SAP pushes HANA analytics for SMBs

SAP is rolling out high-speed analytics applications for small and midsize businesses.

SAP is making its high-speed analytics available to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as part of an overall effort to run entire ERP systems on HANA -- its high-speed, in-memory computing software -- in the near future.

“[SMBs] still have the same structural problems when it comes to data. They have more data, and it’s coming from more and more places and it’s coming in more and more formats,” said Jennifer Schulze, director of product marketing for SAP Business One. “They still have to figure out how to make a decision.”

SAP recently announced that it is rolling out a simplified, standalone HANA in-memory analytics package for small businesses running Business One ERP. The analytics application, which will include SAP Crystal Reports is now in ramp-up, and scheduled to be generally available late this year.

SAP HANA analytics for Business One gives customers additional analytics functionality beyond what’s included in the ERP suite, including additional dashboards and the ability to handle unstructured data, according to SAP.

Hillel Sackstein, president of Virtual Graffiti, an Irvine, Calif.-based provider of network security software applications and consulting services that runs SAP Business One, said his company was open to the idea of being able to run reports and dashboards in real time.

“It makes a lot of sense. I’ll probably take a look at it when it’s released later this year.”

SAP also released SAP HANA, Edge edition for midmarket customers, specifically companies using SAP All-in-One to run their businesses. HANA Edge software, which is available now, is also being sold through SAP’s channel partners.

While SAP would not provide detailed specifics regarding pricing, it insists that prices for both products will be appealing to companies with smaller budgets. 

Is there a need for HANA SMB analytics?
Some, however, aren’t so sure SMBs really need in-memory firepower for faster analytics.

“I don’t think they made the case as to why this is going to make a difference for this installed base,” said Jon Reed, an independent SAP analyst who runs JonERP.com. Reed said he hasn’t really run into many small or midsize companies frustrated with the speed of their business intelligence software.

Sackstein said faster analytics isn’t something he needs either -- at least not yet, especially since his company has only been on Business One for a little over a year. “It’s not like we have years and years of history,” he said.

Other SAP Business One customers Sackstein spoke with had seen slow slower performance with their business analytics software that comes with the ERP and also runs on Microsoft SQL Server, like the rest of the software.

Business One on SAP HANA 
What holds great interest for him, Sackstein said, is SAP’s plan to run not just the analytics but all of Business One on the HANA in-memory database. SAP plans to release that sometime next year.  

“That means that a company running Business One on HANA is no longer going to need SQL Server; they’re not going to have to have a system administrator who knows SQL Server,” Sackstein said. “They’re going to be able to run it on SAP’s own database engine. That’s really going to be in the future.”

However, Sackstein said he questioned how easy it was going to be for customers like him to move to HANA, especially given how different HANA is from standard database technologies.  

“There’s no upgrade path from the SQL Server version to HANA,” Sackstein said.  “It’s not like I can say I want to now load the next version of SAP Business One with HANA, and I load the CDs, and now it’s running on HANA. It doesn’t work that way. It’s probably going to have to be a completely new implementation.”

Despite the overall move to HANA technology, Sackstein guessed that SAP would still have to support SQL Server for quite a long time, given the thousands of customers using the application, and that many of the add-ons that have been developed for Business One likely won’t work with HANA.

Push to run all future ERP systems on HANA
The move coincides with SAP’s broader effort to run all of its ERP systems on top of a HANA in-memory database across its portfolio. SAP recently announced that it plans on running its Business Suite software on HANA later this year, ahead of a previous 2013 deadline.

 “Basically, the goal is to get HANA on all of our software. It’s vital for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] as well as large enterprises,” SAP’s Schulze said.

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