SAP Labs Korea: A Cornerstone of SAP HANA

For nearly 13 years, SAP Labs Korea has been a cornerstone of SAP HANA development. Now it ensures the platform and foundation for intelligent enterprises meets changing demands.

SAP Labs Korea Managing Director Changbin Song
SAP Labs Korea Managing Director Changbin Song

Changbin Song cannot remember exactly where he was in spring 2010 when SAP HANA, the company’s in-memory solution, was launched. But the current head of SAP Labs Korea does recall just how proud he and his colleagues in the South Korean capital of Seoul were to have helped build it. Years of hard work had resulted in a new product with vast potential.

Many minds went into making SAP HANA a success. They include, of course, SAP Co-Founder Hasso Plattner and the students at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany; Vishal Sikka, who went on to become chief technology officer of the company; researchers at Stanford University; the database experts at MaxDB and Sybase; and, among others at SAP, the team that built Text Retrieval & Information Extraction(TREX), led by Roland Kurz, Franz Färber, and Daniel Schneiss.

And then there is the team at Transact in Memory, a database company that SAP acquired in 2005. Five years before, Transact in Memory emerged from a startup that Dr. Sang Kyun Cha had founded at Seoul National University. Changbin Song had been part of the efforts to launch an in-memory database for business applications from the beginning. The product was called P*TIME and was a row-based database system. In 2002, Sang set up Transact in Memory in Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, and reached out to SAP soon after.

SAP Labs Korea:  The First Employees

Changbin, still working with his team in Seoul at the time, was at those meetings with Sikka and other people from SAP.

“We first talked about how SAP could use the P*TIME technology,” says Changbin. “We already had a number of small customers in South Korea, but we wanted to attract global players as well.”

When SAP acquired Transact in Memory, Sang, Changbin, and about 30 developers joined SAP. They were the first employees of what was to become SAP Labs Korea, which Sang led until 2014. P*TIME, together with the columnar TREX search engine, was one of the building blocks of SAP HANA.

Today, about 250 people on three floors of an office building in Seoul’s Banpo district work on SAP HANA. Under Changbin’s leadership, they are looking at many topics around the core of SAP HANA and — together with many other SAP teams worldwide — their job is to offer SAP HANA as a service in the public cloud.

“We also make life easier for application developers,” says Changbin. SAP HANA, he reminds us, has long been far more than just an in-memory database. “Now, it’s a highly versatile platform and is turning into the foundation for intelligent enterprises.” Its in-memory technology makes it possible to have transactions and analytics as one set of data.

If you then have all your data in SAP HANA, Changbin says, the next question is how applications can use it as fast and as easily as possible. And these days technologies such as machine learning and blockchain must be integrated as well. That is where his team comes in.

More Complexity, Simpler Applications

“It’s our job to work out how to connect these technologies to SAP HANA,” Changbin states. Giving SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service as an example, Changbin explains: “You can use blockchain to save the entire mileage data for a used car. SAP HANA can then pull this data and analyze it at the same time.”

With SAP HANA, application developers can easily access data and technologies like blockchain. “From our perspective, this makes SAP HANA more complex,” he says. “But that way we simplify the applications. After all, the ‘S’ in SAP S/4HANA stands for simplification and we have to live up to that.”

Enhancing the platform is no easy task when you consider that SAP HANA now has more than 10 million code lines. “Innovating continuously and keeping pace with technology take a lot of passion,” says Changbin who notes that this is reflected in SAP Lab Korea’s mantra to “drive innovation with passion.”

That is why he is glad that many of SAP Lab Korea’s first employees are still there: “They know our history and how to bring innovative ideas to life.”

SAP Labs Network

In September 2017, SAP Labs Korea officially became the 20th member of the SAP Labs Network. Beyond the 220 developers enhancing SAP HANA, there are about 30 developers working on SAP Analytics Cloud for planning.

SAP HANA has a team in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, a research lab that SAP acquired when it took over parts of security solution vendor SECUDE in 2011. The branch office became an official member of the SAP Labs Network in 2015.

Almost 90 developers are in charge of the internal SAP HANA dev infrastructure, development support, and the SAP HANA cockpit. They also take care of quality control and shipment of the platform.

SAP Labs Vietnam Managing Director Dung Huu Nguyen reports to Changbin Song. A few months ago, the location moved to new, modern premises in Ho Chi Minh City. “That was a huge boost to our motivation. Now we really feel part of the labs network,” says Dung.