SAP HANA Architecture: Building a Complex Network from the Ground Up

September 12, 2023

Data has become a core business asset for which modern enterprises need a suitable digital solution. Enter SAP HANA, with its fast, feature-rich software capable of powering everything from logistics and production to customer relationships and human resources. But how does the underlying SAP HANA architecture work?

On top of SAP HANA’s core database architecture, businesses can develop further applications not available on the base system. This includes custom applications written in programming languages like Java and R. Collectively, the solution lets organizations build the entire functionality necessary to run a thriving enterprise.

Computers SAP Hana

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Advantages of the SAP HANA Architecture

SAP HANA is built to deliver unparalleled business intelligence. The system processes organization-relevant information into actionable insights, which are key to making smarter decisions. Unlike other, slower enterprise software, SAP HANA runs “in memory.” This means that it's much faster hardware components enable ahead-of-the-curve performance.

A huge advantage of running SAP HANA is being able to consolidate your enterprise systems within a single solution. The fast database and sophisticated architecture allow you to run the entire organization. Gone are the problems of impractical data silos and outdated software.

The SAP HANA architecture lets companies process more data than ever before, delivering the performance necessary for today’s competitive business landscape. In addition to taking full advantage of the cloud and mobile devices, the software supplies incisive analytics that drives growth.

Whether you want to optimize an existing system or start afresh, the SAP HANA architecture handles all types of business needs. One of its chief design advantages is how it accelerates workloads by tapping into a wide range of functionalities built for demonstrated industry use cases.

For data-driven businesses, it makes sense to have a reliable technology partner specializing in enterprise software. This is where Approyo can make the difference, with certified and cost-effective end-to-end support for SAP solutions—including HANA. You’ll increase speed and agility, immediately scaling systems up or down in response to dynamic requirements. Further, you can deploy HANA in any combination of cloud and on-premise environments.

SAP HANA Database Architecture

The SAP HANA architecture consists of a database with several separate elements, such as an index server and name server, which work together to store and process business information. The name server contains information about the structure of the system as a whole and runs only in the system database. For example, it stores the list of tenant databases. Meanwhile, every tenant database knows the location of the relevant data tables.

The index server runs in each of the tenant databases, but not in the system database. It’s an important component that holds the data itself as well as the various engines that work on the data. In addition to these servers, there are a range of core and optional servers to process data effectively.

SAP HANA architecture

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The Driving Forces Behind SAP HANA Architecture

Enterprise software performs more activities now than ever. As such, it’s had to adapt, and SAP HANA is the most efficient response. The HANA database executes critical duties, with its architecture protecting valuable data against the harshest challenges. The system can handle thousands of users working on the same complex dataset. Moreover, it’s fast — orders of magnitude faster than traditional databases.

SAP HANA architecture is engineered specifically for modern enterprise applications. It incorporates developments focused on business intelligence, text processing, and other technologies. Additionally, the system undertakes standard database tasks—such as authorization and logging—and connects with external applications.

This database system manages two different workload types, known as transactional and analytical processing. Transactional processing takes place, for example, when you record a sale. By contrast, analytical processing occurs in situations like measuring inventory as well as production and delivery times against demand forecasts.

SAP HANA architecture has a column-based engine, unlike conventional row-based databases. The multi-core processors and computer memory help it to power through data, tackling both transactional and analytical processing seamlessly.

In-memory processing is another difference between SAP HANA architecture and older technologies, which traditionally used slower storage. HANA combines techniques such as parallelization and extensions for enterprise applications to achieve unprecedented performance.

Engines for Speed

SAP HANA architecture enables databases to run conventional applications using the plain SQL language—just much faster than before. It also supports more advanced functionality for interactive applications. At all levels, from logical threads to complex arrangements of servers, the system is built to conduct multiple activities in parallel.

The core of SAP HANA architecture is a grouping of engines that process data in the server’s memory. Tables of relational data are normally column-oriented but can be switched back and forth with row orientation in the combined engine.

Other engines process text and graph data. Beyond these, you can extend the SAP HANA architecture to implement additional engines if needed. Data structures are designed to work efficiently in cache, as processing generally occurs in memory for performance.

Because server memory can be limited, a backup is necessary. For this purpose, the database system can move out-of-use data onto slower long-term storage. Then, if the data becomes relevant again, it’s moved back into fast memory for further processing.

How the Database Architecture Works

Added to the standard structured query language (SQL), you have access to several other interfaces. These include the languages MDX and SQLScript.

To manage data, a plan generator converts your SQL query into an “execution plan.” The execution engine then streamlines and runs the code. If your query isn’t in plain SQL, the calculation engine processes it into a flexible data flow model beforehand. The same execution engine takes input from any of the available processing engines.

Further components of SAP HANA architecture include a session manager to maintain links between databases and applications. Then, there’s an authorization manager that controls user privileges, while a transaction manager adds more security by isolating different processes. Finally, the metadata manager stores information about the database itself.

These components can run effectively on a single database site or—if you spread the database out—over a multitude of sites. Although the database runs in memory for optimal speed, it simultaneously keeps a record that lets you reboot or carry out additional tasks without losing any data.

