February 26, 2012

SAP HANA today

SAP HANA has gotten much attention, mainly for its potential. I finally got briefed on HANA a few weeks ago. While we didn’t have time for all that much detail, it still might be interesting to talk about where SAP HANA stands today.

The HANA section of SAP’s website is a confusing and sometimes inaccurate mess. But an IBM whitepaper on SAP HANA gives some helpful background.

SAP HANA is positioned as an “appliance”. So far as I can tell, that really means it’s a software product for which there are a variety of emphatically-recommended hardware configurations — Intel-only, from what right now are eight usual-suspect hardware partners. Anyhow, the core of SAP HANA is an in-memory DBMS. Particulars include:

SAP says that the row-store part is based both on P*Time, an acquisition from Korea some time ago, and also on SAP’s own MaxDB. The IBM white paper mentions only the MaxDB aspect. (Edit: Actually, see the comment thread below.) Based on a variety of clues, I conjecture that this was an aspect of SAP HANA development that did not go entirely smoothly.

Other SAP HANA components include: 

Those pieces sound a lot like what’s in SAP BW (Business Warehouse), which is surely not a coincidence.

In one quick conversation with SAP, it’s hard to sort out where SAP HANA has actually been used in production, and where people are just building something on HANA that they hope will work well. That said:

The example SAP gave for a new app built on HANA happened to be in the machine-generated data area — Smart Meter Analytics, which polls electric meters every 15 minutes or so. SAP’s named reference has pretty low data volumes (commercial meters only), but SAP expects deployment soon across commercial and residential meters alike for a large US electric utility.

In another example, SAP took an existing application — a fairly analytic one called “CO-PA”, for Profitability Analysis — and accelerated part of it via HANA, specifically in the area of allocations. The port only required a few lines of code, reflecting that certain tables were moved from the RDBMS to HANA in a schema-preserving way.

Putting all that together, the analytic case for SAP HANA seems decently substantiated — there are years of experience with the technology and its antecedents, and column stores (including in-memory) are well-established for analytics via multiple vendors. The OLTP case for HANA, however, remains largely unproven. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.


12 Responses to “SAP HANA today”

  1. Ingo Müller on February 27th, 2012 7:25 am


    I greatly appreciate your article for its quality and accurateness. However, I found that the IBM red paper does mention P*Time, unlike you write in your article. Have a look at figure 1-1, page 5.

    Best regards,

  2. Curt Monash on February 27th, 2012 8:34 am

    Thanks, Ingo. Good catch!

  3. Vital BI on February 28th, 2012 10:56 am

    It is interesting you mentioned that picture. In today’s world once you put something on the screen (http://www.slideshare.net/fullscreen/VitalBI/impact-of-inmemory-technology-and-sap-hana-on-your-business-it-and-career/9) it starts living its own life. I’ve created that picture for my SAP TechEd presentation back in fall 2010.
    I think there is a lot of confusion around using the word “appliance”, and SAP seems not making an effort to correct it. Officially SAP’s HANA product is the “appliance software” (see the page’s title at http://help.sap.com/hana_appliance), that can be sold only pre-installed on certified hardware configurations, often referred (especially by the sales reps) “the appliance”.

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  7. Paul Chesen on September 11th, 2012 12:42 pm

    I strongly recommend that you review the comments you have around HANA, particularly it’s adoption and in-production numbers today, then look at the global brands that have adopted HANA for analytical use cases, and consider the relative complexity and opportunity that HANA will deliver for those global brands when it underpins both incredibly fast and broad analytics as well as the complexity of an ERP system like SAP. Take a look at the MKI deployment, or Red Bull, or the hundreds of others. Text is supported today. What is planned to be release soon is linguistic processing, a far greater set of capabilities for handling unstructured data in comparison to search. So much to be updated.

  8. Curt Monash on September 12th, 2012 3:56 am

    Hi Paul,

    The call memorialized in this post excepted, your colleagues have shown limited enthusiasm for talking with me.

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