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There was no doubt to anyone who attended Sapphire Now 2011 of the central importance of HANA to SAP’s business strategy going forward. The problem for many of us has been that the HANA information shared by SAP has been high on “game changing” ideas but not always deep in specifics. There are plenty of practical questions that need more detailed answers. In fairness to SAP, HANA development has been moving rapidly and there is a lot of ground to cover. Still, big questions on HANA remain, and you can see that on Twitter just about every day.

In fact, it was Twitter that sparked this podcast. Two fellow SAP Mentors, John Appleby and Ethan Jewett, were tweeting HANA questions and looking for some answers. The SAP Blogger Relations team proposed the idea of doing a HANA podcast with me as the moderator and referree, with John and Ethan posing questions to the HANA SAP team, and I agreed. The result was this 40 minute podcast.

As I reflect on the recording while writing up the SCN version of this podcast, I can see both it flaws and its merits. The merits? We were able to get past sound bites and into some deeper clarifications on HANA, in particular around how HANA fits into SAP’s future data warehousing strategy. I also liked that Jake Klein and Thomas Zurek of SAP were honest about what HANA can and can’t do currently. We need more of that kind of talk, clearly identifying the pros and cons of the current use cases. This doesn’t take away from the visionary stuff about HANA and what it might be able to do for the integration of OLTP and OLAP and the reduction of SAP Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) either. Both kinds of discussions are needed.

I jump in once or twice with thoughts of my own – otherwise, after my intro, this is a free-flowing discussion with SAP’s Jake Klein and Thomas Zurek fielding questions from John and Ethan. Topics such as the future of BW and data warehousing at SAP, the need for HANA benchmarking, and the reality of current HANA use cases are covered at length. Klein also explains what they are doing to bring SAP customers from Proof of Concept (POC) to Go-Live.  No, we didn’t get all our HANA questions answered – time ran out on the taping first – but here’s what twe did learn. 

(If for any reason the player doesn’t work, you can download the podcast using the “download media” link on the right hand side).

(Trouble downloading? if for some reason it’s not playing in its entirety for you, check out the version on in the meantime).

Podcast Highlights

1:46 John Appleby to Jake/Thomas: What are the great use cases for HANA, and what are some use cases where HANA isn’t the most appropriate and BW and/or Sybase IQ might be better? Jake: HANA is not just an application or a capability; it’s the kernel of SAP’s next generation platform to deliver many of our applications in the future, built around in-memory technology. HANA itself is the in-memory engine, which includes in-memory database capability as well as an integrated calculation and aggregation engine.

In the 1.0 GA version, HANA is targeted for operational data mart capabilities primarily; those are scenarios where customers would like to run analytics on top of data that is sourced from their SAP or non-SAP ERP systems, and do those analytics in real time. It scales extremely well, customers can ask whatever they want without having to worry about the impact on core ERP systems databases. With HANA, they don’t have to aggregate data and do database tuning, etc for operational BI to work effectively.

So how does HANA relate to BW and to Sybase IQ and other data warehousing technology? The way SAP views BW is as an application that sits on top of the database. The plan with BW is to, over time, deliver BW on top of HANA and to selectively and progressively move and shift the performance intensive parts of BW into the HANA in memory engine starting in Q4 this year.

In its current version, HANA is a data mart, not yet a data warehouse system. It’s not designed for a large scale EDW with content lifecycle management, data management, object management and other robust EDW capabilities – those will be moved from the BW app layer into the HANA engine over time, and we’ll see the first in-memory data warehousing offering later this year: BW 7.30 that is running and optimized for HANA.

8:00 Addressing BW confusion -Ethan: what does this do to customers’ overall perception of the BW/BI architecture? How will HANA fit in? What is the end game?

12:15 Jake: One primary reason customers have built these EDW tools on top of their OLTP systems is to avoid a performance hit, so the data is replicated, transformed, and moved out. Over time, individual lines of business need to be agile and respond to changes in their business quickly. A lot of times it takes too long for IT to update this line of business information, so they end up with data marts that are geographically or line of business focus. You can have 15 EDWs and dozens if not hundreds data marts. With HANA, there is no need to move the data our of the OLTP system for performance reasons, you can simply apply the analytics tools/views on top of the operational data once that data is in-memory, and performance is not an issue. This should lead to significant data infrastructure consolidation.

