Monthly Archives: September 2012

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 5, SAP HANA BW Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA BW Consultant. These guys are responsible for upgrading, migrating and HANA-enabling existing information on the SAP BW Enterprise Data Warehouse, as well as the creation of new Data Warehouse solutions.

Where do SAP HANA BW Consultants come from?

Well this one is easy! Any existing SAP BW Consultants – especially those who are more business focussed and don’t have the heavy hitting SQL skills that would make them great SAP HANA Performance Consultants – can make excellent SAP HANA BW Consultants.
This is largely because running SAP BW on HANA is broadly similar to running SAP BW on any other database. The modelling principles, business object principles and key considerations for things like stock or currency conversions remain exactly the same. So if you’re an existing SAP BW consultant then look no further.

What does HANA Thinking mean with BW on HANA?

There are a few important changes worth thinking about. The first are architectural. BW on HANA requires fewer objects – you lose Indexes, Aggregates and some of InfoCubes as well as being able to lose certain types of DSO and Master Data objects.

This means simplification of both the number of objects and with that, data loads and query management. And that brings with it a simplification of project design, methodology, reduction in load times and testing times. It completely changes the way that BW projects are run – reducing project timelines and increasing time-to-value.

How do I cross-train to SAP BW on HANA?

The SAP Customer Solutions Adoption team have produced an excellent course for experienced BW people called “LSA++ – THE LAYERED SCALABLE ARCHITECTURE FOR BW ON HANA“. As is the CSA style, this is designed for those who already have great BW skills and need the HANA specific stuff.

Here, they explain the difference in thinking between HANA and any other RDBMS, and what that means to architecture, design and the practicalities of Enterprise Data Warehouses.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP BW on HANA?

The classroom training is really limited in this example. SAP Education have a course called TZBWHA: SAP BW on SAP HANA - but it is twice the price and contains half the content of the SAP course. I understand that a new course is being written as we speak – hopefully it will contain the right content. In the meantime, I don’t recommend this course.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 4, SAP HANA Operations Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Operations Consultant – which would have been called SAP Basis for regular SAP systems. I’ve always hated this term, and thought it was time for a new one, and Operations is all about getting things running and keeping them running – efficiently.

Where do SAP HANA Operations Consultants come from?

I think the reality is that may of them will come from SAP Basis but there are some important things to note. First, is that SAP HANA only runs on SuSe Linux, so knowledge of other platforms (Windows, UNIX) is only tangentially relevant.

What is relevant is design of technical architecture – although SAP HANA solutions are created from building-block principles and so there are a limited number of possible configurations. Knowledge of High Availability and Disaster Recovery principles are a must, as most SAP HANA implementations require this.

To add to this, a working knowledge of Linux administration, script writing (bash, awk, Python), X-Windows, ELILO as well as networks: all High Availability SAP HANA appliances must have 10 Gigabit Ethernet, for example. Plus, if you have IBM hardware, a knowledge of the GPFS clustered filesystem is a must.

What does day-to-day administration of SAP HANA look like?

Once SAP HANA is set up, it requires remarkably little attention. New nodes are installed with a single command. If you add or remove hardware, one thing you do need to do is redistribute tables between nodes, but this is also quite straightforward.

No optimisation, re-indexing, indexes, aggregates or other elements are required in regular operations so the DBA overhead is much lower than other databases.

How do I find out more about SAP HANA Operations?

To be honest, the SAP HANA Master Guide provides all you need to know and there is a Technical Operations Manual available. If you are already a DBA or SAP Basis consultant with the skills listed above, I recommend you dive right in.

One challenge is getting the SAP HANA software for testing purposes and I hope to have some good news on that this year! If you are a SAP Services Partner then you are able to get the software at a good price as a Test & Demo license.

What Classroom Education is available for SAP HANA Operations?

There is a specific SAP HANA Operations course called TZH200, which may be worth taking if you enjoy learning in a classroom environment. This leads to a certification qualification possible called SAP HANA Certified Technology Associate.

What about running SAP on HANA?

If you run SAP on HANA then you will also need to know SAP Basis – the fundamentals of which are well documented.

In this case, you are probably interested in migrating SAP systems from some other database like Oracle onto HANA, and in this case you do need some special experience. SAP mandate (and I also recommend wholeheartedly) becoming a SAP Migration Certified Consultant, which is a significant investment. If you do not have this certificate then the systems you migrate will not be fully supported by SAP.

