SAP HANA database: Managing spend & risk

07 December 2021
10 minute read

SAP HANA database: Managing spend & risk

07 December 2021
10 minute read

This article was provided by Becki Riall, Senior SAP Licensing Consultant with JNC Consulting.

SAP HANA is an in-memory database developed by SAP and was originally introduced in 2010. The adoption rate is growing due to customers migrating to S/4HANA. S/4HANA is SAP’s next generation ERP suite and HANA is the only database which is compatible on the S/4HANA platform. HANA is currently offered in three on-premises editions:

  • Enterprise Edition
  • Runtime Edition
  • Express Edition

JNC have observed an increase in SAP license audits which now include a review of the HANA functionality being used. This was not historically investigated in detail. This article will outline the key the difference between the Editions as well as presenting observations we have made whilst defending our customers from SAP HANA audits. We also provide answers to frequently asked questions about HANA database licensing and measurement.


On-premises licensing

As mentioned above, there are three ways to license SAP HANA on-premises. Express Edition is free up to 32GB of use with the ability to purchase more, making it suitable for individuals. This article will focus on Runtime Edition and Enterprise Edition as they are more appropriate for organisations.


HANA Editions Key Differences

Click to expand.


How much does SAP HANA cost?

Runtime Edition

HANA Runtime Edition is licensed by a percentage of your HANA SAP Application Value (HSAV). HSAV is effectively the total net value of your purchased SAP software that could run on a HANA database. This usually covers most of the SAP software you own.

As of the date of this article, HANA database Runtime Edition charges a fee which is 15% of your HSAV so, for example, if your HSAV is $10,000,000 you will pay $1,500,000 for HANA Runtime. This brings your total to $11,500,000. Another way to think of this license metric is that you are paying a 15% uplift on your software licenses to use HANA with a Runtime Edition license.

Enterprise Edition

HANA Enterprise Edition is licensed by “GB of Memory” and sold in blocks of 64. You can run a report via HANA Studio to review how many GB you are using. For example, if you are using 100GB then you require 2 licenses. It is important to note that HANA Enterprise Edition is one of the very few licenses that are not discountable. It has a tiered pricing model, meaning the more you buy, the cheaper the unit cost becomes. In the above Runtime Edition example where the database fee would be $1,500,000, this would be the equivalent of purchasing around 1,500 – 1,600 GB according to SAP pricelists

Typically, licensing an organisation’s HANA database with Enterprise Edition would be more expensive than the Runtime Edition license. However, there are other factors to consider in this choice regarding functionality and ease of measurement.

Can I use more than one HANA Edition?

Licensing more than one HANA edition in your SAP environment is possible and is commonly seen. This can be cost efficient. For example, you could only pay for HANA Enterprise Edition licenses on systems where you need to use the additional functionality rather than license every system this way.

It is difficult to reduce the HANA Runtime Edition fee based on HSAV unless there is a clear separation between the systems and products that are used on either HANA edition. This means you can find yourself paying for HANA Runtime Edition licenses for your whole environment, PLUS the cost of HANA Enterprise Edition licenses. This happens when there is no separation between systems. Any user or package product that would access an SAP system licensed with a HANA Runtime Edition will require the 15% uplift. Here are some examples:

  1. If one user accesses a system with a HANA database licensed with Runtime Edition and another HANA database licensed with Enterprise Edition, their user license requires that 15% fee as they are accessing a system with a HANA database licensed with Runtime Edition.
  2. If one user accesses a system or many systems with a HANA Runtime Edition database, their user license requires the 15% fee as they are accessing a system licensed with HANA Runtime Edition.
  3. If one user accesses only system(s) licensed with a HANA Enterprise Edition database, their user license does not require the 15% fee as the database is licensed by GB of Memory.

The way to license both editions without having to continue paying for a 15% uplift on all licenses is by creating a separation of access between systems. However, this will have technical and operational implications. To ensure organisational requirements are properly weighed against the price of the licenses, such a decision should only be taken after thoroughly reviewing the impact with the wider organisation.

