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Author's profile photo Sharath M G

In-Memory – Didn’t it exist centuries ago?

HANA – SAP’s big push in the space of In-memory computing has been trending the SAP ecosystem from past 1 year. This has brought about a shift in the fundamental data model of IT systems. The data used to be( and still is ) stacked away in a box and kept out of physical reach for security reasons. In the traditional data model, we had to get the access to box and get the data copy onto our run-time and push it back into the box later. HANA stores the data in the run-time(almost) and reduces the time lag incurred to transfer the data to and from the data box.

The whole concept seems radical as the guarantee of the data being fool-proof and secure despite storing it in in-memory all the time. Yes it is but the concept has been existing from centuries. Well, before I am slapped with a lawsuit for De-crediting SAP from this invention/discovery, I will substantiate my claim with the help of some of the ancient mnemonic scholars who have mastered the art of data In (their) Memory.

Personally, I am a normal person with average to below-average levels of memory. Every day To-Do lists are written and I fail to remember 50% of the tasks ( on some occasions intentionally ) to face the wrath of my partner by end of the day. So, I resolved that I will attempt to improve my memory skills. I surfed on the net and ordered the book “The art and science of remembering everything” by Joshua Foer. I have been reading this book from last 1 month and its  fascinating to understand the art of remembering from the best in business. The book also introduces the history of memorizing.  Then, I was struck with this thought that when the mnemonic skills were used by ancient Greek scholars like Simonides in fifth century B.C or the ancient Vedic scriptures which were orally transmitted by the Hindu scholars for generations using the skills of memorization, why are we in shock and awe with the thought of storing the data in the memory.

Before script was available, every scriptures across all civilizations were recorded and transmitted orally using the skills of memory. The potential of or our brain to store has been documented in innumerable books and movies. As always, there were skills used to facilitate the storage in the memory. The skills may vary but fundamentally they were forks which could be easily called upon to reconstruct the content. The accuracy or reconstruction could even reach 100% depending on the effort put in by the individuals.

Philosophy is the root of all knowledge.  I recently heard a presentation and was fascinated by the role of the presenter as Philosophical programmer. A well known Indian Devdutt Pattnaik is working as Chief Belief officer in a large Indian retail chain. So, as technology evangelists, we can find the roots of technology in philosophical studies.

Now, do I feel that HANA is just an old wine in a new bottle. Not really. If the concept of memorizing everything existed centuries ago, why did it 30 years of my lifetime to just be informed about this skill. In this age or data revolution, everything is on a device. Gone are days, when phone numbers were remembered. We now look up to the cloud( not the clouds in the sky 😛 ) to retrieve the numbers. We are getting more and more depended on the hardware to facilitate the data storage. So, HANA is truly a remarkable achievement by SAP to collaborate the great minds and come up with the hardware and the supporting software which will allow the manifestation of the concept of data In-Memory.

Ideas and concepts are within but the true change happens only on realization. SAP have brought about this change by realizing the idea of storing the data in memory with the guarantee of securing the data in HANA. Kudos to SAP!!!

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      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes

      If go down this line of logic then cloud computing is really not new at all, as remote timesharing based computation has been around for many years and pre-dates any web based system. 

      We could also argue that wireless technology including wireless charging isn't really new as Tesla already worked on the technology.  Sometimes we have the theory behind it, but the not tools.  I still remember paying about 200 USD for 4MB of RAM chip.  Now I can buy a tablet computer that has 256/512MB RAM and 8GB/16GB of storage for that price.  In memory was always your first choice, but hardware was your limiting factor.  Do schools still teach file-based sorting today? 

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Sharath M G
      Sharath M G
      Blog Post Author

      Hello Stephen,

      You are absolutely right. The whole point of this discussion to make people feel comfortable with technology. There is always a school of thought among non-techies about IT being something out of this world. Whereas its just manifesting the existing concepts using the hardware and the software. Its not to belittle the role of IT in our lives but to make it more accessible to lay users.

      Your comments are well appreciated.

      Thank you.