15:30 John to Jake: For customers that have deployed large scale BW without the BW Accelerator – some of those data mart scenarios might be applied via HANA instead. However, there are some scenarios where HANA does provide performance problems, especially with large scale ad hoc scenarios using the BusinessObjects suite. What is the team doing to work on that? Jake: full transparency: the product is in ramp up – we have made a lot of progress in the last seven months. There are situations where customers look at HANA and see that they can deploy apps on top of an in-memory app. But the primary use case today is not to replace the database options that customers can use today; it’s also not an open database platform for all kinds of database application development. We haven’t optimized all those query scenarios yet.

18:30 John to Jake: But from what I can see, the problems occur when customers ask ad hoc questions. Other data warehousing vendors have similar issues, and they seem to be investing in map reduction algorithms to enhance performance and other ways of addressing spanning tree problems, what is SAP doing? Jake: The answer is yes. We do have algorithms to distribute queries across multiple nodes. That’s one of HANA’s strengths – to scale across deployment. For exploration and ad-hoc queries, we’re investing heavily in that area and we see that as an important area for us to excel in.

20:28 Ethan to the guys: What kinds of actions are you taking to help customers optimize their applications for HANA as you go into GA, to work with customers who aren’t part of the ramp-up program?

24:00 John to the guys: The HANA mid-term strategy looks to me like it’s away from the data warehouse. You are building out data services which will allow loading from ERP to any database within reason; you are building out HANA apps with very specific use cases. So is BW and data warehousing as a concept dead? Jake: DW is not dead from an SAP perspective at all. DW is a best practice and a set of capabilities that you need to have on top of your data layer. Our strategy is to continue to enable the best practices in the BW product today, running on top of HANA as an app with all the performance intensive aspects moved into HANA. Starting in Q4 this year, BW will be one of the apps that run on the in-memory platform as well as other apps such as Strategic Workforce Planning.

30:26 Jon to the guys: I had a reporter ask me at Sapphire Now, “Wait – are you trying to tell me that these customers aren’t live yet?” I explained many of them were in the proof of concept (POC) phase. I talked to customers about proof of concept – one was looking at HANA to apply to a high sales volume area where the BW latency issues were hurting their sales opportunities. What is SAP doing to work with customers to move them from proof of concept to go-live?

34:10 Ethan to the guys: A couple months ago, there was a release of an internal benchmark SAP did with an independent auditor to verify the benchmark findings. The idea was that the internal benchmark was very impressive. But it’s difficult to get a handle on what that means for individual customers without getting a handle on that benchmark. Is SAP issuing a recreatable benchmark that gives customers the data set and queries that were run so that it can be verified on a customer site? Jake: We’re in the process of moving the “H” benchmark through the process, before we do that we can’t openly share it or have third parties test against it. It’s something we’ve spent a lot of time defining, and it is something that is based on the TPC-H queries, however the data models and data sets have been greatly extended to reflect realistic customer use cases.

Ethan to the guys: Will it be possible to use that on another database, such as Max DB and Oracle? Jake: Once it’s approved, we would define this as a new business intelligence benchmark, and all our OEM partners would have an opportunity to executive the tests and submit the results. That’s exactly what we did internally.

38:13 Jon to the guys: Want to turn the tables and give you a chance to sound off – are there any misconceptions you’ve seen about HANA that drive you a little crazy?

Podcast links: SAP’s In-Memory Home Page on SCN. Thomas Zurek is one of the most active SAP internal voices blogging on HANA themes. You can view the Hasso Plattner and Vishal Sikka Sapphire Now keynotes, both of which were heavily centered on HANA, with a free log in. John Appleby has blogged in detail on HANA on his Bluefin Solutions blog and also on his blog on SCN. Ethan Jewett has done the same with his own blog as well as his SCN blog. I also cover the range of reaction to HANA at Sapphire Now in his Enterprise Irregular blog post: Analyzing the Real News Stories of Sapphire Now 2011, Part One: The Impact of HANA. Other links: SAP Mentor Initiative. Also recommended: SAP Mentors Vijay Vijayasankar and Vitaily Rudnytskiy have both been blogging in detail on HANA. Special thanks to Craig Cmehil of SAP Blogger Relations and the other influencer relations folks at SAP who helped make this podcast happen.

