“Paradigm shift”, “excellent idea”: Hinrich Mielke isn’t short of superlatives for the SAP database that still continues to amaze the market. For a long time, SAP has tried to speed up analyses, for example with the SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator, only succeeding in treating the symptoms rather than the problem. Now, however, ERP has been separated from SAP NetWeaver BW, which means that “one no longer affects the other.” A manager can now, for example, even access business KPIs (key performance indicators) in an instant on a tablet PC. “It’s like having ridden in a horse and cart for years, and then suddenly buying a car,” says Mielke as he discusses how companies are switching to the in-memory solution from SAP.
The head of consulting at SAP partner REALTECH understands the hurdles and pitfalls that can make a customer’s life unnecessarily difficult. Or, to continue with Mielke’s analogy: There are many ways to configure a car; only then can one start talking about its advantages.
SAP BW on HANA: Six critical factors
Unlike a car, however, the SAP HANA database has to connect to an existing system. Prior to a full inspection, it is impossible to say to what extent processes will be accelerated. Hinrich Mielke has identified six critical factors:
Before the start of a project, a proof of concept is necessary outlining the area in which SAP HANA is to be implemented. The concept must also include the expected costs of the project, and ultimately determine whether the technology and the idea are compatible and whether the project can meet expectations. In manufacturing industries, for instance, it is important to know precise details about deliveries, and to make predictions about whether deadlines can be met. Whether the analysis of the precise forecasts increases tenfold or a thousand-fold is of strategic significance.
2. A new mode of operating:
It is not always clear to companies that the new technology fundamentally changes the IT division. For example, companies that previously backed up data on tape can now only do so via a special interface – or must instead use storage disks. Since the speed of analyses and reports no longer lasts hours or days, it is no longer acceptable to wait a few hours for the service provider to bring the systems back online after a system failure. Even a few minutes may be too long for the customer these days, thanks to the new technology. As such, the Service Level Agreements (SLA) need to be adjusted accordingly, and if this does not happen, frustration amongst users will increase.
3. New infrastructures:
Companies that want new levels of speed will also need to change their infrastructures. In order to fully benefit from the power of the new technology, 10-gigabit Ethernet is the minimum requirement. This may result in costs beyond the actual SAP investment, and companies should prepare for these costs well in advance.
Next page: More important factors to consider
4. SUSE Linux expertise required:
SAP HANA runs on the SUSE Linux operating system – and will for the foreseeable future. Most companies, however, employ experts in the IBM AIX or Microsoft Windows operating systems who have little knowledge of SUSE Linux. And in the USA, RedHat Linux is much more common than SUSE Linux. For most companies, this will mean further training or the recruitment of new employees with the requisite skills. Not only this, but the administration of an SAP HANA database is vastly different from other databases.
5. Upgrade SAP NetWeaver BW:
SAP HANA is at its most powerful when used together with the latest release of SAP NetWeaver BW, and companies should therefore upgrade their applications to the latest version. Furthermore, SAP HANA and the relevant applications should be considered as a new service that has to be integrated correctly. What does this mean for the organization? This question needs to be answered.
6. Plan individual modifications:
SAP HANA is not “out of the box”: Although the in-memory technology functions perfectly well, what is known as a “code pushdown” – an individual adjustment to the database – is recommended. This allows the application logic to be applied directly to the database where the data is already stored in the main memory; the multicore technology can be fully utilized; data can be analyzed in its compressed form, and only the considerably reduced data volumes of results need to be transported via the network. This is how the “intelligence” is integrated into the database and applied to the data with the greatest added value.
Hinrich Mielke has developed proofs of concept (POC) for the deployment of SAP NetWeaver BW on HANA for many customers. In his experience, small businesses and midsize companies generally have to reckon with at least 50,000 euros for a successful SAP HANA implementation. A POC, which Mielke strongly recommends, requires two to three months to put together, and allows companies to estimate the benefits that can be drawn from an SAP HANA deployment. He does not believe an SAP HANA “efficiency barometer” is possible in the short term. “The areas of deployment are too different, which makes it almost impossible to compare different companies,” according to Mielke. So buying a car is fine, but the company must carefully consider which one to choose.