What’s the Benefit? Customers Talk About SAP HANA

One of the big questions I’m hearing around SAPPHIRE NOW this year is whether SAP In-Memory Appliance software (SAP HANA) is still just a gleam in Hasso’s eye or whether it is ready for prime time. At a broadcast session on Monday, SAP Chief Scientist Ike Nassi was joined by two SAP HANA customers that talked about how the software has made their businesses run better.

Caterpillar Inc. CIO John Heller talked about the enormous challenge of maintaining Caterpillar’s high volume of part numbers for customers worldwide, allowing end-users to keep their long-lasting, iconic yellow construction equipment running no matter the vintage. SAP HANA allows the company to provide near real-time access to this data to its network of dealers across the globe.

As Heller put it, having visibility into this information is key to understanding profitability and ROI. “We make big iron, with lots of product numbers, and allow customers to custom-configure their orders,” said Heller. “With tens of millions of rows of data, in-memory allows fast review of different scenarios of ‘engineer to order.’”

In-memory computing technology also improves supply-chain management, allowing Caterpillar to track global sources of supply and react quickly to challenges, such as the recent disaster in Japan. “It allows near-instant changing of business plans based on analysis,” said Heller. “The learning cycle has sped up greatly.”

Echoing a theme from Monday’s keynote, Heller also pointed out a less talked-about benefit of in-memory computing: better insight. “Improved analysis makes learning more accessible,” he said. “You don’t necessarily need a team of PhDs.”

Moving the conversation from “big iron” to big (and small) pharma, Glen de Vries, president of Medidata Solutions Worldwide, talked about how his company uses SAP HANA in its business of planning and managing clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies.

A critical part of bringing new drugs to market, clinical trials represent a significant time and financial investment for drug companies. He noted that upwards of $50 billion is spent yearly on trials, with 1/5 of that cost going to quality assurance.

“We have to track a lot of data due to regulations,” said de Vries. “In memory allows fast and easy access to specific data with analytics throughout all levels up and down.”

“Real-time information is key to delivering medicine,” he continued. “In memory helps customers optimize their trials and shorten time-to-market.”

Visit the SAP HANA website to learn more about this software and what it offers.