What is SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S4HANA is a compressed version of SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA. It is basically a new version of this.


What is the difference between SAP and S4 HANA?

The difference between to two is that SAP HANA is the core technology for lots of SAP or non-SAP applications, whereas SAP S/4 HANA is an ERP solution which runs on a SAP HANA database.


The history behind SAP S/4HANA

Where does SAP S/4HANA come from? A long time ago, a number of vendors introduced various ERP systems to the market to manage multiple businesses processes at a time. Shortly after, they became market leaders with its system, called SAP RF. Then it was SAP R/3, which is still possibly being used by businesses today.

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 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 systems that was supposed to be more effective and easy to use.

Now, it is a high time to mention that they 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 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.

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 databases could save the organization huge costs.

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, S/4HANA provides its users simple still comfortable workspace for the data management.

As the result, if we look at the 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 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 played 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 Fiori.

Now, you can manage each 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, 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 S/4HANA for security administrators

Let’s look at 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:

  • HANA Database – for storing the data and application code;
  • NetWeaver Application server – yes, it is the same application server as in ECC with all its services, such as gateway, MMC and others with all their misconfigurations and vulnerabilities;
  • Fiori – for providing access to the application server in a nice new form;
  • GUI – yes, you don’t mistake again, S/4HANA still has an access to all the functionality with a help of GUI even if some interfaces are available via 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 Gui with new Fiori.

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

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