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SAP HANA Cloud Platform gives developers new tools to create

SAP is pitching its SAP HANA Cloud Platform as an easy way to develop cloud-friendly applications that extend SAP and SuccessFactors software, all on the SAP HANA in-memory platform.

Product of the Month: SAP HANA Cloud Platform

Release date: October 2012. SAP announced significant updates, including database, platform and application services and subscription pricing, in May 2014.

What it does: SAP's in-memory platform as a service (PaaS) product, the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, can be used by independent software vendors and other developers to create and test HANA-based cloud applications. It can also be used to extend cloud and on-premises software.

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SAP offers several deployment options, including application, database and SAP HANA Infrastructure services, all available on the SAP HANA Marketplace. Customers can choose between deployments ranging from 128 GB to 1 TB of memory.

According to SAP, the platform provides out-of-the-box integration with other SAP applications, including shared services for identity management, enterprise mobility, collaboration and the HANA in-memory database, all designed to reduce development time. The HANA Cloud Platform is often touted as the simplest way to extend SAP's SuccessFactors applications by using the SuccessFactors metadata framework.

Why it matters: The HANA Cloud Platform is the central part of SAP's cloud development efforts, the IT architecture upon which all cloud apps will be built and a chief enabler of future innovation. It runs on HANA, the vendor's in-memory database platform on which all products are being designed to run.

For example, SAP is using the HANA Cloud Platform to co-develop a cloud application with Volkswagen to help motorists in Hannover, Germany. The application will aggregate information about parking locations with data on drivers' locations and routes to let them know where they can park in the city. It will also include parking data from the Hannover airport.

Besides the application, database and infrastructure services, developers can choose deployment sizes and pay by subscription.

What users say: One developer has used the HANA Cloud Platform to create a self-service dashboard for managing HANA performance or other parts of an SAP environment.

"[It's intended to be] a SaaS-based solution for HANA, [which acts] as a front end to their back-end systems," said Paul Aschmann, a developer and owner of Lithium Labs LLC consulting, based in Belmont, North Carolina.

He said he designed the application to run on the SAP HANA Extended Application Services (XS) -- a Web server built into the HANA database designed to run lightweight applications -- but that the platform allows developers a wide degree of flexibility in writing applications.

"What's pretty cool about it is that you can either [use] Java or XS-based applications running on it. You can basically decide what kind of coding or code language you want to write in. It can just be HTML5, or HTML," Aschmann said.

Developing on the HANA Cloud Platform isn't any different from developing in an on-premises environment, according to Aschmann. "That's the concept behind it," he said. 

However, despite its ease of use and many advantages, the HANA Cloud Platform can hiccup from time to time, Aschmann added.

"It's still a little bit buggy," he said. "Like this morning, I was messing around with it, and I had a couple sessions where I had to close the browser and reopen it again because it hangs up, and it takes a little while to create different resources."

Early adopter EnterpriseJungle is a startup that makes an application for corporate intranets or human resource information systems (HRISes) that helps employees identify groups or individuals in the organization with similar work or backgrounds -- but who aren't a part of their network. Companies can run the application on-premises or in the cloud -- including as a SuccessFactors extension.

James Sinclair, the company's co-founder, said using the HANA Cloud Platform has provided a multitude of benefits, including an easy way to build and scale the application. "I'm very happy with the situation we're in," Sinclair said. "I sound like a total evangelist."

That said, there are drawbacks to using a new technology, he added, even though it also meant the company was able to help provide direct feedback to SAP on the platform.

'[Being] an early adopter, that meant challenges for us -- a smaller pool of developers and engineers we could engage, and no third parties to authenticate their experiences and a learning curve that at times meant even SAP couldn’t [immediately] answer all our questions," Sinclair said. 

"There was, however, a positive in that," Sinclair said. "We had the chance to be part of the ground-floor build."

Cost: In an effort to make the HANA Cloud Platform more cost-transparent (a past complaint about HANA in general), SAP has introduced a five-level tiered structure based on how much of the platform is being used, offering it on a subscription basis.

Infrastructure services begin at $1,600 a month for128 GB for and continue up to $6,500 a month for 1 TB. Those needing more than 1 TB should contact SAP.

Basic Edition database services run from $4,600 a month for 128 GB of space, to $30,000 a month for 1 TB. The premium Platform Edition runs from $11,000 a month for 128 GB to $83,000 per month for 1 TB of space.

Application Services cover a number of tiers but start at $6,000 for the most basic 128-GB services, on up to $88,000 a month for 1 TB of space, which includes Platform Edition database services and Premium Edition application services.

More information on pricing options can be found here under each of the Marketplace links.

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