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Understand SAP ECC vs. HANA vs. S/4HANA vs. R/3

SAP ECC, HANA, S/4HANA and R/3 are all valuable tools in the IT world, but it's easy to get them confused. Learn about their similarities and differences.

What's the difference between SAP ECC, HANA, S/4HANA and R/3? For newcomers to the world of SAP, understanding what each of these products does may seem confusing. It's important to learn the similarities and differences between these tools, as well as how they coexist in the SAP universe.

What is SAP ECC?

SAP ECC, also called SAP ERP, is the core ERP product within SAP Business Suite. It includes the more commonly used modules, like financials and human resources, that organizations in any industry need. It also has modules for processes manufacturers typically use, such as Production Planning, Materials Management and Plant Maintenance. Business Suite goes beyond these foundational modules to support more specialized or complex functions such as supply chain management and customer relationship management.

SAP ECC is by no means the only ERP product from SAP, though. While SAP is trying to get its customers to move to the next-generation ERP, S/4HANA, SAP ECC is the system that most people have and are therefore more familiar with, and many are reluctant to take the plunge with S/4HANA.

But why are some people reluctant to take the plunge? For starters, S/4HANA does not have all the same main functions as SAP ECC and SAP Business Suite. The main difference between these two systems is that SAP ECC can run on Oracle, whereas S/4HANA can only run on HANA.

Because of this, some companies will probably have to alter the way they do business. Some companies have used S/4HANA Finance as a stepping stone in this transition. S/4HANA Finance allows users to shift their accounting and finance processes to S/4HANA and keep using other SAP products.


Put simply, SAP ECC is an ERP system and Business Suite's core; HANA is a database.

HANA is an in-memory database, designed to handle transactions and analytics on one system. It was originally intended for data mart and data warehousing but has since grown into an all-in-one data platform that manages analytical, transactional and app development.

SAP ECC simultaneously integrates digital information into different -- yet relevant -- areas of a business's database system. SAP ECC is an on-premises system, whereas users can deploy HANA on premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid cloud system.

SAP plans on terminating its maintenance support for SAP ECC in 2027, which will require customers to transition to S/4HANA by 2027. For most companies, it's an expensive and lengthy undertaking, often spanning years.


In a nutshell, S/4HANA is the ERP systems and HANA is the database on which it runs.

S/4HANA was specifically written to run in the HANA memory database and cannot run on any other databases. SAP released S/4HANA in 2015, and users view it as the next-generation successor to SAP Business Suite. S/4HANA is designed to solve more complex problems and manage larger amounts of data than its predecessors, SAP ECC and R/3. It is available both on premises and in the cloud.

Though S/4HANA originated in HANA, the two systems are very different. For starters, HANA is an in-memory database and application development platform. Thanks to HANA's in-memory computing database infrastructure, analysts don't have to waste time loading or writing back data. Developers can also create and run customized applications on top of HANA.

What about R/3?

R/3 is SAP ECC's predecessor and equivalent. R/3 uses the client-server model and allows users to store, retrieve, analyze and process corporate data. In contrast, SAP ECC runs on a web-based application server. Users can also access the R/3 database through web browsers, allowing for work to be completed off premises. Some companies still run R/3 and have not moved to SAP ECC or S/4HANA.

R/2, a mainframe-based suite of business applications, preceded R/3.

Dig Deeper on SAP ERP software and modules

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