At this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference (Twitter: #SAPPHIRENOW) SAP demonstrated its in-memory computing technology and applications. SAP’s High Performance Analytic Application (HANA), which I think of as a high-availability network appliance, is part of the technology industry movement to increase the performance and scalability across a range of applications, from analytics to transactions, to drive timely insights on data or real-time interactions across a business value chain that includes everyone from customers to suppliers. As part of the in-memory computing initiative, SAP demonstrated its in-memory database, which uses a columnar data store that employs technology SAP acquired with the Sybase IQ product. As I noted before the conference, in-memory technology is part of a major new focus for this global business applications company.

In a technology keynote, SAP CTO Dr. Vishal Sikka let the customers do the talking. More than a couple of dozen testimonials came from the likes of CIOs at Caterpillar, Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle, P&G and other global companies, all of whom said they have been implementing HANA not just to run faster and more cost-effectively but also to enable new levels of efficiency in business processes.

To make the case that you do not need a dedicated appliance like the hardware HP, IBM and Oracle sell, SAP cofounder Dr. Hasso Plattner demonstrated that HANA can operate on platforms as small as an Apple server or as scalable as a Dell PowerEdge R910 rack server. The company highlighted its partnership with Dell to further its message of interoperability.

 SAP demonstrated many applications it has built on top of HANA, including strategic workforce planning, a dynamic cash flow management for supporting financial operations for managing cash and accounting operations across AR and AP, and a new available-to-promise (ATP) order-inquiry application that had many attentively watching. In addition, SAP showed a range of modeling and calculation operations that can be computed on the platform and that could be part of any planning process. It is building a new advanced planning optimization (APO) system for companies that have struggled with limitations of the existing SAP APO. Many of these applications were presented through Microsoft Excel to demonstrate the power of SAP HANA, though eventually they will be more formalized, like the applications SAP offers under its the business analytics umbrella for lines of business and vertical industries. SAP partners offered demonstrations, too, among them Centrica, showing smart-meter analytics, and Medidata, using HANA in a cloud edition for supporting clinical trials and analytics against patient and outcome data.

SAP NetWeaver BW will add support for SAP HANA in the fall with the NetWeaver service pack 7.5 and the SAP HANA service pack 3. HANA will be able to replace the existing database with in-memory computing, which will not just speed up performance but also reduce the cost of database maintenance and support. This new combination should dramatically increase the throughput of BI tools using SAP BW and help further the adoption of the recently released SAP Business Intelligence version 4 that my colleague assessed.

SAP is clearly in the big-data market, where a lot is going on now. A main focus has been on the open source application Hadoop. Commercialization of Hadoop by providers such as EMC and Cloudera illustrates that we are living in the era of large-scale data. IBM is focusing on the unification of Hadoop and large sets of data and shifting away from its acquired Netezza and IBM DB2. Meanwhile, Teradata is expanding its processing power with in-memory computing using solid state disk and the acquired Aster Data to help reach data across multiple platforms. Oracle is advancing its Exadata appliances using Sun hardware and storage with Oracle database technologies as part of its playbook. Part of the vision of HP’s new CEO, ex-SAP CEO Leo Apotheker, includes analytic database technology from newly acquired Vertica, but HP’s technology is yet to be proven to be scalable and ready to compete in this market though the company is promoting like it did with its predecessor product called HP Neoview. So this is a very busy market of technologies to address the need for faster computing of data to support business.

In order to compete successfully in this developing market, SAP must continue to focus on the business applications aspect of big data and in-memory computing. The company has been committing on-site resources for its customers to demonstrate HANA’s capabilities. SAP HANA will extend its Enterprise Information Management products to advance what’s possible in management of data across analytical processing and operational execution. SAP made it clear that HANA and the future integration with SAP NetWeaver BW are part of its new generation of applications and that the company is eager for competitive bake-offs on its reliability and scalability. SAP HANA is definitely something to examine if you are looking to gain significant throughput of your data and analytics for business for which our benchmark research finds to be in high demand by organizations across the globe. Let the games begin.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer