SAP HANA: A Fast Developing “Toddler” - Part 2

Part 1 of this blog series analyzed a snapshot of the SAP HANA offerings’ achievements at the time of the product’s first anniversary in June 2012. SAP is now a de facto database provider that intends to become the #2 database vendor by 2015. The company’s recently unveiled real-time data platform combines the SAP HANA platform, Sybase data management offerings, and SAP BusinessObjects solutions for enterprise information management (EIM). The combination is being touted as an answer to handling the data abundance (the so-called “big data” phenomenon) with near-zero latency.

SAP HANA Apps Assortment

In terms of concrete solutions, SAP HANA will be available within a plethora of focused applications in the following categories:

Attracting Developers

To celebrate the occasion of SAP HANA’s first anniversary, SAP also announced the launch of the SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer program, which is a new group of community-driven, hands-on technical professionals focused on promoting SAP HANA expertise in the market. The SAP HANA Distinguished Engineer program was founded by SAP in collaboration with some of the foremost SAP HANA technologists and SAP Mentors from Bluefin Solutions, Deloitte Consulting, IBM Global Business Solutions (GBS), and independent consultants. It is open to all developers, database administrators, and other SAP HANA technologists who have an interest in pursuing and promoting technical skills in support of SAP HANA-based customer solutions.

With broad industry and partner support, SAP is committed to fostering innovation not only in software and hardware technology, but also in the growth and development of people and skills. SAP pledges to work closely with program members to ensure skilled technologists stay up to date with the rapid pace of development of SAP HANA. The program will also help members gain access to resources from within SAP and cross-promote their efforts to drive new solutions and best practices based on SAP HANA.

More details on the program can be found here. In addition, SAP’s recent decision to offer free developer licenses for both SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver Cloud (SAP's new platform as a service [PaaS] offering, formerly code-named Project River) was a smart move and will work toward evangelizing these novel concepts in the developer community.

Additional SAP HANA Clarifications

While SAP HANA is a disruptive technology, the “disruptive” nature cuts both ways – not only helping  SAP dismay any competitors that might be caught flat-footed, but also causing some anxiety and inevitable, perhaps painful, changes within SAP’s partner ecosystem and professional services. To discuss the disruptive nature of the technology, I had a chance to sit down with SAP’s product experts at the recently held SAPPHIRE NOW 2012 conference and ask them the following questions:
PJ: Will there be any ramifications for database administrators (DBAs) and data modelers when SAP HANA comes as the database, i.e., will traditional RDMBS DBAs (for Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, etc.) have to require re-training?

SAP: We need to separate out DBAs vs. database modelers. DBAs traditionally spend a ton of time tuning the database, whether it may be running database statistics, indexing particular tables, etc. With SAP HANA, we see the amount of time doing traditional DBA tasks of performance tuning to be significantly reduced.

For database modelers, it is more of a change in theory vs. skills. SAP HANA will require them to think about how they use the structured query language (SQL) to leverage the scale of in-memory database -- writing the algorithms in a way that allows for it be "broken" apart and re-assembled at the last minute to use the full power of the multi-central processor units (CPU’s).

PJ: The same question for the functional consultants: will there be major changes and re-training necessary with regard to configuring SAP systems on HANA vs. how it used to be done in SAP R/3, SAP Enterprise Core Component (ECC) 6.0, SAP NetWeaver 7.3, and SAP Business One?

SAP: Yes and no -- the current training is two to three days. We have a HANA system integrator (SI) certification program as well. Developing or integrating with HANA is more about taking your basic DBA knowledge and applying the new mindset. It’s like riding a bike -- fundamentally all bikes are similar, and HANA just happens to be a “Tour De France” bike with special pedals. You can bang away at the pedals as you do with a normal bike and you will move forward, but if you learn how to clip in and use the full rotation of the special pedal, you will move faster and with greater ease.

However, some of the tasks that customers are used to may no longer be required. For example, creating aggregates for SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (BW). And that transformational enablement effort is well underway. Significant investment has and is being made to scale our consulting organization to be able to support the surging demand for HANA-based solutions for our customers.

PJ: How does SAP plan to motivate its independent software vendor (ISV) and value-added reseller (VAR) ecosystem to port their apps onto HANA (it costs to have experts in Oracle, HANA, etc.)?

SAP: There is so much demand we have not worried yet about motivation -- the speed and flexibility afford smaller solutions and niche developers to reduce infrastructure (not increase) to support their customers. The ease of modeling within HANA is allowing hardware partners to expand their SI practices related to HANA. HANA is a bridge for many tertiary SI/ISV companies to engage their customers at the most strategic level.

Near-term, we are enabling ISVs, startups, and even developers in our customer base access to best practices and community support forums. We recently had a Startup Forum at SAP Palo Alto, where we had more than two dozen (with a longer waiting list) startups looking at the possibility to develop on HANA. SAP is creating a US$ 155 million venture fund for startups and a US$ 337 million SAP HANA Database Migration Acceleration Program.

PJ: What is the workflow/business process management (BPM) engine within HANA, something from NetWeaver, something organic to HANA, or nothing at this stage?

SAP: HANA today provides stored procedures and procedural logic via logical operators. In the future, we will be looking at a business rules engine in HANA.

Dear readers, what do you think about SAP’s new charters and computing approaches? If you are an early HANA adopter, we would like to hear your experiences and impressions.
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