SAP S/4HANA is SAP’s ERP for large enterprises. It is the successor of SAP R/3 and SAP ERP and is optimized for SAP’s in-memory database SAP HANA.
The offering is an Enterprise Resource Planning software package meant to cover all day-to-day processes of an enterprise (for example, order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, plan-to-product, and request-to-service) and core capabilities. It integrates functions from lines of businesses as well as industry solutions, and also re-integrates portions of SAP Business Suite products such as SAP SRM, SAP CRM and SAP SCM. However SAP Business Suite 4 only runs on the SAP HANA database, and thus it is packaged as one product: SAP S/4HANA. SAP’s classical R3, ERP and ECC based business suite and related products were designed to run on several database platforms, including those from Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.
The platform SAP HANA has been available since 2010, and SAP applications like SAP ERP and the SAP Business Suite have been able to run on the SAP HANA database and/or any other database.
The launch of the new suite, called SAP S/4HANA, took place on 3 February 2015 at the New York Stock Exchange. The event introduced cloud and on premise editions, and launched the on-premise edition. Availability of the cloud edition followed at SAPPHIRE NOW (SAP’s annual customer conference) on 6 May 2015 in Orlando, Florida.
SAP S/4HANA is being called SAP’s biggest update to its ERP strategy and platform in over two decades. Post-launch, Gartner analysts noted that SAP S/4HANA represented a “transformational shift,” but raised questions about the functionality, availability, pricing and migration surrounding S/4HANA.
By 21 April 2015, 370 customers had purchased S/4HANA. After the first half of 2015, positive growth was confirmed for SAP. In October 2015 SAP confirmed that S/4HANA had exceeded over 1300 customers.  Growth continued through the third quarter of 2015. Following its third quarter earnings announcement, SAP said the number of SAP S/4HANA customers had risen to 1,300. After fourth quarter close of 2016, SAP announced that 5,400 customers had implemented SAP S/4HANA. By 30 June 2018, the customer base for product reached 8,900 customers.
There are numerous ERP systems with the same intention. Some of the product’s competitors in the Software as a Service space are Oracle, Microsoft and Workday, Inc.
The S/4HANA product offering consists of two editions: SAP S/4HANA On-Premise and SAP S/4HANA Cloud.
SAP S/4HANA On-Premise is similar in terms of coverage, functionality, industry-specific support, and localization to the current SAP Business Suite (in 39 languages, 64 country versions).
SAP also offers SAP S/4HANA Cloud (in 18 languages, 33 country versions). SAP has emphasized the product as pivotal to its cloud shift.
Both editions consist of functionality for finance, accounting, controlling, procurement, sales, manufacturing, plant maintenance, project system, and product lifecycle management, plus integration with SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba, SAP Hybris, SAP Fieldglass and SAP Concur.
Overview of releases
SAP S/4HANA (on-premise) releases are once per year, SAP S/4HANA Cloud releases are quarterly. Version coding for both editions: YYMM example 1709 – September 2017.
SAP S/4HANA On-Premise releases:
SAP S/4HANA Finance 1503: March 2015
SAP S/4HANA 1511: November 2015
SAP S/4HANA Finance 1605: May 2016
SAP S/4HANA 1610: October 2016
SAP S/4HANA 1709: September 2017
SAP S/4HANA 1809: September 2018
SAP S/4HANA 1909: Q4 2019
SAP S/4HANA Cloud releases:
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1603: March 2016
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1605: May 2016
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1608: August 2016
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1611: November 2016
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1702: February 2017
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1705: May 2017
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1708: August 2017
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1711: November 2017
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1802: February 2018
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1805: May 2018
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1808: August 2018
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1811: November 2018
SAP S/4HANA Cloud 1902: February 2019
SAP S/4HANA can be deployed on premises, in the cloud, or through a hybrid model.
There are various ways to get to S/4HANA. This depends on a customer’s starting point. For example, new implementation, system conversion, and landscape transformation.
New implementation – This is a new implementation of SAP S/4HANA (green field): customers who are migrating from a non-SAP legacy system or from an SAP ERP system and implementing a fresh system that requires an initial data load. In this scenario, the SAP S/4HANA system is implemented, and master and transactional data are migrated from the legacy system, thus standard data migration tools and content has to be used.
System conversion – This is a complete conversion of an existing SAP Business Suite system to SAP S/4HANA (brownfield): customers who want to change their current SAP ERP system to SAP S/4HANA. This scenario is technically based on Software Update Manager (SUM) with Database Migration Option (DMO) in case the customer is not yet on SAP HANA as the underlying database.
Landscape transformation – This is a consolidation of current regional SAP systems into one global SAP S/4HANA system or a split out of different parts of a system: customers who want to consolidate their landscape or carve out selected entities (such as a company code) or processes into a single SAP S/4HANA system.
Both SAP S/4HANA on-premise and the SAP S/4HANA cloud editions have release strategies. The cloud editions are released quarterly. The on-premise edition has one new release per year, and receives additional functionality and corrections in the form of Feature Pack Stacks (FPS) or Service Pack Stacks (SPS) each quarter.
On-premise: Each year, SAP is shipping a new product version of its on-premise SAP S/4HANA product (e.g. SAP S/4HANA 1610) this will always be followed by three successive FPS on a quarterly basis, after this SAP releases the next product version and the previous product version is receiving SPS on a quarterly basis until the end of mainstream maintenance. Technically, a FPS is like a SPS, but it may include non-disruptive, non-mandatory features. The numbering of FPS/SPS will be consecutive, i.e. the first SPS after a FPS3 would be consequently SPS4. 
SAP S/4HANA Embedded Analytics is the collection of all analytics features integrated in SAP S/4HANA suite. It is the real time analysis on the transactional system. SAP delivered many pre-built models and reports using VDM (Virtual Data Models) which are based on CDS (Core Data Services) views. This eliminates the need to have a separate data warehousing system and the need to replicate data – where the data is usually one-day old.
Embedded analytics brings transaction data and analytics into one platform with one Single Source of Truth. SAP Embedded Analytics can be consumed / reported through various reporting tools, including SAP Advanced Analysis for Office, SAP Lumira, SAP Predictive Analysis, SAP Fiori, SAP Smart Business Cockpits, SAP Design Studio, SAP Cloud for Analytics, KPI Modelling Apps ( Fiori ), Query Browser / Query Builder and EPM – for planning and consolidation.