Data Connectivity – Cloud or On-premise?

In this blog we will try to dive deep into the Data Connectivity in SAP Analytics Cloud. We will look at the different types of connections available, Supported Source Systems for each Connection Type and finally a comparison between SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP Business Objects Platform in regards to Data Connectivity and Integration.

This is the second blog in the SAP Analytics Blog series. In the first blog, we had an overview of SAP Analytics cloud and how it can be compared to the On-premise SAP Business Objects Platform, I would encourage you to read the first blog in order to understand the functionalities of SAP Analytics Cloud:
https://ict.swisscom.ch/2018/04/analytics-cloud-or-on-premise/

Data Connectivity SAP Analytics Cloud

SAC primarily provides two types of Data Connections Live and Import. Live connections enable a secure online connection between SAP Analytics Cloud and your on premise or Cloud source systems for ex. SAP HANA and SAP Analytics Cloud thereby providing the possibility to access the data on the fly in real time, whereas Import connections replicate the data physically into SAC. Here is a small Comparison Table showing why and when to use a Live or Data Import Connection.

The decision regarding which connection to use depends on the User scenario, live connection is the ideal choice for real time operational reporting and when data from the source system is not to be replicated into SAC, which means the business logic as well as most of the modeling is done in the source itself. On the other hand, Data import connections exactly do what a classical DWH system does, replicate the data into SAC and update it at regular intervals into SAC for ex: schedule Data load into SAC every day.

Why live connection?

As mentioned in the previous section, Live connection enables you to leverage investment for the models created in Source system for ex: SAP BW, HANA avoiding transfer of large amounts of data to SAC and storing only the meta data in SAC, where the sensitive data stays in the source system and the user can query the data in real time from a web browser via SAP analytics cloud. Therefore every time the user tries to query the data from an on premise source system via live Connection the most current data would be presented.

SAC currently supports the live connectivity option for the following on- premise Data sources:

  • SAP HANA
  • S/4 HANA
  • SAP Business Objects Universe
  • SAP BW

It is important to note that there exist some Limitations with Live Connections for ex: Time Dimensions from HANA cannot be used in SAC, some complex calculations / formulas are currently not possible with all source systems, Waterfall charts are not supported for SAP BW data etc., Most of these Limitations may be resolved in the upcoming Versions of SAC and there are also Add-ons available from Third- party vendors for enabling Live connectivity to Non sap source systems for instance: APOS Live Data Connector.

Direct vs. Path Connections

SAP Analytics cloud provides two technical possibilities namely Direct and Path Connection for Live connectivity. The Direct Connection leverages the HTML5 Cross- Origin Resource sharing specification and the path connection on the other hand uses a Reverse Proxy mechanism for communication with the on-premise systems in SAC.

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) is a W3C Specification that allows cross domain communication from the browser for accessing web resources on different domains, whereas a Reverse Proxy is a type of proxy server that typically sits behind the firewall in a private network and directs client requests to the appropriate backend server. It is important to note CORS supports only HTTPS connection to your systems for instance: XS Server on SAP HANA should be HTTPS enabled for live connectivity using CORS.

Reverse proxy can be used for configuring Path connection to the Source systems from SAC, this can be useful when the goal is to connect multiple source systems as Paths via Live connection instead of enabling CORS on each source system, Reverse Proxy can be configured using a web server for ex: Apache web server.

SAP recommends using Direct Connection as this is easy to set up as compared to a Reverse Proxy.

SAP HANA Direct Connection

The procedure of enabling Live Connectivity to SAP HANA Database (HANA Express 2.0) via. Direct Connection will be described briefly in this section. The goal here would be to establish a Live Connection between the HANA Database and SAP Analytics Cloud in order to access the HANA Calculation / Analytic views from SAC. Live connectivity is also possible for a HANA DB in the Cloud.

The first step would be to set up and activate the SAP HANA Information access service (INA), as this would enable Data access to HANA DB in SAC.


The next step would be to enable the required authorization / role for live connectivity which is sap.bc.ina.service.v2.userRole::INA_USER in HANA workbench.

As CORS in direct connection accepts only the trusted HTTPS communication in SAC, it is important to configure HTTPS with a trusted SSL certificate on the HANA XS Engine. This SSL certificate ensures that the communication between HANA and SAC is private and integral.

The final step would be to enable CORS Setup for the information access service in HANA and for this the .xsaccess file in the HANA repository should be modified and the HANA System should be restarted.

It is also possible to enable Single sign on functionality between HANA and SAC so that the user need not always provide his credentials manually. The complete configuration steps are described in a detailed manner with screenshots on the SAP Analytics Cloud help portal.

Why Import Connection?

Data import enables all the data that is selected from the source system to be uploaded / replicated into SAP Analytics cloud. Once the data is replicated from Source, security can be defined and applied to the data in SAP Analytics cloud. The biggest advantage with import connection over live is that it can leverage some key functionalities in SAC like planning which Live connectivity does not provide. It is also the ideal choice when the user want to perform Data blending that is load data from one or more sources and merge the data in a single model or story.

SAP Analytics cloud provides Import connection possibility for the following Source systems:

  • File Server
  • Google BigQuery
  • Google Drive
  • MS SQL Server
  • OData
  • Oracle 11
  • Salesforce
  • SAP BPC MS
  • SAP BPC NW
  • SAP Business ByDesign Analytics
  • SAP BW
  • SAP Cloud Platform
  • SAP Concur
  • SAP ERP
  • SAP Fieldglass
  • SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer
  • SAP Success Factors
  • SAP Universe

It is possible to schedule Data acquisition at regular intervals, which allows data to be refreshed on a periodical basis. 

SAP BO Universe Import Connection

The Procedure of enabling Data Import connection to SAP BO universe will be briefly described in this section. For configuring the data import connection to on premise source systems in SAC, the two key components which need to be installed are SAP Cloud Platform Connector and SAP Analytics cloud agent. SAP HANA Cloud connector connects the on-demand applications like SAP Analytics Cloud and existing on premise systems. The Cloud connector runs as on premise agent in a secured network and acts as a reverse invoke proxy between the on-premise network and SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

SAP Analytics agent is an on premise connection agent which should be installed on a Tomcat server (in this case this can be installed directly on the SAP BO tomcat server) for enabling access to SAP BO Universe data.

The first step would be here to install as mentioned the SAP Cloud connector.

Then the SAP Analytics cloud Agent should be downloaded from SAP Service Marketplace and deployed on the SAP BO Tomcat server.

The SAP Cloud Connector should be configured for data acquisition, previously this would be done by SAP Support, but now this is self-service and can be configured easily.

Data Connectivity SAP Analytics Cloud VS SAP BO

As mentioned in the previous blog, a lot of customers are using SAP Business Objects Enterprise Platform as the premiere on premise Analytics Solution and so it makes sense 🙂 to compare the on Premise and the Cloud Analytics SAP Platform regarding Data Connectivity.

Feature SAP Analytics Cloud SAP Business Objects platform
Connectivity Types SAP Analytics provides Live connectivity for real time analytics and Import connections for standard reporting. With Live Connectivity only the metadata from Source is stored in SAP Analytics cloud, whereas Import connection replicates data. SAP Business Objects does not provide direct live connectivity, but the data in the reports can be refreshed manually / automatically. Data is never physically loaded, as it is accessed via. the SAP BO Semantic Layer (Universe)
Usability and Effort Creating Connections requires effort and skill, as this is a multi-step process involving configurations both on the Source and SAP Analytics cloud. Creating Connections is easy via. SAP BO Central Management Console and BO Information Design Tool.
Source Systems Supported SAP Analytics supports currently different types of on premise and cloud sources for ex: SQL, Salesforce SAP BO provides connectivity to different databases as well as SAP software via. ODBC and JDBC drivers. Currently no direct connectivity to Cloud data sources is supported.
User Authentication User Authentication can be done manually or SSO can be configured using SAML and Direct Connection. User Authentication can be done manually. SAP BO supports a variety of SSO Authentication options for Users for ex: AD, SAP and so on.
Maintenance / Administration Connections can be maintained, modified and administered with in SAP Analytics Cloud. Connections can be maintained and administered via. SAP BO CMC

Conclusion

One of the advantages that SAP Analytics Cloud offers is both live connectivity and Data acquisition, whereas the SAP Business Objects platform offers near real time data connectivity via. BO universe layer. The difference here is that while SAP Analytics cloud automatically reflects changes in the Source system via. Live connection, SAP BO has to pull those changes (Scheduling) from the Source system. On the other hand, creating a connection in SAP Analytics Cloud requires expertise although SAP offers Configuration manuals, whereas Setting up a connection in SAP Business Objects is easy without any overhead. As mentioned in the first blog a hybrid approach combing both SAP Analytics cloud FOR Self-service Analytics and SAP Business Objects for Standard Reporting is not a bad idea.

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