In the last blog, we outlined what spatial is, how it’s being used and what options are available in-market now.


In this blog we delve into spatial data transformation and migration in more detail. We look at SAP HANA individually as well as how SAP and Esri work together. Finally, we give guidance on which spatial scenarios require standard tools such as those available in SAP and scenarios where more advanced tools such as those available in Esri would be better suited.


SAP HANA Transformation and Access Tools – Then and Now

The SAP HANA environment has several legacy tools as well as numerous new tools for moving and transforming spatial data from databases, file systems, cloud, feeds, devices and within HANA itself.

The best way to look at spatial data transformation options* is with an example. Consider the diagrams below.

*To enable spatial, businesses will first need either HANA Enterprise Edition or HANA Standard Edition with Spatial & Graph options.


SAP HANA Platform


The top diagram shows how data transformation was traditionally done in SAP. It used a lot of tools and therefore there was a lot of additional licensing fees.


Now consider the second diagram which uses the SAP HANA native provisioning tool. With this newer solution, we can now achieve the same tasks without the need for licensing additional tools, making it simpler and cheaper for users.


Tools to help with spatial database conversions and transformations

It’s worth highlighting that SAP HANA Smart Data Quality (SDQ) is the key tool used for transforming spatial data into HANA because it includes sophisticated Directories that users can purchase like geocoding, reverse geocoding and address validation services, with typically minimal annual fees.

However, there are multiple ways to get started with spatial in HANA: 

    • SAP Database Migration Factory Program is a global program that provides certified processes and partners to migrate customer’s spatial data into SAP HANA Esri GeoDB. Professional plug alert; Zag is one of only four certified spatial members of this program in the world and the only one in Asia-Pacific. 
    • Location Intelligence Quick-Start Experience provides everything needed to get started and then weekly webinar Q&As with SAP & Esri experts.
    • Hackathons, provided jointly by SAP and Esri, showcases the best of both worlds. 


Using SAP HANA for spatial applications

Now that we’re aware of what’s available, let’s look at how SAP products access and use spatial. There are several ways; 

    • With or without maps
    • Using core SAP products
    • Integrating GIS capability with SAP’s Geographical Enablement Framework (GEF)
    • Using HANA spatial services (real-time streaming web services and API feeds)


Specifically, the HANA Spatial Services enables users to collect, prepare, process and consume spatial data and services. Additionally, there are always new services being added by SAP with current categories including: 

    • Extreme Weather

Surface index information, weather forecast and wildfire hazard index. 

    • Detection & Observation

Object detection from aerial/satellite imagery, Earth observation and mapping APIs. 

    • Places & Locations

Points of Interest within specific areas, pushing customer logic to GIS business data and CRUD processes for additional custom data layers (via GeoJSON). 

    • Processing & Management

Post-processing web coverage data and image tiles for base maps and GIS customer data process management (like drone image pyramids). 

    • Modelling & Labelling

Band modelling and labelling new service interfaces that are then published and enabled as REST services for customers. 


All categories include REST services except modelling and labelling which offer APIs.


For a holistic overview have a look at the image below outlining the defined data access and transformation concepts.


Defined data access and transformation concepts


But wait, there’s more.

SAP HANA also supports spatial standards, de-facto vendors such as Esri and routing providers HERE and TomTom, open-source toolkits, GeoTools and GeoServer and it even provides additional spatial data globally. 

Users also have access to real-time spatial services, data and streaming products, powerful analytics in the cloud & enterprise reporting, business applications & frameworks, connected apps, AI & IoT, plus a bunch of SAP products already ‘spatialised’ and a wide variety of ecosystems.  


So, why Esri? 

Well, a majority of SAP customers are also Esri customers and use Esri’s powerful super-user tools to maintain their core spatial data.  

Companies utilise both because it allows them to get the best of both worlds. Let’s look at this with a few examples. Keep in mind that they’re all the same environment but with different perspectives. It’s also key to see how well these product suites can be integrated into one uniform system; with one source of truth for data, services, apps and UI. 


Example 1 – SAP (overview) perspective


SAP (overview) perspective


Here’s an example of a large SAP/Esri environment with both Business Suite and S/4HANA separated into three tiers. The spatial in this system is implemented as one source of truth and accessed via Esri processes while the SAP tiers enable spatial via GEF & custom development. 


Example 2 – communication level perspective


Communication level perspective


The spatial and the data management tiers can be further investigated; here Esri and SAP are loosely coupled and interfacing via RESTful web services. There is only one database in place with all spatial and SAP core data in it. Both SAP Geo Explorer and Esri UI view all data in the same unified way. 


