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KoolSquare: HANA Experience

With the launch of HANA 1.0 in late June, SAP CTO Vishal’s communication stated that “Now the flood gates are open, and HANA is available to the world.”  Following the General Availability (GA) of HANA 1.0, a lot more customers will be investing in this latest offering from SAP to reap the business benefits and realize the promise HANA holds.  Based on the on-going feedback from our customers, the GA code includes key improvements (outer joins, delta index, bulk load) and key extensions (extended statistics, better multi-language support, extended memory management).   Clearly, going forward a lot exciting functions and features are being planned.

Naturally several customers are interested in running a “proof of concept” project to prove out to their business teams what HANA can do for them. I have been involved in one such effort for one of our largest customers to demonstrate the capabilities of HANA and BOBJ front end elements.  As with any new SW product built on a new technology we learned a few things along the way. While the effort afforded our team with many valuable lessons, I must admit that it has not been without challenges. I also want to point out that we embarked on the effort prior to the GA of HANA.

In this blog, I would like to compile my experiences and thoughts from this recent effort and hoping that the teams which undertake such an effort in the future focus on these important considerations.

  • Scenario Selection – HANA is in its first version and it is extremely important to select the scenario(s) that leverages the current capabilities of the product effectively. The scenarios should maximize HANA 1.0 features but at the same time should be meaningful to the business. A detailed workshop is warranted to identify the high value scenarios, prioritize them and select one or two scenarios that can be done within the given constraints of time, budget and resources. SAP can certainly work with the customers and provide advice in this regard.
  • Metrics – For the high value scenarios selected, it is important to establish the baseline measures of current business intelligence processes and tools so that the efficiencies gained from using HANA can be put in to context. For example the gains can be reduction in time due to (i) high speed data access (ii) accelerated querying of large volume of data records (iii) real-time calculations etc.
  • Skill Set/Resources – As with any new product, finding the resource with the necessary skill set will be a key challenge. In support of HANA launch, there are programs in place within SAP to enable the field appropriately but scaling of resources to keep up with the demand will take time. Staffing in any key project is important and it becomes all the more critical for HANA POC efforts as the team should comprise of people with skills in Data Services, HANA capabilities (Modeling, Defining the Views, SQL Scripting logic etc), and front end elements namely BOBJ Explorer, WEBi, and Xcelcius etc.
  • Data Reconciliation – For customers with large data volumes, reconciliation of data will be difficult mid-stream once the loading of data into HANA begins (regardless of real-time or batch mechanisms). So care should be taken to identify all the necessary source tables, all the key measures needed in the critical calculations etc. It will be a worthwhile exercise to have a detailed workshop to review this upfront with all the IT and business stakeholders. Poor planning in this step will certainly cause unpredictable delays in the schedule.
  • Data Validation – It is important to work with the customers to ensure they collaborate as a partner and have periodic check points to validate the data set and the results.  This helps to level set expectations and stay in sync all through the effort. A well planned “dry run” is also recommended so any issues that surface can be worked out prior to a final demonstration to the IT and business teams.
  • Infrastructure – The infrastructure to be leveraged for the POC should be as close as possible to the production like environment to understand the performance under the right parameters.
  • Business Case – Developing a solid business case is always a good idea.  Though the initial POC’s scope might include one or two scenarios, it will be important to identify all potential HANA use cases (at a minimum for multiple business units if not for the entire enterprise) to develop a business case to show how HANA can be leveraged in a larger sense to justify the initial investments.
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