Honey I Shrunk the Batch Window: SAP HANA and the IS-U Batch
The original expectation was to have the batch window such that there is absolutely no overlap with the business hour window. During the business hours the billing system is occupied by call center and contact center users and also by back office billing, metering and finance users. Therefore it makes sense to have the batch window free from user interference timings and as such all complex jobs are hosted into the batch window.
Let's us talk about what all bulk processing typically is included in the daily batch.
- Meter read (orders download, reads upload, VEE)
- Billing (Simulation, Invoicing, Bill print)
- Payments, Returns and Refunds
- Clearing and Postings
- Collection Processing and Write offs
- Summarization to FI-GL
- Daily Custom reports
- Downloads to SAP BW
So why is daily batch window becoming a problem? This is because over the last few years the average length of the batch window is expanding and therefore leaving less room to perform any batch engineering.
Let us look at reasons on why the meter to cash batch window is expanding:
- As you see above the batch windows packs in a lot of processing. Depending upon the hardware prowess and the number of items to be processed in each job, this batch can run into upwards of 14-16 hours and that can mean intrusion into the business hours.
- As utilities are adding more and more functionality into their SAP system, that eventually is translating into more jobs in the batch or more time taken for each job to compete.
- Complex functionalities like AMI, DSM, Electric Vehicles are all creating more data, more processing and therefore more complexity
- New daily regulatory and management reporting are being added every year
- Most of the jobs are sequential in nature that means there are interdependencies. Therefore parallel processing in the sense is limited
- Hardware upscale is usually once in a few years. Gradual degradation of batch window performance continues to happen until the next season of hardware upgrade arrives
- If a job a fails in the batch and restarted it will further delay completion of the entire batch run
- Finally, the non-business hours have not shrunk either :)
The traditional solutions to the batch window problem include increasing hardware prowess and rationalizing the batch jobs which means removing some jobs and accelerating others via performance optimization.
But these have been incremental solutions that can bring in efficiencies marginally. However, with SAP HANA the solution is promised to be revolutionary. With the entire SAP IS-Utilities transactional system on HANA and SAP's claim of delivering performance thousands of times faster, here is what can happen to the batch window:
- Batch window can be reduced to under an hour of a timeframe. Possibly some jobs might take seconds while others might take only minutes
- Batch re-engineering will become possible as some jobs might be completely eliminated or because these can be done in real time
- A lot more and complex jobs can be easily added to the batch
- No more intrusion into business hours window
- Job restarts can be easily accommodated without worrying about end time
SAP announced at SAPPHIRE 2013 that it will have all of the industry solutions supported on the HANA platform by end of 2013 including SAP IS-U. That's when utilities will start to slowly and eventually migrate business systems to HANA and realize the promised benefits. Suddenly time will shrink. The boundaries of OLTP and OLAP will start to disappear. And in turn it will also create potential business re-transformation opportunities - now that speed will be no longer a limitation.