If you are migration certified and you have learnt the above material and familiarised yourself with SAP HANA, table partitioning, row- and columnar-stores, the way that HANA manages deltas etc. then you are ready to do SAP HANA Migrations and could call yourself a SAP HANA Migration Consultant. I haven’t created a separate page for that because I believe it is the same core type of person.

Where can I go to ask questions?

As before, here are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 3, SAP HANA Performance Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far. This piece focusses in on the SAP HANA Performance Consultant.

In the early implementations of SAP HANA, this was by far the most popular type of resource. SAP HANA Enterprise comes with a set of tools including SAP HANA Studio, which contains the SAP HANA Modeller and the SAPScript programming language (which is similar to PL-SQL).

The SAP HANA Performance Consultant takes requirements and builds data models, including the virtual Analytical views and Calculation Views that make SAP HANA special, and builds the SQLScript and CE Function programming code to meet the needs.

Where do SAP HANA Performance Consultants come from?

Whilst building simple SAP HANA models is something that almost anyone with knowledge of Microsoft Access can do, the SQLScript language and CE Functions are technical languages that require a sound programming understanding. Those familiar with programming stored procedures in RDBMS systems like DB2, Oracle PL/SQL and Microsoft Procedural SQL will find themselves at home quickly.

Similarly those familiar with the SAP BW Data Warehouse may find themselves out of there depth here. Those SAP BW consultants familiar with writing complex transformation and update rule code in the ABAP and OpenSQL programming languages may find SAP HANA Enterprise comes naturally – especially those with a technical background and degree. Those who are more business focussed and less technical would be best advised to focus on the SAP BW on HANA consultant.

How do you cross-train from PL-SQL to SQLScript?

The programming languages are fairly similar and any SQL developer will be able to familiarise themselves very quickly by referring to the SQLScript Guide. Note that this guide is updated every 6 months with major amendments, when new releases of SAP HANA are made.

How do I get hands-on with SAP HANA?

The best way to cross-train is to get hands on and build data models. Thankfully the lovely folks at SAP have made this really easy. There is a 30-day free developer version of HANA in the cloud available in the HANA developer center. After that, you pay by usage of the Amazon AWS HANA system – the SAP HANA software itself is free to use for test purposes.

In addition, the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineers are building out a collection of fantastic learning videos that take you through each of the SAP HANA concepts and get you up and running fast. This will be called the HANA Academy and is coming soon – I will post details as soon as they are available. In the meantime there is a YouTube video with the content.

What classroom training is available?

SAP offers a good basic training guide called HA300 as a 5-day course. If you learn best in a classroom environment and can afford the €2500 cost (plus expenses) and time out, then this might be a good option.

Be aware that this course is typically out of date: SAP HANA moves very quickly and classroom education struggles to keep up.

Where can I go to ask questions?

There are two great places for this. First there are the SCN SAP HANA and in-Memory forums, where you can ask technical questions about all things SAP HANA. Response times are excellent.

Second, you can go to the Experience SAP HANA Discussion area, where there is a similar focus on assistance.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 2, SAP HANA Business Consultant

Hopefully you have enjoyed the SAP HANA Career Guide so far, which kicked off with Part 1, Overview. This piece focusses in on the first specialty: the business consultant.

The Business Consultant

Business consultants analyse the needs of the business and create a strategy to transform businesses, or line of businesses. The essence and principle of this doesn’t change with SAP HANA – indeed it is much of the same. They listen to the needs of the business and the ways in which it must change, and then apply technology concepts against that to create a technology strategy.

For instance I have a customer who has a problem with fraud prevention. The business consultants came up with a solution that enables the business to reduce customer fraud.

Why does SAP HANA change this?

That’s just it: SAP HANA doesn’t change the needs of the business consultant. Instead, it changes the envelope. Let me illustrate how the technology changes the envelope.

I have a customer where we used SAP HANA to accelerate sales order reports within ERP. The approach was to read a bunch of sales order headers, get detail from within, cross reference them against various attributes and exclude a bunch of orders, to produce a report. This requires between 10-20 thousand questions, that SAP asks and takes 30-60 minutes to produce a report.

Now, SAP HANA performs the same as any other database to answer 10-20k small questions. But, with some small changes, we changed 10-20k small questions into one huge question. What happens now? SAP HANA responds in a few short seconds.

Why does that matter?

