HANA has become a significant focus in SAP software license audits in recent years. As customers transition from third-party database software (Oracle, Microsoft, IBM) to SAP’s proprietary database, they encounter new risks that many organizations are not fully aware of.

Often, customers opt for the HANA Runtime Edition because it is usually the more cost-effective choice and allows their SAP systems to run on the HANA database. However, the licensing terms of this product are not widely understood. This has led many SAP customers to purchase additional HANA Enterprise Edition licenses when they discover that their existing environment does not conform to the licensing restrictions of the HANA Runtime Edition.

What is the Difference?

The Runtime license is restricted to SAP applications, with its metric based on a percentage of your HANA Application Software Value (HSAV). In contrast, the Enterprise license is unrestricted and supports SAP, non-SAP, custom, hybrid, and third-party applications. It is priced based on database size (GB) and typically carries a higher cost.

High-level Comparison of the Two

Runtime Enterprise
Applications Only SAP Applications SAP, non-SAP, custom, third-party applications
Data Modelling Only via the application layer No limitations
Data Loading Import and Export via application layer No limitations
Pricing Metric   % of HSAV Database size (GB)
Cost Cheaper Generally, more expensive due to being non-discountable


Advantages of SAP HANA Enterprise Edition

The main advantages of the Enterprise Edition include:

  • Direct Access and Data Modelling:
    • Enables direct access to and data modelling within HANA, bypassing the application layer or SAP data tools.
  • Development Capabilities:
    • Facilitates the creation of tables directly in HANA, enhancing development efficiency and flexibility.
  • Support for Third-Party and Custom Solutions:
    • Allows running third-party software and custom SAP solutions. This includes new business functionalities beyond system integration and administration.

All these benefits come at a significant cost, typically several times higher than the Runtime Edition. Therefore, the choice hinges on whether you need a database solely for supporting SAP applications or a more comprehensive solution and are prepared to invest accordingly.

The Problem

Historically, SAP did not rigorously audit customers’ use of third-party databases or ensure compliance with licensing terms. However, with the introduction of SAP HANA, misuse of the HANA Runtime Edition can result in mandatory upgrades to the HANA Enterprise Edition, often without the possibility of reducing the existing Runtime Edition fees.

In around 2020, SAP introduced a tool designed to measure the functionalities used by customers in the HANA database. If the tool detects usage outside the licensing terms, SAP may require customers to purchase additional HANA Enterprise Edition licenses. Unfortunately, this tool is only available to customers under audit or those who have already been audited with it, limiting the ability of other customers to proactively check their database usage without a thorough understanding of the often vague licensing terms.

The widespread adoption of this tool in recent years has created significant challenges for many organizations. In JNC’s experience, the tool is not 100% reliable and often generates false positives. It is difficult for organizations to understand how the tool measures usage and what is permissible under the unclear licensing terms.

As a result, many organizations are forced during audits to purchase costly HANA Enterprise Edition licenses, sometimes costing millions, with little room for negotiation. Some customers have chosen to upgrade all their HANA Runtime licensed databases to HANA Enterprise to leverage the tiered licensing model and mitigate future risks.

JNC has extensive experience helping customers negotiate with SAP and interpret the tool’s results. Our specialists can translate technical data into licensing and commercial contexts, assisting your organization in defending against SAP’s claims. Additionally, we offer pre-audit assessments to identify potential issues and remediation options, helping you stay ahead of compliance challenges.


The HANA Enterprise Edition offers significantly more functionality but comes at a much higher cost. With SAP now regularly using an auditing tool to assess database usage, many customers with HANA Runtime Edition are encountering substantial settlement demands that they lack the resources or expertise to contest. Conducting a thorough review of your database usage against your licensing terms before an SAP audit is essential. Having experts on your side can greatly improve your negotiating position and help you achieve more favorable outcomes.

Author: Katie Sweny
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