Often, choosing the most advantageous combination of Front end and Back end BI tools for your organization can be tricky as it requires proper consideration of Technical features, Compatibility with sources and Performance. This blog aims to ease some of that difficulty for Organizations in such scenarios.

People who would find this blog useful:

  1. Tableau users exploring the SAP space for their Data Warehousing and Modeling needs
  2. SAP BW and SAP HANA users evaluating Tableau as their Dashboarding/ Reporting tool

Important Technical features/possibilities and Performance comparison of using Tableau as dashboarding/reporting tool on SAP BW as well as SAP HANA will be covered in summary and respective users of SAP BW and SAP HANA can evaluate what they will be able to achieve using Tableau as their Front end tool. So, let’s begin.

Here is a tabularized summary of the differences between using BW and HANA with Tableau

Connection with sourceSAP NetWeaver BW ConnectionSAP HANA driver or generic ODBC drivers
Variables & Input Parameters
Single ValueYesYes
 Multiple ValuesYesYes
Interval (Range)YesYes
Selection OptionYesNo
Key Date VariablesYesNo
       Text VariablesYesNo
BEx Conditions and ExceptionsNoN/A
Hierarchy supportYesNo
 Latency (relative)HighLow
 Row count limitDependent on DW performanceDependent on DW performance
  Caching mechanismsYesYes
Concurrent QueriesYesYes
 Parallel processing limit within Tableau 1616

Connection with Source

Tableau has specialized connectors for both SAP BW and SAP HANA. Tableau uses the SAP NetWeaver BW Connector to connect with BW Cubes/Queries and uses the SAP HANA driver or the generic ODBC drivers to connect with HANA Tables/Calculation views. Tableau supports Live and Extract connections with both BW and HANA sources.

Note: Tableau can report only on Info Cube, Query, Table and Calculation View. Reporting on BW DSO is not possible. Tableau Online cannot be used when using BW as a source.

Variables and Input Parameters

Tableau supports Single Value, Multiple Values, Interval (Range) type variables in both BW and HANA, whereas Selection Option, Key Date Variables, Text Variables are available only on BW. Variables can be exposed as Parameters for the Report user during run-time (Possible only during Live connection, End users cannot change prompt values in case of Extract connection).

Note: Older versions of Tableau may not support Input Parameters being exposed during Run time. BEx Authorization Variables have only limited support, Customer and SAP Exits are not supported.

BEx Exceptions and Conditions

Tableau does not support BEx Exceptions and Conditions. But worry not, Tableau provides good Conditional Formatting and Filtering capabilities. So, Exceptions and Conditions can be recreated in the Front end.

Hierarchy and Hierarchy variables

Tableau supports hierarchies created in BW but does not support hierarchies created in HANA. Hierarchies created in BW are brought in as defined, but Hierarchies using the same dimension cannot be used simultaneously in reports. Hierarchies created in HANA are not supported. They will be flattened out when brought inside Tableau. But the hierarchies can be recreated in Tableau quite easily.

A lot of Self-Service oriented tools don’t support Hierarchies currently, but due to a lot of demand in that regard, it may be considered a part of Tableau’s future Roadmap.

Note: BW Hierarchies are supported only in Live Connection and NOT Extract connection. In Extract connection, only Level 1 dimension is brought in. BEx Hierarchy variables are not supported.

Hope some of your doubts have been eased on the Technical front, now let’s look at one of the most important factors performance.


  1. Latency
    Tableau has seamless connectivity with BW, but the latency is high when compared to HANA. Higher versions of BW and B4HANA have better performance than legacy BW. Tableau also offers seamless connectivity with HANA and has less latency compared to BW.
    Tableau on HANA runs faster in general, but Performance depends a lot on Model quality and amount of data being brought in. Applying proper filters and bringing in the only the necessary amount of Data can ensure very fast reports on Tableau. So, Users expecting granular level reporting need to carefully consider all their possibilities.
  2. Row Limit
    There’s no set Row limit for Tableau. The number of rows being brought inside Tableau in a certain amount of time depends solely on the Data Warehouse performance. Seeing as Extract connection is faster as data is stored in memory, the no. of rows processed in a unit time period is greater in Extract connection than live connection.
  3. Data Caching
    For extract connections, data is cached in-memory ensuring high performance. This is done for all DB connections.
  4. Parallel Processing
    After the 9.0 version, all versions support parallel processing. The default limit for no. of parallel threads is 16 for all DB except Amazon Redshift. However, this limit can be changed in general for all DB connections or customized according to each DB connection.

Keep following for more updates on Tableau Connectivity with SAP BW and SAP HANA. Click here to know more in-dept on Self Service BI tools.

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