The answer is, in itself, it doesn’t. However, now we can give these repots to sales execs on the road and they can access them on a mobile device in seconds, giving information about past spend, profitability and other key elements. But even that doesn’t pull the real power of SAP HANA.

The real power is when we move this thinking to whats happening in the moment – let’s take automotive as an example. We can collaborate with a customer to create a quotation with them – price that quotation against very complex pricing structures that exist in complex business models. Even calculating margin on the fly against a car with 10,000 parts. Looking at upstream supply chain visibility to see that removing an option for an automatic gearbox changes the delivery date from 4 months to 1 month. Discounting on the fly based on available stock and the desire to sell particular options.

In this case, the customer experience becomes collaborative and communicative and you can close the deal in the moment, rather than having to come back with a quote the next day and an estimate for delivery 3 weeks later. It’s real, and customers will buy it.

SAP HANA Use Cases

The first thing the business consultant needs to do is to read about SAP HANA use cases and consume them for their industry. They are available for public consumption at Experience SAP HANA and this will begin to cultivate a HANA State of Mind.

The HANA State of Mind

I have written about this before and I see this change in consultants who get immersed in SAP HANA. Once you see the capabilities, you will be able to apply “HANA Thinking” to everyday live. You will see the business possibilities where producing a particular report can reduce costs by millions of dollars a month. Only you thought it wasn’t possible.

Education and Training

Here’s the kicker with SAP HANA Business Consultants – I’m not sure that it can be taught. You have to combine existing Line of Business and Industry expertise with the knowledge of how SAP HANA can disrupt businesses. If you’re good at business consulting already, all you have to do is to understand how SAP HANA can help.

Perhaps I’m wrong here and I’d like to be challenged. Perhaps there is a “Power of SAP HANA” set of webinars, videos or instructional content. What do you think? Is it just a question of repeating a few business scenarios where SAP HANA makes a difference, and business consultants will just “get it”? Let me know.

The SAP HANA Career Guide – Part 1, Overview

SAP HANA is one of the fastest growing software technologies ever. It was released mid-2011 and sold $250m in the first year. In 2012, financial analysts expect $500m+ and it is expected to be a $1bn+ market in 2013. In software services terms, this is at least a $4bn market, next year.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that there is a huge interest in training, education and certification right now and there isn’t a good guide to what makes a good SAP HANA consultant. So, in a 8 part series special, I am going to lay out what types of consultant exist, where to get educational resources and how to get ahead in getting a job in the SAP HANA market.

SAP HANA creates a new category of consulting

It’s really important to note that there isn’t just one type of “SAP HANA Consultant”, whatever someone tries to tell you. SAP HANA, like any other technology, has a number of sub areas. My advice: first, understand the different categories and then decide – based on your experience and interest – which one of these you will be best at specialising in, and learn that subject matter.

This guide will help you understand which category you fit in, and where to find the resources to become an expert.

SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer Program

Whatever type of consultant you are looking to be, I recommend looking at the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer Program. I’m on the council, so I would say that – but the program will support you in your learning, and then recognise you for your achievements, knowledge and community efforts. Read the FAQ for more details.

Let’s get on and discuss the different categories of SAP HANA consultant directly.

1. SAP HANA in-memory Business Consultant

Business consultants understand one or more industry verticals, and typically a number of lines of business, with a specialty – for example Retail Sales, or Utilities Supply Chain. The SAP HANA in-memory Business Consultant also understands how in-memory technology technologies can disrupt businesses and gets how to apply the technology concepts to business scenarios.

It’s fair to say that this consumes a good number of what used to be described “functional consultants”. In some instances, like the Finance Line of Business, their skills may be applied cross-industry.

Click Here to link to the main article

2. SAP HANA Performance Consultant

SAP HANA leader Steve Lucas and I coined this term earlier in the year because it is very emotive. The SAP HANA Performance Consultant takes the concepts developed by the Business Consultant and creates solutions, architectures and designs using SAP HANA Enterprise. Typically these include using the SAP HANA Modeller tool to create models.

Click Here to link to the main article

3. SAP HANA Operations Consultant

This is what in traditional terms used to be called SAP Basis, but I always hated that term and was glad that a new term could be coined! SAP HANA Operations Consultants understand technical architecture, Linux, how to install SAP HANA or migrate systems, and also have some understanding of SAP Basis.

Click Here to link to the main article

4. SAP HANA BW Consultant

The SAP HANA BW Consultant is fairly similar to a regular BW technical consultant but there are some specific skills about architecting, re-architecting and modelling BW solutions within SAP HANA that are essential to know.

