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Both terms, S/4HANA and HANA™, are similar, yet they refer to two completely different things. HANA™ is a database, which is based on a new column-oriented technology. Most data is stored directly in the main memory so that inquiries and analyses can be carried out much faster than is the case with a classic relational database such as DB2, MaxDB or MS-SQL.
By combining column orientation with efficient optimizing algorithms, the SAP HANA™ in-memory database becomes a real-time database that makes it possible to carry out transactional as well as analytical processes on the same platform. With it, you can carry out classic ERP transactions and perform an analysis on the same database that could otherwise only have been conducted on a proprietary SAP BW system.
This new database is also the basis for the new SAP S/4HANA release. This name combines three components: S stands for “simple,” the number 4 stands for the new SAP release (the current version is the R3 system ECC 6.0). The word HANA illustrates the fact that starting with the new release, only the SAP HANA database can be used. Consequently, any existing databases must be migrated to S/4HANA during transition. Since 2015, SAP has been updating all applications and industry solutions in the existing ECC 6.0 system step-by-step and porting them to the S/4HANA release.