What is SAP HANA?
SAP High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) is a data warehouse appliance for processing high volumes of operational and transactional data in real-time. HANA uses in-memory analytics, an approach that queries data stored in random access memory (RAM) instead of on hard disk or flash storage.
A HANA appliance uses an SAP Sybase replication server to copy and synchronize data from an SAP data warehouse or enterprise resource planning (ERP) application in real-time. By running in parallel to the source SAP ERP application, HANA allows business users to query large volumes of data in real-time without having to wait for scheduled reports to run.
HANA supports industry standards such as structured query language (SQL) and multi-dimensional eXpressions (MDX). It also includes a programming component that allows a company’s IT department to create and run customized applications on top of HANA. According to SAP, HANA has the ability to scan 500 billion point of sale (POS) records in seconds.
What are the technical components that make up HANA?
The heart of SAP HANA Enterprise 1.0 is the SAP In-Memory Database 1.0, a massively parallel processing data store that melds row-based, column-based, and object-based storage techniques. Other components of SAP HANA Enterprise 1.0 include:
- SAP In-Memory Computing Studio,
- SAP Host Agent 7.2,
- SAPCAR 7.10,
- Sybase Replication Server 15,
- SAP HANA Load Controller 1.00, and,
- SAP Landscape Transformation 1 – SHC for ABA.
SAP HANA runs the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1 operating system. It is generally delivered as an on-premise appliance and is available now.
Conceptually, how does HANA work?
SAP HANA is designed to replicate and ingest structured data from SAP and non-SAP relational databases, applications, and other systems quickly. One of three styles of data replication – trigger-based, ETL-based, or log-based – is used depending on the source system and desired use-case. The replicated data is then stored in RAM rather than loaded onto disk, the traditional form of application data storage. Because the data is stored in-memory, it can be accessed in near real-time by analytic and transactional applications that sit on top of HANA.
What applications does HANA support?
SAP has delivered several new generation of targeted analytic applications designed specifically to leverage the real-time functionality offered by HANA, including SAP Smart Meter Analytics and SAP CO-PA Accelerator. It is developing others focused on analytics related to retail, financial, telecommunications, and other industries and to horizontal use-cases such as human capital management.
HANA is highly-optimized to interface with the SAP Business Objects portfolio of reporting, dashboarding, and other analytic products. SAP plans to add HANA support for Business Warehouse in November, eliminating the need for Business Warehouse Accelerator in most customer environments. SAP is also migrating Business ByDesign, SAP’s on-demand business suite for small and mid-sized businesses, on to HANA. Currently, HANA does not easily support non-SAP analytic or transactional applications without significant application re-architecting.
What does HANA cost and how large can it scale?
SAP has not publicly released specific pricing information regarding HANA, but early estimates indicate customers can initially have HANA up and running for under $300,000, including hardware, software, and services. Depending on scale, pricing levels can reach up to $2 million or more. HANA is not capable of storing petabyte-levels of data. However, due to its advanced compression capabilities, HANA deployments can store tens of terabytes of data or more, which is considered large data volumes in most current SAP customer environments.
What is the HANA value proposition to customers?
Enterprises collect large volumes of structured data via legacy ERP, CRM, and other systems. Most struggle to make use of the data while spending large sums to store and protect it. One option to make use of this data is to extract, transform, and load subsets into a traditional enterprise data warehouse for analysis. This process is time-consuming and requires significant investment in related proprietary hardware. The result is often an expensive, bloated EDW that provides little more than backward-looking views of company data.
SAP HANA offers enterprises a new approach to harnessing the value of all that corporate data. As mentioned above, HANA runs on inexpensive commodity hardware from any of several SAP partners, including IBM, Dell, and HP. Its data replication and integration capabilities vastly speed up the process of loading data into the databases. And because it uses in-memory storage, applications on top of HANA can access data in near-real time, meaning end-users can gain meaningful insight while there is still time to take meaningful action. HANA can also perform predictive analytics to help organizations plan for future market developments.
How is it different From Competing Offerings from Oracle?
Oracle unveiled an in-memory analytic appliance of its own, called Exalytics, at Oracle OpenWorld in October 2011. Among the important differences compared to SAP HANA, Exalytics is designed to run on Sun-only hardware, it is a mash-up of various existing Oracle technologies, and there are few, if any, systems in production. As with all Oracle technologies, the risk of vendor lock-in is high, and the cost is significantly higher than comparable HANA deployments.
What are compelling SAP HANA use cases?
Real-time analytics as supported by SAP HANA have numerous potential use cases including:
- Profitability reporting and forecasting,
- Retail merchandizing and supply-chain optimization,
- Security and fraud detection,
- Energy use monitoring and optimization, and,
- Telecommunications network monitoring and optimization.
What are HANA’s limitations?
SAP HANA is not a platform for loading, processing, and analyzing huge volumes – petabytes or more – of unstructured data, commonly referred to as big data. Therefore, HANA is not suited for social networking and social media data analytics. For such uses cases, enterprises are better off looking to open-source big-data approaches such as Apache Hadoop or LexisNexis HPCC Systems, or even MPP-based next generation data warehousing appliances like EMC Greenplum or Teradata AsterData.
While SAP has promised a slew of new HANA-optimized applications, currently only a handful are on the market. It is incumbent upon SAP to follow through on its commitment with practical applications that address real-world business problems. Also, SAP HANA is not pre-optimized to support non-SAP applications, which requires significant application re-engineering on the part of enterprise IT groups.
What does HANA mean for SAP’s product direction?
Enterprises are increasingly demanding real-time analytic and transactional processing capabilities from business applications. HANA puts SAP in a good position to deliver such functionality for its customer-base of traditional enterprises. But SAP must balance innovation in the form of HANA and related applications with continuing support for its legacy back-office ERP and other business applications that form the backbone of many an enterprise IT environment. Further, as unstructured data processing and analytics becomes more commonplace at traditional (read: non-Web 2.0 companies) enterprises, SAP will need to extend HANA’s functionality into this area.
Action Item: Current SAP customers should strongly consider deploying SAP HANA to add real-time analytic and transactional processing capabilities on top of existing SAP ERP and other business systems deployments. Non-SAP customers unsatisfied with their current EDW environment should also evaluate HANA, weighing the benefits of adding near real-time analytic capabilities against the cost of migrating to a new system and new vendor. It is also important to evaluate where real-time analytics will most benefit your enterprise. Not all business problems can be solved via real-time analytics, and systems such as HANA should only be deployed where significant business value can be achieved.