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  1. Tom Cenens
    Hello Jon

    Definitely an interesting topic and nice to see SAP agreeing to join into the conversation so openly. Some parts of the podcast seem to create a tiny bit more confusion like what is HANA and by what I have heard I would call it a technology platform actually.

    Of course the podcast also gets rid of a lot of confusion that was there before, the only thing I’m still missing is an update on the technical infastructure and current constraints.

    Kind regards


    1. Former Member Post author
      Tom, I agree with your sentiments pretty much across the board. On Twitter the difference between how Jake and Thomas described HANA did come up as well as a question provoked by the podcast.

      With new SAP initiatives, especially one as far reaching and fast moving as HANA, we’ll always be chasing new questions. But like you I was glad to see SAP openly engaging and being honest about the strengths and limitations.

      But, I guess I’m going to need to do more HANA content as there is a lot more to cover. ๐Ÿ™‚

      – Jon

      1. Bala Prabahar
        Hi Jon,

        I would like to add a few more lines to your response. As you know, Jake and Thomas are two great minds. (Thomas’s blogs are well-balanced and fact based; I watched Jake’s take on HANA a few months back and I liked it very much). When they disagreed on what HANA was, that raised a red flag. Not only Jake said HANA was an application but also he said they would be releasing several applications. Did he mean there would be HANA for ECC, HANA for BW, HANA for CRM, HANA for SRM etc? I assume not. Thomas brilliantly began his discussions stating HANA was DB consistent with what he stated in one of his blogs. However he was not assertive. He said something like “in my opinion”.
        SAP is world class software developer. I still don’t understand why they(two great minds) were confused on very basic question. I’m sure there is an explanation as to why Jake thought HANA was an application. Application versus DB is not just semantic difference;it has $$$ implications (and integration efforts between different HANA applications) for customers.

        Thank you for this podcast.


        1. Former Member Post author
          Bala, thanks for these thoughts. I don’t disagree with where you are headed here.

          I’m pretty sure that the bigger picture question of what HANA is and isn’t can be answered fairly easily with some effort on SAP’s part to develop consensus on the messaging (example: NewDB is now HANA DB from what Vitaliy tells me).

          I realize some folks are focused on these bigger questions but I’m especially interested in the detailed view, for example, “Did he mean there would be HANA for ECC, HANA for BW, HANA for CRM, HANA for SRM etc? I assume not.” So, based on your question, how will HANA work with these different areas of the Business Suite over time?

          Hopefully these are the kinds of questions we will get answers to now that HANA is in GA and for my part, I’ll do my best to provide content that raises good questions and puts things in context.

          – Jon

    2. Thomas Zurek
      Hi Bala, Tom, Jon & Jon,
      honestly, I’m a bit surprised about the confusion. But reading through your comments I believe that the following has happened:
      Jake (being the guy who shapes HANA as the product) looks at the entire package, meaning the HANA DB at the core, complemented by tools and infrastructure like Sybase replication server, data services, HANA studio (esp. modeler), SLT etc. I (being more the technology minded guy) looks at the core of HANA which is certainly the DB and its underlying technology. This is in line with the messaging around HANA which has focused on its outstanding performance (which sits in the DB rather than the tools around the DB). On the other hand and saying the obvious: the DB alone and w/o the supplement is of little use. This is why the modeler, replication server etc. must not be neglected.
      In summary: I don’t see any controversy in those two angles but maybe how we expressed ourselves might be semi-optimal. The discussion whether HANA is a DB or an application platform or an application goes along a similar argument. Still, the source of its outstanding performance and, thus, the source of differentiation is the DB inside HANA.
      Now, regarding the “application awareness” that I’ve stressed in the podcast: I simply like to point to the two examples that I’ve described in my blog “HANA and BW 7.30 – Part 2” (HANA and BW 7.30 – Part 2). This is what I’ve meant. I believe that there will be many more such examples identified within SAP apps. Now, taking the in-memory planning example from the blog, one can argue whether the “disaggregation” function is something generic (i.e. an extension to the generic set of DB primitives, possibly even SQL) or already application logic implemented in the HANA DB. I’ve no strong opinion on this but believe that this would be an academic discussion anyway w/o real impact on how things will evolve.
      I hope this helps.
      1. Former Member Post author
        Thomas, thanks for chiming in.