5. SAP HANA Application Developer

SAP HANA requires a change in the way in which you develop applications, so whatever type of apps you are looking to build – be it ABAP applications using the HANA database, or mobile applications using the HANA XS Application Services layer, you will need to understand your existing development platform, and in-memory computing concepts. The SAP HANA Application Developer combines these skills to produce high-performance apps.

6. SAP HANA Security Consultant

This is a niche area but one we can’t do without. Security design, access control and security models are different because of the way that SAP HANA is designed and you need an appreciation of business security concerns, access, audit and compliance as well as SAP HANA to do this well.

7. SAP HANA Project Manager

I didn’t add this category into the original blog post but I’ve decided to add it: managing SAP HANA projects requires the usual PRINCE2-style project management experience, but combined with some elements of agile methodologies, but more importantly taking into account how SAP HANA changes project life-cycles.

Final Words

Hopefully you understand from this article which of the categories fits you best. I think it is safe to say that, provided you have the background, skills, and desire to be an awesome HANA Consultant, any of these could be a lucrative career choice.

In the following 7 articles, I will discuss each of these roles in detail, along with any relevant certification programs, training material and other self-help locations, so you can pursue your SAP HANA career of choice. Good Luck!

Credits

As usual this post wasn’t possible without the help of others. In particular, thanks have to go to the rest of my HANA Distinguished Engineer Council members: Michael Eacrett, David Hull, Harald Reiter, Jon Reed and Vijay Vijaysankar. But also to nearly everyone else I spent time with over the last 5 years.

The ten reasons I hate Microsoft Lync the most

I’m stuck with no Microsoft Lync connectivity again, and in my frustration I thought I’d give my top 10 reasons why I hate Microsoft Lync. Maybe someone from Microsoft gives a crap and will do something about their awful collaboration suite.

It’s worth noting that I’m a huge Lync user. I setup tens of calls a week with 1-100 people on them. I call it from my cellphone, from my Mac, from everywhere. And I hate it, unreservedly.

1) Unpredictability

This comes top. I never know if it’s going to work. Each time I set up a conference call I have a moment of Russian Roulette as I click the “join” button. And 50% of the time, there is some kind of problem (see below).

2) Wasted Time

It’s impossible to get a call started on time so you end up wasting an average of 3 minutes at the beginning of a call. That’s 5% of every call, wasted because of people joining late, technical problems etc.

3) Hello? Can you hear me?

This is the Microsoft Lync mating call. Because you’re never quite sure if the other person can hear you. Or whether groups of people can hear each other.

4) Regression Testing

Each time you get a Lync update, you can never be sure what’s going to break. With the current version, for example, I can’t join calls unless I quit and restart the Lync client. And every other call, I can’t hear the other person until I quit and restart the Lync client. Not minor things!

5) Call Quality

The quality of calls is so incredibly variable. Cellphones can play a part, but even with straight PC to PC calls, you never know what’s going to happen.

6) Dropped Calls & Messages

“No Response From the Server” when you send messages. Calls dropping randomly. All of this is a day in the life of Lync.

7) The need to spend time setting up Lync

If you’re an occasional user, forget it. You won’t be able to setup your microphone right, it won’t work, you have to download software to join calls. To use Lync effectively you need to spend time configuring and tweaking it.

8) Mobile Clients

These are abysmal. There is an iPad app but it’s got 2% of the functionality of the Skype iPad app. No calls. No video. No sharing. Why even bother?

9) Collaboration Features

These are the least reliable of all. I can share my screen if I’m on my company VPN and so is the other caller. Sometimes. For some of the call. Sharing PowerPoint? Why bother even trying. Send a file? Never seen it work. All of this stuff works flawlessly on other software like Adobe Connect.

10) Pace of Change

I sort of assume I’m not the only person that feels this way, but Microsoft don’t do anything about it. The rate of change with Lync is zero and it’s as if they don’t invest anything in it. Or care.

Conclusions

I don’t know what to conclude, to be honest, but Lync makes me miserable on a daily basis. So I’m thinking that the best thing to do is to get rid of it and use some other piece of software. But that means change and investment and we have already paid for Microsoft Lync.

It’s also worth noting that I came up with 10 reasons really easily. And probably forgot a bunch. So let me know your top reasons for hating Lync. Do you think Microsoft would give us our money back? :-)