HANA Takes On TechEd

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Hasso on HANA: The SAP co-founder discusses changes to the organization (photo: SAP)

Some time ago, SAP faced a dilemma: Maintain big systems like SAP Business Suite or follow more radical trends. Two years ago the company found the right approach and set of ideas that would allow it to do both – without disrupting customers’ current business. One of the products that has enabled this duality is SAP HANA, an appliance that permits transactional and analytical processing in one system at very high speed and relatively low cost.

Via video message, SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner told this back-story on SAP’s resurgence as a welcome and an appeal to SAP TechEd attendees. Over time, he explained, SAP will migrate non-disruptively from the Suite as it is today to a “Suite plus HANA system.” This, Hasso, hammered home, will require changes not only in SAP’s development organization, but also in its partner organization and customer base. “We have to retrain, and change how we do things,” he proclaimed. SAP HANA is more than a product, it’s the cornerstone of an “intellectual renewal” throughout the SAP ecosystem. “This concept is not only vital, but also extremely desirable.”

Vishal Sikka explains how in-memory technology is replacing old IT infrastructures (photo: SAP)

The intellectual renewal

Charged with driving this intellectual renewal is SAP Executive Board member Vishal Sikka. The head of Technology and Innovation for SAP explained how the company’s technology is indeed renewing the entire industry – with SAP HANA once again in focus.

One of the most compelling visuals in Vishal’s was the least sightly in an otherwise elegant deck. Numerous acronyms representing SAP applications were thickly spattered on an SAP HANA timeline. He needed only flash the slide to make a clear statement of SAP’s dedication to enabling new and existing offerings for the SAP HANA appliance.

As Vishal explained, over the past several years, technology has bestowed new containers upon existing content. For example, devices are replacing books and magazines for the presentation of information. Similarly, new technologies are replacing traditional IT infrastructures. SAP HANA is one of these new software containers, he said, replacing and unifying the entire data processing layer and doing away with data marts and data warehouses.

Case in point: China bottled water distributor Nongfu Springs went live with SAP HANA on August 20. One of their goals with the appliance was to accelerate reporting. Nongfu Springs now delivers reports 200-300 times faster than with its Oracle system, a result consistent across all its 150 reports. Another example: Electronics goods retailer Yodobashi is an SAP HANA customer that with the appliance can now run incentive payments in two seconds as opposed to three days.

A full house at TechEd 2011 in Las Vegas (photo: SAP)
Christopher Kollatz gave an update on customers' experiences with HANA (photo: SAP)

SAP HANA present and future

Vishal invited Christoph Kollatz, EVP responsible for the scaling and maturity of the appliance, on stage to update the audience on SAP HANA’s performance in the market. Christoph shared that close to 100 customers are currently involved in SAP HANA projects. The appliance has the top spot in terms of market awareness among in-memory databases. And it boasts the fastest growing pipeline in the nearly 40 years of SAP’s history. Christoph also introduced the new online resource Experience HANA, where visitors can learn, try, and even implement SAP HANA.

The keynote also featured what is in store for SAP HANA, including improvements in scan speed, load speed, and text processing. Franz Farber, chief architect for the SAP HANA team, linked into the main event hall from Germany to explain the details and also gave a preview of Project Orange, which will soon allow customers to run SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse on SAP HANA. Customers can replace legacy databases with SAP HANA and take full advantage of impressive performance improvements.

But the platform is nothing without the applications that stand on it, Vishal argued. “We have embarked on a wide-ranging renovation of our innovations,” he said. SAP has been working feverishly in building an entire family of new applications that either renew existing functionality or deliver new content: SAP Dynamic Cash Management, SAP Smart Meter Analytics, cost and profitability analysis (COPA). These applications join SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning in the family of applications powered by SAP HANA. Many more are to come.

In-memory technology will play an important role in diverse applications (photo: SAP)
Vishal Sikka lays out the current timeline for SAP HANA (photo: SAP)
SAP is renewing its business in other areas too, like Sybase and SAP NetWeaver (photo: SAP)

Renewal across offerings

Although grabbing a lot of the attention, in-memory technology isn’t the only part of SAP’s business undergoing (and triggering) significant renewal. As Vishal explained, advancements in technology, appealing designs and ease of use, more efficient programming techniques, and new business models and infrastructure have enabled a “simplifying renewal,” evident at SAP in the three dimensions of mobility, cloud computing, and in-memory technology.

SAP NetWeaver, for example, now in release 7.3, will offer among other things an enhancement package in Q4, including a harmonized toolset and integration of SAP Business Process Management with SAP Streamwork. Björn Goerke, SVP, Technolgoy & Innovation Core, informed the crowd of a beta program that will offer the platform in the cloud, and with the new River platform allow rapid application development – hosted by SAP and powered by SAP HANA.

Sybase, which is collocating its event “TechWave” with SAP TechEd, also boasts some new developments, including in the areas of the ASE and PowerBuilder. On the mobility side, new developments are in store with Afaria as well as tighter integration of Sybase Unwired Platform with SAP. “Each product from Sybase will continue its growth and evolution,” Vishal assured.

In the past, a lot of technology was motivated by the needs of business. In the case of SAP’s renewal – especially SAP HANA – it appears that business needs may need to catch up with the technology. In closing, Vishal challenged attendees to conceive new business models that can fully leverage the speed and performance of in-memory technology. “Think about these grand simplifications,” he asked. “Which businesses processes can you radically restructure, what kind of innovation can you bring that […] simplifies the lives of your end customers.” Customers may well be giving answers to those questions as early as the upcoming SAP TechEds in Bangalore, Beijing, and Madrid.