SAP HANA: A Fast Developing “Toddler” - Part 1

It doesn’t take an exceptional industry analyst or market observer to realize that SAP HANA has become one of the pillars of SAP’s future strategy (possibly even a “bet the farm” move). HANA is a major part of SAP’s goal of being a next-generation database management provider, and SAP now has a number of relational database assets, both developed on its own and from the Sybase acquisition. In fact, according to IDC, SAP has been the fastest growing database provider of late, although still smaller than the traditional leaders – Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.

SAP is also concurrently tackling the mobility, analytics/business intelligence (BI), cloud computing, and social media spaces, in addition to long being the leading line of business (LoB) enterprise applications provider and middleware provider via the SAP NetWeaver platform. But hardly any other product delivery at the vendor has outshone the publicity and promotion of SAP HANA, whose in-memory data management and analytics and many other novel capabilities, have been touted and explained repeatedly, well before the product was made generally available (GA) in June 2011.

If one had to pick the product’s ”killer aspect,” it would be the fact that there is no need for indexing (as opposed to traditional relational databases) bundled with columnar data compression that allows all of a company's data to be stored in-memory rather than on expensive and unwieldy disks (and other storage devices). For more in-depth information on SAP HANA’s thought-leading capabilities, see TEC’s article entitled “SAP HANA—One Technology to Watch in 2012 (and Beyond).”

The First Anniversary Snapshot

In January 2012, SAP HANA became the fastest-growing technology in SAP’s four-decade-long decorated history, and mid-June 2012 the vendor celebrated the product’s first anniversary. In less than a year, SAP HANA has reportedly gained tremendous momentum with more than 350 customers, more than 150 implementations, and more than 64,000 end users. SAP’s official press release (PR) outlines the following highlights:

Customer Achievements

  • 16 customers with more than 10,000-times performance improvement over disk-based databases

  • 2,000 Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances

  • 1,791 trained consultants

Product Performance

  • One platform for handling online transaction processing (OLTP) and online analytic processing (OLAP), structured and unstructured data, fresh data and "big data"

  • No tuning, no indices, no materialized views, no caching

  • 33 SAP solutions powered by SAP HANA

  • 100 TB benchmark on 16 node IBM X5 server series

  • 20-times data compression

  • SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW) query: 300-500 milliseconds

  • Ad-hoc query: 800 miliseconds-2 seconds

  • Insert rate: 770,000 records per second

  • Bulk: 1 GB per minute

  • Data services: 2.5 TB per hour

  • Scale out to 500 TB in main memory for real-time processing of "big data"

In a nutshell, SAP HANA is for real – here to stay and change the paradigms of enterprise software design and development. SAP HANA is already available as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) database for the SAP Business One Analytics and SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI offerings for the small to medium business (SMB) customers, while Dr. Vishal Sikka, a member of the Executive Board of SAP AG and the Global Managing Board, heading technology and innovation for the company, was recently optimistic and expects the flagship SAP ERP suite to be running on the new database.

Real-Time Data Platform

At a press event in April 2011, SAP articulated its unified database vision and demonstrated how the company intends to become the #2 database vendor by 2015. SAP unveiled a real-time data platform that combines the SAP HANA platform, Sybase data management, replication, and CEP offerings, and SAP BusinessObjects solutions for enterprise information management (EIM). This combination is expected to produce more simplified IT architectures that enable new classes of applications in analytics, big data, mobile, and cloud computing.

New innovations from the Database & Technology unit of SAP include the GA of the aforementioned SAP NetWeaver BW component powered by SAP HANA as well as the GA of SAP Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (SAP Sybase ASE) as a database option for SAP Business Suite applications. At this time, there have been 80 shipments of SAP NetWeaver BW on HANA, 16 of which have gone live since November 2011.

SAP now has a hefty arsenal with which to tackle the big data phenomenon. "Big data" can mean different things to different people and applications. Is big data simply about huge volumes of structured data? What about unstructured data or multimedia files? Or high-velocity global positioning system (GPS) location data or Web log data? What about streams of data in cases of complex event processing (CEP), say, in stock trading data, or text analytics?

The SAP real-time data platform, based on the flagship SAP HANA platform, includes data management capabilities from SAP Sybase IQ, SAP Sybase Event Stream Processor (ESP, formerly Aleri), SAP Sybase ASE, SAP Sybase Replication Server, SAP Sybase PowerDesigner for orchestration, and SAP EIM (which comes largely from Business Objects, and includes the Inxight Software acquisition for text analytics). Add to this support for Apache Hadoop, and SAP intends to unlock business value from this abundance of data for its customers by providing for real-time decision support within the window of opportunity with extreme capabilities to ingest, store, and process big data in real-time.

Part 2 of this series will analyze some concrete applications of SAP HANA and how SAP intends to evangelize the offering in the developers’ community.  Finally, SAP’s HANA product experts will answer some persisting questions and provide additional clarifications. Your comments in the meantime are customarily welcome. If you are an early HANA adopter, we would like to hear your experiences and impressions.
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