HANA: SAP's new horse

CIOL Bureau
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MUMBAI, INDIA: Can database and analytics really redefine the positions on the Enterprise Chessboard?


Between IBM, SAP, Oracle and a few others, the question is not something new.

But the radically-new technology as SAP prefers to prefix HANA as, has for sure added a twist to the question.

The last few days have seen a lot of interest, time and attention coming from analysts and industry-watchers, and if not anything else, HANA has arguably usurped the spotlight here.


HANA 1.0 (High Performance Analytics Appliance) is the first release of a longer-term road map that includes support of new SAP applications, such as Strategic Workforce Planning or Sales and Operations Planning, and delivery of packaged content, such as profitability analysis. SAP has stated that HANA represents a strategic architectural investment. The next major milestone in this road map is HANA Service Pack 3, due for release at year-end 2011, which will support the SAP Business Warehouse (BW).

ERP giants like SAP and Oracle would love to reign over the database market s some industry pundits opine. Besides the presence of Teradata or IBM Netezza, with Oracle Exadata and SAP’s HANA, the in-Memory Appliance, there is now a new battle of in-memory computing technology in the legendary Oracle-SAP war.

So, would HANA impact the DBMS market strongly?


HANA 1.0 is the first in-memory database management system (DBMS) appliance in the market, as Bhavish Sood - principal research analyst, Gartner assesses.

“In future versions of HANA, SAP could potentially combine in-memory DBMS capabilities with real-time data and complex event processing to transform the way users interact with information. In-memory DBMS technology will give businesses the performance necessary to quickly adapt to market changes and to enable them to discover trends as they occur and adjust accordingly.”

HANA, represents a breakthrough in-memory technology as SAP tags it. Translated into numbers, as media bytes from Bill McDermott, the co-CEO, would reflect, it is a €10 million per week opportunity from a pipeline estimate.


SAP had also estimated earlier that HANA will contribute around €100 million to top line revenue by the end of 2011.

But there’s Oracle Exadata on the other side too, with an imminent in-memory accelerator up its sleeve.

Both can help in redefining the landscape of Enterprise Data Warehouses and analytics.


Both have the challenge of complex analytics to meet.

But while some still see Exadata as a database, SAP is seen pushing HANA as an application platform.

At the SAP World Tour 2011, I got an opportunity to see how SAP assesses the speculated onslaught from Oracle Exadata, that also an in-memory accelerator in progress.


Simon Dale, senior VP Solutions, SAP Asia Pacific Japan confidently shrugged off any comparisons, emphasizing how HANA is indeed a ‘new’ technology.

“We have created a really fresh technology. It’s easy to put some old technology in a stack. Not to forget the proprietary environments of software that others have. Our idea is to take the ‘proprietary’ bit out of it. We don’t want to lock anyone in. Ours is a really radical and path-breaking technology and not a five per cent reworked version on some old technology.”

Now whether customers get immediately inclined towards this breakthrough factor, still remains to be seen.


For someone with the 11g database, the transition might not be a big task, but in SAP’s case, the carry-over is still a space to watch. But with the big promise of real in-memory computing, saying bye to legacy might be worth the effort, if it really delivers quickly.

Some analysts still see HANA as more of a "university project" for customers, with enough interest from buyers but not enough investment momentum for the time being.

As for Vijay Kumar Singh, General Manager-IT, Abhijeet Vision Ltd who was also there at the SAP World Tour in Mumbai, HANA is a future product that he can potentially give a thought to. “I will definitely look into it, but not immediately.”

Dinesh Kaushik, Head-IT, Caparo India expressed the same sentiment. “It looks interesting, but we are presently not considering it.”

It looks like while the promise of in-memory DBMS technology is transformational, the use cases for HANA 1.0 are still limited in scope.

For customers sitting on the fence and wondering about HANA and its potential, it might help to note that HANA's main use case is real-time in-memory data marts for analyzing data from SAP ERP systems and other sources.

Sood adds that HANA also acts as the in-memory data platform for several SAP in-memory analytical applications that SAP plans to release during 2011. In instances where speed of analytic calculations is integral to business processes, HANA can help customers improve operational effectiveness by reducing latency between an event, analysis and action.

“However, as with all database appliances, HANA will not resolve underlying weaknesses in the data architecture; rather, it will temporarily alleviate them with speed.” He argues.

In short, it could be indeed a breakthrough technology and with the right business strategy and apposite roadmap, who knows what HANA might turn into for the ERP market, analytics vertical and more importantly for SAP.