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New technology puts SAP HANA platform on a fast path to success

With the release of SPS 09 and the new technology it offers, the SAP HANA platform is coming alive. Add evolving market trends to the mix, and HANA may be poised to meet most any business challenge.

Over several years, SAP HANA has evolved into a solution far more expansive than a wicked-fast in-memory database delivered as an analytics appliance. The SAP HANA platform is a full-fledged database management system, or DBMS -- plus much more, depending on how an enterprise uses it. SAP HANA is so technically flexible that a recent Forrester report characterized HANA as SAP's "silver-bullet response" to most any business challenge.

Although the report, SAP Hana Is The Answer! What's The Question? has a tongue-in-cheek title, Forrester's point is clear -- SAP HANA is a database, a data warehouse, an analytics appliance, an application server, a development environment and a cloud platform, as well as integration middleware. You can use SAP HANA for online analytics processing, or OLAP, and online transaction processing, or OLTP, plus deploy it on-premises or in the cloud, "integrating different worlds into one architecture," Forrester said, adding that "SAP is betting its future on the success of its new flagship technology."

It's no wonder, then, that the latest technology and trends for SAP HANA swirl around enhancements that support ever-expanding use cases and deployment scenarios. In a little more than a year spanning August 2013 to late 2014, the number of server configurations for SAP HANA quadrupled: Now SAP customers can deploy HANA through more than 400 configurations supplied through 15 different SAP partners -- and the options continue to grow, especially as SAP lets customers test and certify their own data center configurations through tailored data center integration (TDI) implementations of SAP HANA.

The heart of the SAP evolution is SPS 09

At the heart of all of this is SPS 09, the latest SAP HANA release.

Because SAP HANA is such a wide-ranging solution, the latest technology enhancements and trends cover a lot of ground. SAP's SPS 09 release reveals how SAP HANA is well on its way to becoming SAP's platform for all applications, offering up new technology that can spark adoption in multiple ways, whether on-premises or in the cloud. Here are some of the hottest new technical enhancements:

How will the enhancements to the SAP HANA platform factor into your organization's strategy?

Multi-tenant database containers. Multi-tenancy simplifies provisioning and management of multiple database workloads, both on-premises and in the cloud, all on a single SAP HANA instance. Before SPS 09, without virtualization, one database would need to be on one SAP HANA instance.

Multi-tenancy also makes it possible for SAP customers to fully utilize hardware capabilities by using a higher percentage of a system's processing potential -- this is especially true as SAP's hardware solution partners produce larger, more powerful systems that boast impressive numbers of sockets, cores and available threads. And by having fewer instances of SAP HANA that result in a more simplified architecture, multi-tenancy can help reduce capital expenditures around hardware and licensing, Dan Lahl, SAP vice president of product marketing, noted.

Dynamic tiering. This feature lets SAP HANA move warm data from memory to disk -- still in columnar format. For a customer, dynamic tiering can reduce the amount of in-memory capacity needed for HANA solutions, which reduces the overall cost (disk costs less than memory).

"So, now if you have, say, 20 TB in a big data application, you don't have to put all 20 TB in memory; you can designate which data is hot and which data is warm in the same columnar technology -- and HANA will figure out between them how to resolve the queries in the analytics application," Lahl explained. "So, now you can scale out to as much big data as you want with HANA."

Smart data integration and smart data quality. "Instead of having to implement another tool outside of HANA to bring data in and enrich it, we've actually brought that directly into HANA," Lahl said, noting that new smart data integration and smart data quality features replace the need for a separate ETL solution.

In addition, HANA can now tap prebuilt adapters for common data sources like IBM DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, OData, Hadoop and Twitter, plus developers can use an open SDK to build their own adapters. For SAP-centric enterprises, new adapters also can consume SAP business-suite data in other databases, namely the widely used IBM DB2, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server databases.

Smart data streaming. This capability can capture and analyze millions of events per second in real time. For example, smart data streaming could handle big data coming in from many distributed, Internet-connected devices like utility service sensors or smartphones. Smart data streaming passes the "high value" data to SAP HANA for instant analysis while shuffling off less important data to Hadoop for historical or trending types of analysis.

New tools for techies. New tools and functions for analytic and application development pros will help their businesses uncover insights in new ways. Here are three of the hottest new features:

  • New graphing capabilities let enterprises process highly interconnected social networking and supply chain data by analyzing relationships to tease out insights that SAP said "were previously hidden or too complex to calculate."
  • New Hadoop access provides the capability to call map jobs, get a result set back and bring that directly into HANA for further processing.
  • The new visual application function modeler, or AFM, helps developers quickly build reusable application functions using predictive analysis and business function algorithms by modeling the application directly in HANA.

Deployment options expand. As interest in SAP HANA has risen over the past few years, so has investment in hardware to support it. Although SAP originally launched HANA as an appliance-based solution, the underlying hardware options have exploded. The Certified SAP HANA Hardware Directory lists nearly 500 certified appliances offered by Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, Huawei, Lenovo, NEC, SGI and VCE.

What about IBM, which is notably absent? Because IBM sold its x86-based server business to Lenovo, IBM isn't technically offering hardware for HANA -- but that will change in 2015 when SAP and IBM deliver and certify SAP HANA on IBM's Power Systems servers using POWER7+ and POWER8 processors.

Hardware-based solutions still in demand

Despite a rising interest in cloud-based SAP HANA services from SAP and its partners -- like the recently announced SAP HANA on AWS -- hardware-based solutions are still in demand, and SAP's TDI options are opening up an even wider variety of custom configurations.

"SAP HANA enterprise cloud (HEC) is very strong for smaller organizations that do not want or cannot find the resources to support HANA," Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said, adding that "appliances are still strong and the hardware partners offer more complete high availability and disaster recovery offerings."

Feinberg also noted that virtualization is very important for customers with large data centers who do not want to purchase standalone appliances.

In addition, Feinberg said, "tailored data center integration is picking up. For large customers with a data center fabric in place, this is a huge benefit. Being able to use the data center standard and not introduce foreign infrastructure is a requirement in most of these customers -- we see an increasing number of inquiries on this topic."

Potential HANA customers now ask when they should implement

And what is the result of all these new enhancements, features and offerings?

According to Nicola Morini Bianzino, director of the SAP platform solutions group at Accenture, potential HANA customers have undergone a major shift from asking "if" they should implement HANA to "when" and "how" they should implement it.

"The main change in technology has been what I would describe as a shift from HANA being seen as existing on the edge of my landscape -- BI, analytics, big data and the sidecar scenarios," Bianzino explained, "to becoming truly part of the fabric on which SAP is building the next generation of ESP modules."

Along with this shift, Bianzino said, is the understanding that single-use-case scenarios for HANA can be expensive to implement. "But if you look at the SAP HANA business case as a roadmap that goes across multiple functions and lines of business, it becomes much more compelling."

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