        Don’t be surprised to see confusion around HANA, it’s a complex and fast moving topic and there are a number of angles people take and they don’t always have the most current information. For example, your response is the first time I have seen anyone from SAP describe the HANA DB as “HANA DB.” Even in Hasso’s In-Memory book he calls it New DB.

        Having said that, I was glad you took the time along with Jake to get into so many details, I know from the amount of Twitter activity on this podcast that many listeners found it helpful. Personally, I’m less interested in the semantics of the namings and more interested in the meat of the details, and I believe you and Jake were consistent there. But, that’s just me, not all have the same view.

        Thanks for chiming in.

        – Jon

        1. Former Member Post author
          actually I just remembered Hasso calls it “SanssouciDB” in the book, I don’t believe he actually uses the New DB term much in that book. ๐Ÿ™‚
          1. Bala Prabahar
            Hi Thomas,

            Your thoughts always help. Thanks for chiming in. As Jon stated, confusion around HANA is not going to die anytime soon as it is complex.


      2. Tom Cenens
        Hello Thomas

        Thanks for your participation in the podcast and the blogs which have really useful information. The confusion probably comes from the fact that many persons refer to HANA in another way. Last friday at the Innojam they called HANA an appliance for example. The discussion around the name and what it represent is not of great importance. What is important is understanding how all the pieces fit together and what it represents for the future.

        Kind regards


    3. Former Member
      Hi Everyone,

      I also wanted to provide some additional clarification on the topic of “what is HANA” and apologize for any confusion that might have been caused. As Thomas rightly states, HANA is a technology platform. In fact, it is officialy  referred to as  The SAP HANA™ platform. The Hana platform contains an in-memory database, as well as additional capabilities such as a calculation engine, replication technologies and a modeling studio. These capabilities will be extended over time to accommodate an increasingly broad portfolio of use cases and application scenarios.

      Today, the Hana platform is delivered as a product in an appliance form factor – The SAP HANA™ appliance software.  One of the initial use cases for the HANA appliance  is as an operational data mart for BI – our BOBJ portfolio runs great on HANA for example. This is what I was referring to in the interview, and sorry if I used the word “application” out of turn – “use case” would have been a better choice.



  2. Former Member
    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for another great podcast, very timely. There is obviously a fair bit of confusion, some of which is apparent just by listening to the different terms used to describe HANA on the call.

    I thought the most telling comment was from Thomas right at the very end, where he indicated that beyond the technology, HANA would be the best fit to SAP applications, offering a competitive advantage over the traditional approach of using standard databases.

    The specific quote that made me prick up my ears was, “HANA will have specific, maybe even application specific, algorithms that are very performance attentitve, inside the engine”

    If this is true, then HANA will be much more than *just* a database, as it will be application-aware and application-optimised.

    The question I have, is what happens to traditional applications (BW, ERP etc) when SAP start optimising them for HANA.  Do we end up with two versions e.g. BW 7.30 for HANA, BW 7.30 for NetWeaver, and if so what is the long-term future of the traditional version?


  3. Gregory Misiorek
    Hi Jon,

    i have listened to your podcast twice just to get a better understanding of what each participant was saying. it is more personal than a weblog, i must admit. my two takeaways so far are:

    1. the sooner we start talking business apps ( ie go beyond hardware and software architectures) the quicker we get the ear of the installed ERP base.

    2. SAP should not neglect the independents in its pursuit of large accounts and have a viable demo/educational solution to tap into, maybe based on the SAP mentorship program?

    As always, great moderating skills cannot be underestimated.



  4. Former Member Post author
    During a recent Mentor webinar with SAP that included Jake Stein and Amit Sinha, Amit posted a good overview of SAP’s current HANA position that adds more useful info to the comments below and context of the podcast:

    “Amit Sinha: SAP HANA is a modern platform for real-time analytics and real-time applications. Deployment models are  “SAP HANA appliance” and “SAP HANA application cloud”. The Use cases on the platform are analytics and applications. ”SAP HANA database” and ”SAP HANA studio” are parts of the SAP HANA platform amongst other components(e.g. Data Services, Replication). Apps from SAP and ISVs will be called Powered by SAP HANA when announced later this year.”

    Thanks Amit.

    – Jon


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