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SAP HANA database shift worth the effort for manufacturer

Exponential performance improvements have always been the main selling point of moving to an in-memory SAP HANA database. Longtime SAP user Varian Medical Systems Inc. has the numbers to prove it -- but only after a challenging seven-month project to replace an Oracle database with HANA.    

Snehashish Sarkar is director of enterprise-wide engineering applications at Varian, a manufacturer of oncology devices that is based in Palo Alto, Calif. Sarkar provided details on project planning and shared performance statistics for the new HANA-based system in this video interview from the 2014 SAP SapphireNow conference in Orlando, Fla.

"When HANA was introduced, we kind of heard the story, but we wanted to have proof about really [is it] fast, is it going to be a game changer?" he said. Varian gave a snapshot of its database to SAP and asked it to analyze how HANA could improve the performance of what he described as a "very critical" forecasting process that Varian uses.

The process took about three and half hours on the company's existing system. SAP reduced that to five minutes, "which was mind-boggling," Sarkar said. "It opened up our eyes, or at least made us excited about a future with HANA."

Varian had reached a turning point in the performance of its key business processes. "We [make] a slow-volume, high-complexity product," Sarkar explained. "We have an enormous amount of integration within the systems. We have [SAP] Variant Configuration talking to the project system, the project system transmitting the requirements to manufacturing, and in light of all this complexity, the transaction processing is slow."

Sarkar called the amount of work needed to lay the groundwork for SAP HANA and to execute the database switch "enormous." Numerous meetings were held with Varian's hardware vendor, IBM, and with SAP to determine the right configuration. Varian knew it would be important to find a systems-integration partner with experience in HANA databases, so it sent out requests for proposals to four prospects and asked them to respond with specifics on the project scope.

The execution stage involved 50 Varian employees working with KPIT Technologies, the integration partner the company chose. "It's a pretty complex, mammoth task," Sarkar said.

The initial benchmark results for the SAP HANA database have been good, and Varian employees reported the performance of some transactions is now "phenomenal," according to Sarkar. He also cited statistics in the video that include a reduction in the size of the biggest database from 1.8 TB to 750 GB. "On average, it has given us an enormous platform to do more innovative work going forward," he said.

Text by David Essex, executive editor. Email him at dessex@techtarget.com, and follow us on Twitter: @SAP_TT.

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