What is SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is an in-memory data platform that is deployable as an on-premise appliance, or in the cloud.  It is a revolutionary platform that’s best suited for performing real-time analytics, and developing and deploying real-time applications. At the core of this real-time data platform is the SAP HANA database which is fundamentally different than any other database engine in the market today (figure 1).

Figure 1:        SAP HANA - platform for a new class of real-time analytics and applications

Whenever companies have to go deep within their data sets to ask complex and interactive questions, and have to go broad (which means working with enormous data sets that are of different types and from different sources) at the same time, SAP HANA is well-suited. Increasingly there is a need for this data to be recent and preferably in real-time. Add to that the need for high speed (very fast response time and true interactivity), and the need to do all this without any pre-fabrication (no data preparation, no pre-aggregates, no-tuning) and you have a unique combination of requirements that only SAP HANA can address effectively. When this set of needs or any subset thereof have to be addressed (in any combination), SAP HANA is in its elements.

Analytics and Applications

  1. Real-time analytics – The Categories of Analytics which HANA specializes
    1. Operational Reporting (real-time insights from transaction systems such as custom or SAP ERP). This covers Sales Reporting (improving fulfillment rates and accelerating key sales processes), Financial Reporting (immediate insights across revenue, customers, accounts payable, etc.), Shipping Reporting (better enabling complete stock overview analysis), Purchasing Reporting (complete real-time analysis of complete order history) and Master Data Reporting (real-time ability to impact productivity and accuracy).
    2. Data Warehousing (SAP NetWeaver BW on HANA) – BW customers can run their entire BW application on the SAP HANA platform leading to unprecedented BW performance (queries run 10-100 times faster; data loads 5-10 times faster; calculations run 5-10 times faster), a dramatically simplified IT landscape (leads to greater operational efficiency and reduced waste), and a business community able to make faster decisions. Moreover, not only is the BW investment of these customers preserved but also super-charged. Customers can migrate with ease to the SAP HANA database without impacting the BW application layer at all.
    3. Predictive and Text analysis on Big Data - To succeed, companies must go beyond focusing on delivering the best product or service and uncover customer/employee /vendor/partner trends and insights, anticipate behavior and take proactive action. SAP HANA provides the ability to perform predictive and text analysis on large volumes of data in real-time. It does this through the power of its in-database predictive algorithms and its R integration capability. With its text search/analysis capabilities SAP HANA also provides a robust way to leverage unstructured data.

  1. Real-time applications – The Categories of Applications which HANA specializes
    1. Core process accelerators – Accelerate business reporting by leveraging ERP Accelerators, which are non-disruptive ways to take advantage of in-memory technology. These solutions involve an SAP HANA database sitting next to a customer’s SAP ERP system. Transactional data is replicated in real-time from ECC into HANA for immediate reporting, and then results can even be fed back into ECC. Solutions include CO-PA Accelerator, Finance and Controlling Accelerator, Customer Segmentation Accelerator, Sales Pipeline Analysis, and more.
    2. Planning, Optimization Apps – SAP HANA excels at applications that require complex scheduling with fast results, and SAP is delivering solutions that no other vendor can match. These include Sales & Operational Planning, BusinessObjects Planning & Consolidation, Cash Forecasting, ATP calculation, Margin calculation,  Manufacturing scheduling optimization (from start-up Optessa), and more.
    3. Sense & response apps – These applications offer real-time insights on Big Data such as smart meter data, point-of-sale data, social media data, and more. They involve complexities such as personalized insight and recommendations, text search and mining, and predictive analytics. Only SAP HANA is well suited for such applications, including Smart Meter Analytics, SAP Supplier InfoNet, SAP precision retailing, and Geo-spatial Visualization apps (from start-up Space-Time Insight). Typically these processes tend to be data-intensive and many could not be deployed in the past owing to cost and performance constraints.

What is the secret sauce?

Other database management systems on the market are typically either good at transactional workloads, or analytical workloads, but not both. When transactional DBMS products are used for analytical workloads, they require you to separate your workloads into different databases (OLAP and OLTP). You have to extract data from your transactional system (ERP), transform that data for reporting, and load it into a reporting database (BW). The reporting database still requires significant effort in creating and maintaining tuning structures such as aggregates and indexes to provide even moderate performance.

Due to its hybrid structure for processing transactional workloads and analytical workloads fully in-memory, SAP HANA combines the best of both worlds. You don’t need to take the time to load data from your transactional database into your reporting database, or even build traditional tuning structures to enable that reporting. As transactions are happening, you can report against them live. By consolidating two landscapes (OLAP and OLTP) into a single database, SAP HANA provides companies with massively lower TCO in addition to mind-blowing speed.

Figure 2:        Broad Portfolio of SAP HANA enabled Solutions – Like “Games” on the “Xbox”

But even more important is the new application programming paradigm enabled for “extreme” applications. Since the SAP HANA database resides entirely in-memory all the time, additional complex calculations, functions and data-intensive operations can happen on the data directly in the database, without requiring time-consuming and costly movements of data between the database and applications.  This incredible simplification and optimization of the data layer is the “killer feature” of SAP HANA because it removes multiple layers of technology and significant human effort to get incredible speed.  It also has the benefit of reducing the overall TCO of the entire solution.

Some other database engines on the market today might claim to provide one or another benefit that SAP HANA brings. However, none of them can deliver on all of them. This is real-time computing, and customers can take advantage of this today via SAP BW on SAP HANA, Accelerators on SAP HANA and native SAP HANA applications (figure 2).

Why In-Memory Processing?

Necessity is the mother of invention. Please look at the statistics, growth of processing speed versus storage memory.

Figure 3 : Processing Speed versus Storage Capacity