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SAP to release slate of in-memory applications

SAP outlined plans to release five more in-memory applications that will run on HANA, its new in-memory appliance.

BOSTON -- SAP will release five new in-memory applications this year, as the company continues to invest in the new analytics technology its CTO said is making enterprise computing more productive – even hip.

“It’s time for the enterprise landscape to be cool again,” SAP CTO Vishal Sikka told the crowd of customers, press and industry watchers at the SAP Run Better Tour event here yesterday.

The applications run on HANA, SAP’s new in-memory appliance, which many see as the successor to the Business Warehouse Accelerator. In-memory technology moves analytical data from the computer’s disk into memory where it can be analyzed much more rapidly.  The company also asserts that in-memory technology negates the need for data caches, aggregations, or batch processing. 

When SAP launched HANA in December, it included with it a personnel application called SAP Business Objects Strategic Workforce Planning, which lets companies simulate organizational changes in real time, and then see how the changes will affect that business. Personnel executives would be able to use the software to see how their company’s acquisitions and entrance into new markets will affect its organizational structure.

SAP will roll out five additional applications during the coming year, a number of which will be launched at the Sapphire conference in mid-May. Those new applications include new and existing applications that will be updated with in-memory capabilities:

  • Sales and operations planning:  Enables sales and marketing departments to evaluate how various strategies will have on supply and demand scenarios. 
  • Intelligent payment broker: Gives companies the ability to process current and past data to come up with what discounted terms should be used for which invoices.
  • Smart meter analytics: Will allow utility companies to analyze smart meter readings to forecast demand, analyze profitability of customer segments and develop new products for its customers.
  • Trade promotion management: A current application that will use in-memory computing to drive trade promotions for particular customers, with numerous products, and at particular time intervals.
  • Cash and liquidity management: Another current application that is being redesigned to allow business to use in-memory to predict incoming and outgoing cash flows as well as activities like collections, risk management, and short-term borrowing.

Sales and operations planning and cash and liquidity management will be available in the third quarter of this year and trade promotion management, intelligent payment broker and smart meter analytics will be available in the fourth quarter. In a question and answer session with industry press and analysts Sikka also revealed a handful of other in-memory applications the company will release in the fourth quarter. They include a profitability engine, customer revenue performance management, merchandise and assortment planning, energy management for utility customers and customer-specific pricing.

SAP also revealed plans to release a second version of HANA this year that will allow customers to remove the database running underneath BW. The procedure will essentially be a database migration that can “be done in a weekend,” according to SAP.

Eliminating the need for its competitor’s databases in its own customer landscape was clearly an attractive part of yesterday’s announcement for SAP.

“One of the key elements of the roadmap is the ability to immediately approach 15,000 BW deployments and offer then an opportunity to wipe out the database,” Sikka said.

SAP says that it is currently working with about 50 different companies interesting in deploying the technology within their organization. 

Some potential customers who were at Wednesday’s event were impressed with what the demos they saw, even if they weren’t sure how it might fit in within their organization. 

“Today was the first time I’ve seen it,” said Mark Frederick, a production planning manager with Hasbro Games, in Springfield, Mass., which uses SAP BusinessObjects.  In-memory could eventually be used to monitor the efficiency of the plant itself – specifically the machines used to manufacture Hasbro’s games – but he wasn’t sure, he said.

That jives with what Gary Bernstein sees as consultant with DataSense Solutions, which sells SAP BusinessObjects.  Most of the companies he works with haven’t heard about HANA, or the in-memory applications, he said.

Not only that, but many companies have been able to maximize the query performance of their existing BusinessObjects systems through basic optimization techniques, to the point there they weren’t sure that HANA would be a huge improvement. 

That drives home another point made by many analysts when it comes to the pricey high-powered analytics capabilities. “It’s not for everyone,” he said.

For those that have a need, it’s a sign that SAP’s in-memory technology is beginning to mature, according to Josh Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, Calif.

“Here’s a set of applications that has a business case,” Greenbaum said. “[The technology’s moving beyond] technologists interested in speeds and feeds.”

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