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Graeme Nixon’s Experience at the Vancouver SAP Startup Forum

Big data. These two words invoke two images for different people: for some it means big problems and for others it means big opportunity. The hard working people at SAP see it as the latter.

After spending a day at the SAP Vancouver Executive Briefing Center, I was exposed first hand to the dynamic platform that is SAP’s latest platform, SAP HANA. Pitching it not only as a whole new way to process and analyze massive amounts of information, SAP showed me that they are intensely involved in the global start-up community. They want to leverage their product, culture and capabilities to support the next billion dollar start-up in the making.

With a host of start-up ideas, ranging from deep hockey analytics, to snow goggles embedded with a Heads-Up-Display (HUD) processing real-time information, all the way to keeping medical patients on track in taking their medication and tracking their health, it seems the applications for SAP HANA is limited only by the imagination.

Powerful and notable figures such as Scott Morrison, Bill Tam, Carl Schmidt, and George Chow all had an extremely positive outlook for HANA as the platform-of-choice for tomorrow’s big data needs. Across the board, it was agreed that we are truly in a revolutionary time when it comes to database modeling and processing. The sheer near real-time speed and flexibility that in-memory processing offers is something beyond the wildest dreams of a data scientist not only five years ago, and coupled together with the support of an incredibly successful global firm like SAP, opportunities lay before entrepreneurs and innovators like no other time in technology’s history.

In my private conversation with Patrice Le Bihan, Solution Architect within the SAP Enterprise Business Intelligence department, I was amazed to hear that database concepts once held to be inevitable are changing. For example, performing a prolonged extract-transform-and-load (ETL) of millions of rows to format data in a meaningful way, will be almost completely turned on its head with HANA’s capabilities. We can think of it now as extract-load-and-transform (ELT) within the memory itself: freeing enterprise from the clutches of otherwise relatively inflexible, expensive data warehousing mechanisms, and producing real insight hundreds of times faster than today.

As a Business Technology Management and Finance student studying at the Sauder School of Business, I could not help but wonder how many students would love the opportunity to see SAP the way I did at the forum. Cutting edge and exciting are just two words that I could use to describe the entire event, which was heavily attended by many local CTOs, and of course cheerful and happy SAP staff.

I know my professors are so excited about the learning opportunity HANA presents to students, and the chance that our school may partner with them more closely in the future. This is important to deliver hands-on lessons that will blend the tenacity and innovation of our students with the sophistication and brand of SAP, and I know we at Sauder would be very open to working with SAP on initiatives like this in the future.

I’m absolutely inspired to get thinking about how I can leverage this incredible opportunity with SAP to drive the next big application in big data analytics; it just seems like the right place, right time and right company to be trying out and experimenting with such a unique database solution.

For the people who still think big data only presents a problem: you have not yet looked deep enough into the SAP HANA platform. An all around inspiring day for everyone, so much so that I cannot wait for next year’s event.

Graeme Nixon,

Finance and Business Technology Management

UBC Consulting Club Co-President

Sauder School of Business

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