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SAP's HANA Bet Seems to Be Paying Off

7 minute read
Virginia Backaitis avatar

There’s a reason that Larry Ellison keeps taking swipes at SAP when he talks about databases in public. 

In fact there’s more than one reason — there are 1300. That’s how many enterprises have adopted SAP HANA S/4, the super-fast, in-memory database, since it was made generally available only five years ago.

These are companies who, if not for HANA, might be using Oracle today. And given the rapid pace of innovation on HANA — it’s grown beyond a database and into a platform, beyond an on prem solution to one that has its own cloud, beyond its analytics roots to one that blends Analytics insights into ERP … we could keep going —the list of benefits it offers to companies digitizing for the new economy keeps growing.

A Big Promise Begins to Pay Off

During his Sapphire World keynote in 2013, SAP CEO Bill McDermott told an audience of more than 100,000 in person and online listeners that the company was betting the farm on the new database.

"Let’s be clear on HANA,” he said. “HANA not only represents the intellectual renewal of SAP (SAP was founded in 1972), it is now the platform for every single thing the SAP company will do going forward.”

When you consider that more than 293,500 companies use SAP to run their businesses, and that only a fraction of them use HANA, it was, and still is, a big bet. 

But it’s beginning to pay dividends.

Marie Goodell, head of HANA platform marketing at SAP told CMSWire that HANA’s momentum continues to build and that it keeps finding new heights. In fact, it has become the fastest growing product in SAP’s 43 year history. 

Today at both the SAP HANA Forum in Frankfurt, Germany and the SAP Spotlight Tour in New York, NY, customers are getting a peek at not only the features and benefits HANA’s latest release (SPS11 for the SAP HANA platform) has to offer, but also an opportunity to find out what kind of wins HANA is delivering to its users.

These are stories that couldn’t be told a few years ago because HANA was too new and enterprises don’t make foundational database decisions all that often.

Big Data, No Interruptions

While SAP HANA’s new or improved database features — like high availability, disaster recovery, hot standby, hardened security and unified administration for cloud and on premises deployments — may not seem all that interesting, how’s this?

It’s the end of the year (like it is now), you’re trying to close out your business and the system keeps crashing. The breakdown doesn’t happen at the beginning, or in the middle, but just as it’s about to finish. Over and over again, kind of like an IT version of Groundhog Day.

This actually happened at a company which Goodell didn’t have permission to name. That company wasn’t able to close out the year. There was too much data, not enough horsepower. Needless to say, it moved to SAP HANA to solve the problem (Goodell wouldn’t have told us the story if that wasn’t the case).

What’s important to note is that SAP HANA’s latest release includes a new hot standby feature to prevent problems like the one that company encountered. It promises to help customers regain faster access to data by switching over to a standby database that is continuously updated with log replays from the primary data source. When problems occur, an enhanced SAP HANA cockpit can be used for offline administration and diagnosis.

Data Points to Dangerous Places

The more data, the better the insights. We’ve all heard this one before. But it’s not always easy to blend vast quantities of different types of data — structured, unstructured, semi structured, IoT, geospatial — to understand relationships between them and to discover new insights and/or anomalies.

Learning Opportunities

That’s what Prescient Traveler uses SAP HANA to do in order to help keep travelers who go to sensitive, and sometimes dangerous places, safe. 

Prescient leverages its own proprietary data from high-stakes intelligent operations, irregular warfare and threat analysis systems, blends  it with sentiment analysis gleaned from high volumes of social media and news articles, and then parses it with geospatial data to identify and immediately alert its subscribers who are in proximity of a danger.

SAP’s newest HANA release provides the enhanced text analytic capabilities needed for the job. More specifically, the ability to identify relationships among the elements of a sentence and improved language support for text mining algorithms to produce insights from unstructured content. The release also includes new spatial features, such as clustering and the ability to partition spatial data, to help accelerate analysis and enrich location intelligence. Reverse coding capability has also been added to help pinpoint a location’s latitude and longitude and display specific addresses within a given radius which can help assess the impact of disaster or health care risk.

What does this look like in the real world? Prescient users can receive alerts before they walk into the epicenter of danger. As we’re increasingly learning, insights gleaned from places like Twitter and Facebook might lead to saving lives.

SAP’s 1.1 release for the SAP HANA platform has been certified by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OCG) which helps make it easier to exchange data between third party spatial solutions. SAP will also announce its intention to deeply integrate advanced Esri ArcGIS geospatial capabilities and content across the entire SAP application portfolio.

IoT + Machine Learning to Build Things Better

The ability to handle IoT data is quickly becoming a “must have” in the database world, and we’re just beginning to see how sensor data can be leveraged to create new efficiencies. Mercedes Benz, for example, combines sensor data from automobiles in production with ERP systems hosted on HANA and then applies machine learning analytics to improve development and reduce production costs.

This isn’t easy to do from scratch — and that’s where SAP’s new release provides big wins. It offers 70 predictive algorithms out-of-the-box including those that run on live streaming, series and spatial data. These algorithms learn and self-improve to facilitate machine learning.

Make Data Cents

Keeping all of your data in memory isn’t practical or feasible. That’s where SAP’s Hadoop integration comes in. It allows for large data volumes to be managed transparently with policy-based data movement from memory to disk and Hadoop using the data lifecycle management capability. This allows organizations to fully optimize performance-price considerations based on business needs. 

Simply Irresistible?

Yesterday’s databases can’t solve modern problems, SAP HANA can. That’s the message that SAP will keep repeating as its Spotlight Tour travels the world. The business users will no doubt be eager to hear about how digitizing their enterprises will unleash new opportunities. The geeks in the audience will want to get their hands on cool, new tools. But someone is going to need to do the work and pay the tab. 

In a world of open source, and what may appear to be cheaper solutions, getting the C-suite, IT and accountants on the same page may not be an easy job. But SAP has a huge customer base and more than four decades of marketing experience to rely on and, so far, it seems to be doing something right.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Travis Isaacs