Charismatic, funny, sometimes sarcastic, but always authentic: That was Hasso Plattner in a nutshell during his speech on the third day of the Orlando version of SAPPHIRE NOW. As on the previous days, a live feed was established between this show and its partner event in Frankfurt, Germany. While Plattner was not afraid to direct some friendly criticism toward SAP’s own ranks, his main focus was on technologies, especially in-memory databases. The opening speech, meanwhile, was held by SAP’s new chief technical officer (CTO), Vishal Sikka.
Sikka spoke about the evolution of computer hardware, where processor clock speeds, CPU cores, and the amount of available memory have undergone extreme changes. He recalled the year 2003, when the microchip manufacturer Intel reached a key speed limit on individual CPUs, at which point the company began building multiple cores onto its chips to scale up performance. Sikka believes the business world is at a similar crossroads in the way it structures and stores databases.
Storing column-oriented information directly in a server’s system memory brings this data closer to the business applications that need it, which can lead to dramatic increases in speed. In-memory databases give such applications immediate access to the information they contain, which accelerates queries and updates.
Sikka also took the opportunity to make it clear once more: Hard drives are history! At least as far as business-critical applications are concerned, which can administer up to 4.7 billion entries. SAP’s CTO explained that sophisticated compression makes it possible to reduce a database to a tenth of its original size without losing any information. Rather than deal with a full terabyte, a company could thus query a 100GB in-memory database in just seconds (based on a speed of 2MB/ms per CPU core). SAP plans to implement its in-memory technology with hardware from Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Hasso Plattner, meanwhile, spoke of Apple’s impressive achievements in the speed, attractiveness, and usability of its iPhone and iPad. The chance to access huge server databases with these mobile devices is opening up a number of brand-new fields of business to many companies, including SAP. While calling SAP the founder of real-time computing, Plattner recognized the current trend toward making everything mobile. He also reported that SAP is working on its outdated user interface, with fundamental improvements on the way soon. Apple is providing good examples of simple, visually appealing interfaces.
As the event drew to a close, Plattner demonstrated a dunning app for iPad (see our article from the previous day, “SAP on iPad: It’s All Going Mobile”). Developed at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, the app accesses real data in SAP Business ByDesign 2.5. Plattner used this solution to show how the app can modify data in real time, calling on Peter Lorenz and Gerhard Oswald – literally, by phone – to make live changes to a data record.