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SAP HANA implementation a multiple-choice question

SAP has pushed the in-memory database so hard that some users might have no way to avoid it. It's a nice problem to have, but SAP HANA implementation forces some hard decisions.

If anyone still wonders how committed SAP is to its HANA in-memory database, all doubt should have been removed by the Feb­ruary 2015 announcement of Business Suite 4 SAP HANA, or S/4HANA. Rewriting its flagship ERP product to take full advantage of HANA's speed, SAP also signaled that the main thrust of applica­tion development will occur exclusively on HANA.

But S/4HANA remains just one -- albeit compelling -- reason to con­sider an SAP HANA implementation. HANA has evolved from a database to an ana­lytics appliance to a major platform for enter­prise applications, yet it remains all of those things. The challenge in SAP HANA implementation is simultaneously to avoid money-wasting train wrecks while not missing out on real opportunities to streamline old, tired systems.

One of HANA's strengths -- the flexibility and variety of its deployment options -- is also what makes early decision making and planning so difficult for any SAP HANA implementation. As usual, the best advice is to start with a business plan, but even that can be tricky because of HANA's tendency to displace entrenched ERP systems and relational databases. Many businesses have found a less intrusive deployment -- Business Warehouse (BW) on HANA -- is a better place to begin because it can be quicker to start up, and has a respectable ROI.

It helps that SAP has been regularly improving the platform, from adding multi-tenant database containers that can make the most of hardware to data streaming for big data. More recently, Hadoop support has brought HANA more into the mainstream of big data standards, which not so incidentally makes it more suitable, SAP said, for the coming blast of sensor data from the Internet of Things.

Ultimately, SAP's aggressive push to offer comprehensive cloud options for HANA might be the thing that brings this undeniably impressive feat of German engineering if not to the masses, then to many more businesses than could have ever afforded an SAP HANA implementation.

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