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Author's profile photo Jon Reed

Podcast: SAP HANA in Action – Customer Stories with SAP’s Thomas Torf

Heading into SAP TechEd season, one of the greatest areas of anticipation is around HANA – both the hands-on exposure and the potential new announcements. To get us primed for the TechEd season, I have a new installment in my SAP Community Network podcast series: a HANA podcast with SAP’s Thomas Torf. The focus of the podcast? Lessons learned from HANA customer engagements.

As the Vice President, Customer Engagements & Business Development at SAP Labs, Torf has a great deal of customer-facing HANA experience to share with SCN listeners. During the twenty minute podcast, we focus on customer stories and also get the scoop on Torf and his team’s plans for SAP TechEd Las Vegas. Christopher Kim of SAP also joins the podcast, talking with Torf about HANA and mobility and sharing the latest on in-memory on SCN.

If all goes well, I’ll have one more HANA-related piece to share before we get to TechEd, so watch this space in about a week. As usual, I’m including a number of podcast highlights below if you’d like to skim through and get some key points quickly.

This podcast references the SAP HANA and In-Memory Home Page on SCN. Also check out the In-Memory blog category on SCN and the SAP HANA and In-Memory Computing. You can check out the 28 TechEd Las Vegas sessions that relate to HANA in the SAP TechEd session directory.

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Podcast Highlights

1:10 Thomas’ role at SAP and how he is engaging with SAP customers on HANA.

2:50 Why does HANA and in-memory change the game for SAP customers? Thomas: What we explained to customers is that today, most of the time you have only a subset of information available that you can do BI on. With HANA, the change is that you can have one year, two years, five years of information in-memory and you can slice and dice the data back and forwards in ways not seen before.

4:25 Let’s get into some customer examples. How does your typical process of engaging with a customer around HANA work? Thomas: we have mapped out a typical implementation which starts with the setup of the machine and software which is part of the component with HANA. We are part of the design services organization, so our approach is to help customers identify pain points they have today that most of the time aren’t even fixable for them. We helped one customer deal with complex information on the customer and product side they couldn’t analyze on ECC, but in HANA we could bring them together and combine the data. We did this and went a step further: when we did the demo, we used the sheer speed of the system with an iPad as the front end. That’s our typical approach: first we tackle the design problem, set up in the system, model the environment, do a few iterations and get an end result. In that case it took 3-4 weeks from first date to end date, and we did this on 280 million records with a performance of 4.6 seconds.

6:20 One underreported aspect of HANA is the connection to SAP BI 4.0. Can you tell us more about how the two products are linked and how customers are taking advantage of that? Thomas: there are a lot of benefits you get with BI 4.0: one is Data Services, the other is you can model inside HANA and you just pass it through to the Business Objects stack, which gives you an incredible performance while you model close to the engine.

8:30 Is there an SAP customer that is the best fit for HANA right now, or is it that all SAP customers have some processes that are ideal for HANA? How should SAP customers go about evaluating HANA as a fit for their own use cases? Thomas: We have a lot of pilots and implementations with multiple customers and there isn’t really one key similarity between them. One example is that we had a customer who had to run a very complex process at the end of their work cycle. When they hit the return on the keyboard it took 47 minutes on process. Now its 2 seconds- that makes the previous process obsolete.

10:30 What is the process like moving from HANA proof of concept to business case to production?

12:30 Is there one misconception about HANA you’d like to clear up for our listeners?

14:00 What are you looking ahead to in future releases? Thomas: Across the globe with our development teams, more simplicity and ease of use is the main mantra. The founder (Haaso) is behind the system and the CTO is pushing us to make it better, and the performance ratios are ahead of the competition. 

15:15 What kinds of HANA-based activities can we expect to see at TechEd? Thomas: We’ll be at TechEd and participating in a three day HANA session. My team is doing “the screwdriver session,” the nuts and bolts, tips and tricks. My team is on the ground in Vegas and I hope a lot of people will join us so we can tell you what we’ve been through and how we can help.

16:35 Chris to Thomas: You’ve mentioned mobile devices a couple of times and iPad – how often does mobility come up in HANA engagements? Thomas: 100 percent of the time. When the customers realize what you can do with the data and the sheer speed we can give them, then the next question is “why do I have to use the desktop when I can get the info in 4 to 8 seconds?” We have done the first run ups on Androids, and we have tested it on tablets here. When you see the performance on explorer on the iPad, it’s amazing. When we did the first implementation for Bill McDermott’s presentation, he never gave back the iPad.

18:20 Chris on HANA at SCN: we do have a dedicated HANA community on SCN in SDN under technology innovation, and that’s where you’ll find the latest and greatest in forums, blogs, and tech documentation, there’s tons of information and all the SAP TechEd content will go there too.

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      Author's profile photo Witalij Rudnicki
      Witalij Rudnicki
      One thing I missed here is when Thomas mentioned that they leave their competitors behind without mentioning who those competitors are. Some SAP guys say Oracle should not sleep weel, others - HANA is not the database.
      Second observation - although more kinda between the lines - is the importance of the heroic effort of Thomas's team to make tested cases flying, so: need for experts on top of the technology.