Putting the Action in Transaction

"OLTP capability isn't on the horizon; it's here now." Hasso Plattner, co-founder of SAP at SAPPHIRE NOW (Photo: SAP)

The day before his keynote at SAPPHIRE NOW, Hasso Plattner met with 10 start-up companies that had taken part in a development marathon creating applications that run on SAP HANA. He asked them how it went. The answer? It was the easiest experience with SAP they ever had.

Just as it was meant to be. “If we want to change your systems on the fly, we have to have a level of quality we have never had in any previous component of SAP,” he said. Customers don’t have the six months or longer to optimize the system until it is ready for cutover, Hasso continued. It has to work 100 percent from the start.

On the keynote stage the following day, the SAP co-founder and Supervisory Board Chairman addressed the larger SAPPHIRE NOW audience, walking them through how the in-memory offering is turning its foothold in the industry into a full-out stomp as the technology and ecosystem around SAP HANA matures.

You down with OLTP?

The 10,000 to 100,000 speed multiples – though never failing to impress – are old news when it comes to SAP HANA. Customers have experienced speed on the analytical side of their business, squeezing the life out of response times and enabling a new ad-hoc, operational way of working with massive amounts of data.

But what about the promised transactional side of SAP HANA? What good is a state-of-the art in-memory database that supports both online analytical processing (OLAP) and online transactional processing (OLTP) if there are no transactional applications that can run on it?

Well, there are. SAP Business One, for example, is a transactional application that runs entirely on the in-memory database, and it’s a good example of what the future holds for OLTP from SAP.

A demo during Hasso’s keynote presented a scenario in which this solution for small businesses calls on the full gamut of SAP HANA’s capabilities. A sales manager can use free-text search, analytics, and transactions to find, analyze, and initiate an order process – all in a matter of seconds and running on a system as small as a Mac mini.

But it’s not just small businesses that can take advantage of SAP HANA’s OLTP capabilities. The real deal is coming later this year when SAP ERP is slated to run on it.

In the spirit of convergence: SAP HANA will power the cloud, analytics, applications, and mobile (photo: SAP)

Breakthroughs in OLTP

There are some limitations to the OLTP side of the equation, but only relative to the dramatic gains SAP and its customers have achieved on the OLAP side. As Hasso explained, although it is practical to extract data from a system at mind-blowing speeds with group selects (OLAP), single selects (OLTP) cannot be improved upon nearly as much in comparison to a relational database. Nevertheless, as illustrated by SAP Executive Board member Vishal Sikka in his SAPPHIRE NOW keynote (which followed), SAP has achieved performance breakthroughs in OLTP. In some cases, Vishal’s engineers have boosted OLTP performance up to 770,000 records per second.

Enabling applications for the HANA era

In many cases, SAP is taking applications out of the SAP Business Suite, re-implementing them natively on SAP HANA, and making them dramatically better. SAP Dynamic Cash Management is one example.

Transforming known applications into something fundamentally different is a necessary task, Hasso said, in order to effectively exploit breakthroughs such as mobile. “Users of mobile devices,” he said, “want much faster response times. All of these new applications running on SAP HANA will be inherently mobile applications.”

This interplay of mobile and in-memory is the essence of the value in the convergence of technologies within SAP’s product portfolio, and in the area of mobile a testament to the value of the Sybase acquisition. Similarly in the spirit of convergence, with cloud, businesses will be able to run their IT on hosted SAP HANA-based databases and reap immense benefits in speed.

Hasso had the visible pleasure of introducing what such a datacenter looks like. Just days ahead of the conference, SAP completed set-up of the largest in-memory database system in the world. The server cluster stretches 50 feet across the floor of a building in Santa Clara, California and consists of 100 IBM X5 servers with a total of 4,000 X86 cores.

In-memory, mobile, cloud computing, and – of course – applications and analytics can thus make their way into the hands of the front-line workers, empowering a wide rank of decision makers and turning the traditional pyramidal organization of command and control on its head. SAP is building its applications to cater to this emerging organizational and operational style.

Hasso left the audience with an invitation to send any questions they may have about SAP HANA to asksaphana@sap.com.