SAP HANA System Architecture

SAP HANA architecture contains a system database as well as tenant databases. The system database is established during installation and administers the central system configuration. It also retains data on the deployment and on tenant databases.

By contrast, the tenant databases hold regular tables useful for projects. All the databases use a common underlying infrastructure. However, each tenant database also has its own users, procedures, tables, backups, and logs. The tenant databases are isolated from each other, so you can safely run any number of applications in the same environment.

SAP HANA architecture

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The Logic of SAP HANA Architecture

The SAP HANA system has an architecture for processing logic within the kernel of the database. You describe your business calculations in a language such as SQLScript. The system’s calculation engine then compiles your reasoning into usable plans. Regardless of which language you use, the results are efficiently generated from the model.

Mathematically, we can see the SAP HANA architecture as processing your logic into a graph, where the nodes (or points) are the individual operations and the edges (or lines) are your data. There’s also a category of nodes for common database operations like “select” and “join,” in addition to other operations available for specific use cases.

Logical operations are made even faster, thanks to the column-oriented SAP HANA architecture, which has been optimized to process business data more effectively than conventional tools. The calculation engine includes support for many different types of logic processing.

To illustrate, organizations using detailed statistical models can incorporate algorithms in the R language. A connected runtime environment handles analyses, linear and non-linear models, and techniques like clustering and classification. Meanwhile, the kernel contributes standard database operations before and after the statistical work.

Planning operations include arranging elaborate hierarchies. Within the database, the data flows of the calculation engine represent the planning logic. There are general-purpose operators as well as more specific ones for algorithms, including disaggregation. You can also use your own custom formulas.

Furthermore, SAP HANA architecture supports calculations for complex tasks that would be challenging to write in plain SQL—such as converting currencies or convoluted data relations involving multiple employee records. After creating a calculation model, it exists as a standalone object, somewhat akin to a database view. The model yields a data flow path of the logic; the execution plan processes this into your query results.

Strengths of SAP HANA Architecture

The columnar database is ideal for analytical processing. Parallelization and other design features speed up data reads even further. The database tracks modifications in a “delta storage” that efficiently organizes new data for writing. Every aspect of the architecture, down to where and when each sub-component of a database table is processed, contributes to maximizing speed.

Although this architecture is more suitable for analytical processing, it’s also adept at transactional processing. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software adapts to this design particularly well. The highly variable data structures store more compactly in columns, improving storage requirements and processing speeds.

Another relevant factor is that in practical, industry-type situations, transactional processing generally involves more reads than in theoretical benchmarks—and more reads than writes. This is why the columnar approach works better.

Several other technical elements aid performance. For instance, how data is added and the number of indices used. These features result in a much simpler database architecture that uses less memory and runs queries faster.

SAP HANA Application Development

An important aspect of ERP software is its ability to develop custom applications. These run on top of the central database, extending functionality and performing duties unique to your organization.

SAP solutions deliver functionality useful for the industry. The main modules included with the ERP system cover common use cases. For instance, there are modules that deal with financial data management, customer and product data, as well as manufacturing process flows. For needs outside the principal areas, businesses can create their own apps.

There are many ways to develop apps on SAP HANA architecture. Your team can code an application themselves, or you can work with an experienced consultant. In addition to customization support, Approyo offers module and sub-module configuration, upgrades and migrations, and performance tuning.

Application development leverages a broad range of programming languages and frameworks. You can use JavaScript, Java, Python, or Go to script applications connecting to the SAP HANA database. Then, there’s support for R and SQLScript to implement business logic. And, of course, you can conduct database queries in SQL.

Apps you develop for the SAP HANA architecture will function consistently over cloud and on-premise deployments. Likewise, web and native apps can run equivalently. Developers may even collaborate to create extremely fast and powerful products.

An integrated development environment simplifies coding. Furthermore, developers can choose among environments, including a web-based IDE, the standard SAP ABAP, or the widely used Eclipse. The easiest tools help less technical users produce graphical apps with templates and assistants.

Development Tools

SAP HANA architecture for application development aims to minimize complications so you can focus on solving business problems. The tools incorporate industry best practices and embrace multiple technologies. Common tasks have ready-made solutions available.

Some examples of reusable libraries include the application function library of efficient query procedures and the application function modeler to visualize data with drag-and-drop. The latter works with the predictive analytics library for data mining and the business function library for typical tasks like sales forecasts.

Another feature of this architecture is the application lifecycle management tool. This completes the sequence from planning to production, addressing areas such as product structure and delivery units, testing, and building applications for predictable deployments.

Optimize Your SAP HANA Architecture With Approyo

SAP HANA offers businesses many benefits, from extremely fast processing to intelligent analysis. It helps organizations build enterprise applications that streamline performance and boost profits. The entire SAP HANA architecture is designed to fulfill 21st-century needs.

However, not all companies know about these advantages—or have the resources to make good use of the software. That’s why it’s critical to collaborate with a reliable SAP service provider like Approyo, which is SAP-certified and has hundreds of deployments under management.

Contact Approyo now to secure the full benefits of SAP HANA.

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