The SAP Database tool

What is it?

SAP are developing a tool, known as the “SAP HANA Database Runtime Verification”, to measure how customers use their HANA database. If you own HANA Runtime Edition, this is how SAP will measure whether you are using your license in conjunction with the license’s use rights. The tool looks at:

  • tables that have been created
  • SQL Scripting being performed outside of SAP applications
  • custom development taking place

and more. It flags whether one of the functionalities that requires a HANA Enterprise Edition license has been measured. SAP consider this flag to be enough evidence that your organisation requires HANA Enterprise Edition.

How do I access this tool?

This tool can be found in an SAP note but is only accessible by customers who are part of the “SAP Pilot Customer Program”. Customers become part of this program by being audited by SAP. It appears to be SAP’s intention to make this tool widely available, but until then customers can only prepare for an SAP HANA audit by manually verifying how they use their database(s).

How accurate is this tool?

This tool is still in development which means the results may not be completely accurate. In our experience we have seen many false positive results. This could lead SAP to erroneously charge you for an Enterprise Edition license based on the output of the tool. JNC’s advice is to investigate the outputs of this tool to ensure it is an accurate measurement. Validating these outputs could save your organisation significant licensing costs.

As you can only measure your HANA functionality using this tool if you are being audited, it makes proactively checking whether you are compliant with the use rights of the HANA Runtime Edition license very difficult…but not impossible.

How do I measure my usage without the tool?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to do this. It requires understanding SAP’s Software Use Rights and comparing the HANA database license you own to how you use your HANA database. There are many restrictions with a HANA Runtime Edition license that need to be identified and understood and you will need to find the correct people in your organisation who can advise on the current process or use of the database. Once the processes have been understood, they will need to be thoroughly reviewed and compared to the use rights to ensure there is no potential compliance risk. Finally, this needs to be performed regularly and every change to a process or how the database is used needs to be checked from a licensing perspective.

What happens if I am using functionality not covered by my HANA Runtime Edition license?

You may find yourself in a position where you have purchased HANA Runtime Edition licenses but are using functionality that requires HANA Enterprise Edition. There are several restrictions to HANA Runtime Edition, and even though you may only be using 1 functionality out of 10+ that requires HANA Enterprise Edition, you must still upgrade the license. Also keep in mind that the database itself will not prevent any unlicensed functionality being used. Whether you have licensed HANA Runtime Edition or HANA Enterprise Edition, the database itself is the same. The licenses correspond simply to how you can or cannot use this database and how much it costs.

You have a few options if you find that you are using functionality that is not permitted with a HANA Runtime Edition license:

Alter your use case to fit within the definition of the HANA Runtime Edition license

If you are not currently being audited, you may have time to solve this compliance problem without a license purchase. If possible, explore the option of altering the use case or the way the organisation uses the HANA database to remove or reduce the requirement of additional licensing. Whether licensing fees or functionality is more important is down to each individual organisation.

Purchase HANA Enterprise Edition for the instances of HANA that require it

If you have 10 HANA instances and only 2 use functionality that requires HANA Enterprise Edition, you can purchase HANA Enterprise Edition for just those two. Keep in mind that you may not be able to reduce your HANA Runtime Edition costs.

Convert from HANA Runtime Edition to HANA Enterprise Edition

We have observed instances where it is possible to convert your licenses completely from HANA Runtime Edition to HANA Enterprise Edition. It is possible to receive a credit for the spend of your HANA Runtime Edition licenses to use against your purchase of HANA Enterprise Edition. It is likely this will be more expensive that option 1, however the cost difference may be worth it as you no longer need to monitor HANA functionality.


The HANA database is an expensive SAP product and functionality is increasingly becoming a point of focus point during SAP license audits. Ensure you include this product when conducting internal audits. Review the outputs of SAP’s tool during an external audit to potentially avoid paying licensing fees that you do not need to. There are several ways to license the HANA database and it is essential you select the correct license for your organisation’s requirements.

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