Well by now you have heard about HANA from SAP. In-memory technology is a significant revolution in database and real-time analytic technology. The rest of the industry appears to be playing catch up because the relevance of this technology is significant and can’t be ignored.
The HANA database resides in memory in a columnar architecture. All read/write activity is occurring in memory. The system also writes to a traditional hard drive based database. The real purpose of this traditional database is for system restarts. So it can load the database back into memory.
HANA technology has also taken the ceiling off of a single server resource limitation by offering multi-node scale-out configurations. Now you can aggregate multiple systems’ memory together to create massively scalable in-memory database. Having a 100 terabyte+ system is not out of the question. You will still require a storage system for the traditional database store and of course now it is going to get bigger. The benefit is that you won’t need a separate data warehouse to do your analytics, since you will run it against the HANA database that’s in-memory. For a hosting company or even your enterprises datacenter, this means that you will consume half the amount of infrastructure as you used to do in a more traditional model.
This last week a friend of mine who is a veteran and pioneer of IT infrastructure was telling me about a new storage array system he recently deployed. Michael Glogowski is the AVP of Core Network Systems at North Island Credit Union. The storage array was from a company called Violin Memory. It is a storage system that writes not to hard disk, but to NVRAM. There is no disk or even any cache involved. All data is written directly to NVRAM. The performance gains were significant for Michael. Jobs that ran for 5 hours now completed in 90 minutes.
I was so impressed. I arranged a conversation with the folks at Violin Memory. Beyond the throughput and performance potential of the system, the more remarkable piece was the footprint. Remember that 100 terabyte HANA database that would also write data to a traditional storage array. Well that storage array could consume 5 full racks of hard drive storage equipment. The same 100 terabytes of storage in a memory based storage system would consume a quarter of a single rack.
Violin Memory was founded by Ex Fusion-io and EMC executives. This start-up has a very experienced leadership from the data storage space. In our discussions about the company and its investors, an interesting relationship was revealed. SAP Ventures is a significant investor of Violin Memory. Then it all started to make sense.
In one single rack of equipment you could have the computing power to run the largest enterprise business systems. With a footprint this small, cloud providers can now operate greener, and more efficiently scale their infrastructures. This also means the age of the on-premise SaaS appliance has just become a reality.
Nowhere in this solution would a hard drive exist. This investment and direction in storage technology has tremendous implications for the IT industry. From my view this completes a vision that SAP has for its own future. I guess it’s safe now for me to dust off my box of old electronics in the garage that holds my View Finder, Polaroid camera, Sony Walkman, VHS machine, floppy drive, and now toss in my hard drive. If you think the next generation of computing has yet to occur, think again.