But before we dive into details, let’s start from the beginning.

SAP S/4HANA history

Where does SAP S/4HANA come from? It is not a secret that business organizations have to take control over different day-to-day processes related to the company’s activity. Several decades ago, a number of vendors started to introduce various Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to the market in order to manage all the business processes at a time. Very soon, SAP became one of the leaders in that sphere with its system, originally called SAP RF, rapidly gaining the popularity. Then it was SAP R/3, which is still possible to be found in some organizations.

SAP S/4HANA history

Source: SAP S/4HANA. An Introduction by SAP PRESS

Somewhere in the middle of 2000, the core of SAP ERP systems changed its name into SAP ERP ECC (Enterprise Central Component). For many years, it was considered SAP’s main product and the company released upgrades for it periodically. The system provided the ability to run various work processes and use different databases – both HANA and the ones by exterior developers – for the classification and storage of giant amounts of information. Among the vendors of these databases, there were such developers as Oracle, Microsoft, MaxDB, IBM.

As the time passed, the inside of ERP system started to become too bulk and extensive with an overwhelming number of tables containing duplicate data. The situation changed in 2015 when SAP started the development of SAP S/4HANA. The goal was to run an ERP system specifically on SAP HANA and use all the benefits of in-memory database. It was a new brunch in development of SAP systems that was supposed to be more effective and easy to use.

Now, it is a high time to mention that SAP had implemented the attempts of application of the in-memory technology for a long time. Still, by the time of the birth of S/4HANA, these high memory operations became much more convenient and could afford the access to the information with a giant difference in speed comparing to the same operations with the data stored on the hard drive.

What is SAP S/4HANA for administrators

Although, by that time, a number of systems based on the same idea were invented by various developers, such as Oracle or Microsoft, by 2016, about 5,400 customers had implemented SAP S/4HANA.

There were several changes introduced in this system.

SAP S/4HANA changes

Source: SAP S/4HANA. An Introduction by SAP PRESS

As mentioned before, SAP ERP contained too many transactions and reports. The majority of them even lacked relevant documentation. Also, there was a lot of unnecessary tables with recurrent data that slowed down the work process of the system. At that point, SAP S/4HANA was developed in a way to provide an easy access to the live data. It was achieved by the simplification of transactions. While an ERP system contained a great number of various simple transactions, SAP S/4HANA reduced some of them and, at the same time, integrated the others making them compound.

Another noticeable change that distinguishes S/4HANA is the exclusive use of SAP HANA database for data storage. While SAP ERP systems support databases from different developers, the new system was oriented to the application of SAP products only. The developers came to a conclusion that the use of SAP databases could save the organization huge costs.

SAP S/4HANA data management

Source: SAP S/4HANA. An Introduction by SAP PRESS

Now, there is no need to use a complicated system to control various business processes. Being more oriented to the IoT, big data and social networks, SAP S/4HANA provides its users simple still comfortable workspace for the data management.

As the result, if we look at the SAP S/4HANA from an administrator perspective, we will find an SAP HANA database, the old SAP NetWeaver application server and a new Fiori web-interface, which can be utilized by users.

What is SAP S/4HANA for users

The next parameter that was improved by the developers is the user experience design. As the target group mainly consist of the Millennials, the great attention was paid to the upgrade of the interface. It was made in a way to be adjusted with the help of Fiori technologies, which made it handier. A user-friendly and simplified web-interface makes all the manipulations with the system easier. Among the new features, we can also mention a role-based design that fulfills individual working requirements. In the picture below, you can see a role-based view with SAP Fiori.

SAP Fiori role-based view

Source: SAP S/4HANA. An Introduction by SAP PRESS

Now, you can manage each SAP component with the help of any possible way of working – be it a desktop computer or a mobile phone. You had this opportunity in previous versions of SAP, such as Web Dynpro, BSP’s, Java web-services, Portal iViews, but all of them never gained popularity among users in the capacity of an everyday solution.

What is SAP S/4HANA for security administrators

Let’s look at SAP S/4HANA form the security perspective. We will not dive into details, but there is an especially important fact to pay attention to. We will remind you that this system consists of the forthcoming components:

  • SAP HANA Database – for storing the data and application code;
  • SAP NetWeaver Application server – yes, it is the same application server as in SAP ECC with all its services, such as gateway, MMC and others with all their misconfigurations and vulnerabilities;
  • SAP Fiori – for providing access to the application server in a nice new form;
  • SAP GUI – yes, you don’t mistake again, SAP S/4HANA still has an access to all the functionality with a help of SAP GUI even if some interfaces are available via SAP Fiori. It is not surprising as millions of SAP users got used to the previous interface. Many years should pass before clients would be accustomed to the new interface with different business processes and there would be a possibility to entirely replace previous SAP Gui with new SAP Fiori.

So, what all that means for security? First of all, we have all the previous issues form SAP NetWeaver and SAP Gui and the related configuration conundrum. But on top of that, we also have new solutions, such as SAP HANA Database and SAP Fiori, and we need to take care of their security as well. More about it you can find in our previous article focused on SAP S/4HANA Security.

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