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From SAP R/1 to SAP S/4HANA: The evolution of SAP's enter­prise soft­ware

SAP’s journey is a story full of innovations and milestones. Starting with the birth of SAP AG in 1972 by former IBM employees in Germany, through the development of various generations of software to today’s advanced suite, SAP S/4HANA.

First, let’s clarify all the important terms:

SAP: System Analysis Program Development (Systemanalyse Programmentwicklung) – pronunciation S-A-P – as it is an abbreviation and not a word

ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

HANA: High Performance Analytics Appliance

R: Real-Time (as in R/1, R/2, R/3)

S: Suite (as in S/4HANA)

The Beginnings: SAP R/1

SAP took its first steps toward the world of enterprise resource planning (ERP) with the introduction of SAP R/1 in 1973. The R stands for real-time and the 1 for a 1-tier architecture. This means that all three layers of the software – database, application and presentation – were stored in a single system.

The first product developed under SAP R/1 was a real-time financial accounting system called RF. This laid the foundation for what we know today as SAP ERP.

Architecture of SAP R/1

Further development: SAP R/2

In the 1980s, SAP introduced a new generation of its software, SAP R/2. With a 2-tier architecture, the application and database layers were separated on one system, while the presentation layer ran on a second system. At the same time, the concept of Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) was introduced. OLTP allows multiple transactions to be executed simultaneously, resulting in more efficient and faster data processing.

Architecture of SAP R/2

New era: SAP R/3

The introduction of SAP R/3 in the 1990s ushered in a new era in the world of enterprise software. SAP R/3 was the first fully integrated, multi-modular system with a 3-tier architecture. This architecture allowed each tier – database, application and presentation – to run on different systems. This greatly improved the scalability and flexibility of the system. In 2004, SAP R/3 was renamed SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) and now included areas such as finance, logistics and human capital management.

Architecture of SAP R/3

The revolution: SAP HANA

2010 marked the beginning of a new revolution for SAP with the introduction of SAP HANA. Thanks to its in-memory computing capabilities, HANA was able to analyze and process huge amounts of data in real time, resulting in significant performance improvements.

The birth: SAP S/4HANA

In 2015, SAP marked a new era with the launch of SAP S/4HANA. As the successor to SAP ERP, SAP S/4HANA is based entirely on the advanced in-memory platform SAP HANA and leverages the modern user experience of SAP Fiori. It offers not only simplified data modeling and improved analytics, but also much more efficient and flexible business process execution.

Verfügbarkeit von SAP S/4HANA


The journey from SAP R/1 to SAP S/4HANA marks an important milestone in the history of enterprise software. With each new innovation, SAP has continued to improve the way businesses manage their processes and make decisions. Today, SAP S/4HANA is more than just a software solution – it is a catalyst for digital transformation and innovation.