SAP TechEd: SAP bets big on HANA

Vishal Sikka

chief technology officer

SAP kicked off its TechEd 2011 season in with big talk about its HANA in-memory computing platform, but based on an informal poll of the audience during the morning keynote session, only about five per cent of attendees currently have plans to implement the technology in their own organizations.

Three months after the general availability of HANA, SAP is describing the of the in-memory computing platform as “explosive,” but it seems like the company still has a long way to go to get SAP TechEd attendees to make plans for its adoption. However, according to Vishal Sikka, SAP executive board member for technology and innovation, it’s still early in the product’s lifecycle. He said that in every customer meeting he has, the customers are excited about what HANA can do. The only question, he said, is how quickly they can adopt it.

“This is still very, very early that we’re talking about. All I can say is the demand is enormous and we’re doing everything in our power to stay true to our constitution of being a trusted and reliable vendor,” Sikka said.

The reason for Sikka’s optimism? HANA is being tied into just about everything across the SAP product portfolio, from NetWeaver to BusinessObjects to [BUSINESS WAREHOUSE PRODUCT], and even to its existing and new developed applications. Sikka described HANA as a “massively scalable in-memory database” that should fit easily into those three key customer segments (making for a large potential HANA customer base), noting that if it doesn’t sell easily into those three distinct SAP customer segments, then SAP has clearly done something wrong.

“Every customer that we talk to, every prospect that we talk to, is incredibly excited,” Sikka said.

Dan Wilhelms, president of Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Symmetry and a SAP partner for 17 years, said most of the customers calls he fields regarding HANA are still at the educational level. Like cloud computing even a year or two ago, HANA is going through the “what exactly is it?” phase.

Customers are still confused about what it is and what it can do, Wilhelms said. He currently has two customers with HANA implemented, but it’s still in the early adopter phase. He has high hopes for the technology, though, especially as it moves beyond real-time applications.

“It’s kind of shockingly different technology. CIOs go to Gartner groups, read their blog and read up on emerging technologies. It takes awhile for people to get their head around something so shockingly different,” Wilhelms said.

What makes it different? Beware the techie talk ahead, but it’s a columnar database instead of a relational database, and it uses integers in place of text-based fields. According to Wilhelms, he’s found it works 10 times faster but is 10 times smaller than SAP BW.

As part of its focus around HANA, SAP announced two new applications built on HANA. SAP Smart Meter Analytics and SAP COPA Accelerator join SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning as part of the family applications built on HANA. SAP also announced the launch of the Experience SAP HANA website, which was designed to be a community for the sharing of knowledge with the idea of getting community participants to learn, try and implement HANA.

“There is a massive simplification happening all around us. Layers are being dissolved at an unbelievable pace; people, businesses, data and machines are becoming more directly connected. This virtuous cycle of connectedness leads to disintermediation of layers, which drives end-users to become more empowered and demand better user experience — challenging us to create more connectedness,” Sikka said. “This is leading to a fundamental renewal and reshaping in the IT industry, and SAP HANA is helping to drive this change. SAP HANA removes the inefficiencies and layers that have developed over time, but also finally delivers the unbelievable user experience, simultaneously enabling new horizons and simplification of the existing layers of complexity, without disruption. The incredible customer response is proof that we are delivering this renewal with SAP HANA, and these applications are just the beginning of what we will do.”

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