Example 3 – Business & Esri perspective


Business & Esri perspective


Finally, from a purely Business & Esri perspective, the Esri tools and the Business Tools are accessing all data and services from one repository which combines SAP and spatial data in a seamless user interface. 


Esri’s not essential, but…

SAP does not need Esri to enable spatial. SAP HANA is natively spatial and stores spatial entities using spatial data types.

There are also additional tools, apps, APIs and frameworks to integrate as well as several open-source choices for server tools, GIS desktop tools, Web UI frameworks and database data transformations.

That said, in our opinion Esri is by far the best and easiest integrated spatial product suite for the SAP environment. 


Esri’s strengths

So, let’s look in more detail at how SAP and Esri work together starting with some of the functionality that SAP does not (yet) support.


Trends and insights

Trends and insights


Monitoring & Dashboards 

Monitoring & Dashboards 


Targeted apps

Targeted apps


Network Models & Routing 

Network Models & Routing 


Advanced GIS functionality 

GIS Desktop tools are required for advanced functionality. With Esri there are two choices; the legacy ArcMap and its eventual replacement ArcGIS Professional. See the diagram below for what extensions these products support.


Advanced GIS functionality 


Esri Capability/Functionality architecture


Esri Capability/Functionality architecture


The above diagram is self-explanatory but there are a few other things to note.

    • Desktop apps are for specialist GIS analysts and include a lot of tools and extensions.
    • Web apps can be built & configured by non-specialists.
    • Mobile apps can either bebuilt with AppStudio or configured on any of the Esri mobile apps.


Other web services that should be mentioned: 

    • Vector Tile Services – providing vector data in a highly compressed and fast way. 
    • Metadata services – An OGC standard called CS-W (Catalogue Services) that is supported by Esri and ALL other GIS vendors.  
    • OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) web services are standardised web services that are supported by ALL GIS products. The most relevant are: 
      • WMS (Web Map Service) – provides raster imagery (like Esri Map Service). 
      • WMTS (Web Map Tile Service) – provides tiled map images. 
      • WFS (Web Feature Service) – provides vector data (like Esri Feature Service). 
      • WCS (Web Coverage Service) – provides 3D land contour. 
      • 3DPS (3D Portrayal Service) – brand new service (like Esri Scene Service) not supported by vendors yet. 


Your portal can also store data in Data Store – which is a database embedded within the Esri Portal. It provides a very fast way to access data. 


SAP and ESRI ‘Better Together’ explained

The “SAP + Esri – Better Together” can be best explained in the following diagram:

SAP and ESRI ‘Better Together’ explained


You can see Esri spatial tools on the left, embedded spatial provided by SAP on the right and specific native spatial tools provided by SAP in the middle. Both environments provide a wide variety of web service feeds that can be accessed by both systems. These services accessing data stored in SAP HANA either in separate DB instances linked together via synchronisation/Virtual Data Access or just in one database. Regardless, all data is seamlessly accessed from one place; as a single source of truth.


Want an example? Here’s a SAP+Esri shared Story Map for 911 call analysis. 


The last few things…

Esri has some helpful new tools including Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning which helps with clustering, classification and predictions. See the diagram below: 


ArcGIS Machine Learning Tools


Finally, Esri and its partner network have provided free access and use of the following views and datasets.


Note that the Elevation Profiles and Multiple Lenses datasets have specific purposes

  • Elevation Profiles – allows you to navigate by picking a place, defining the area from which the system then defines an elevation profile for the selected area.
  • Multiple Lenses – showcases how a lens can be used within the mapping interface.


Earth Systems Monitor with multiple web maps 

Earth Systems Monitor with multiple web maps 

Earth Observations with multiple web maps

Earth Observations with multiple web maps 

Elevation Profiles with Many Interesting Places

Elevation Profiles with Many Interesting Places

World Map through Multiple Lenses 

World Map through Multiple Lenses 

Esri Ocean Layers – with many analytics layers 

Esri Ocean Layers with many analytics layers 

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World – many layers 

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World many layers 



Over the last 1600 words, we’ve reviewed SAP HANA individually as well as how SAP and Esri work together. We’ve given guidance on which scenarios require standard tools such as those available in SAP Spatial and scenarios where more advanced tools such as those available in Esri would be better suited.


For technically-minded experts looking for unlimited detail, you can view the full blog here.