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Not All “In-Memory” is Created Equal

I’ve seen a number of “in-memory” database announcements from various companies lately and all of these seem to entirely miss the point of in-memory. In-memory technology, specifically SAP HANA, is about three things:

  • Consolidating transactional processing (OLTP) and analytics (OLAP) into one data model (eliminating unnecessary copies of data)
  • Dramatically reducing the number of server products required to build enterprise applications (down to one in most instances (e.g. HANA)
  • Removing complexity from enterprise IT architectures to run existing applications more efficiently and yes, faster

/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/db_480598.jpgWhy would you want to consolidate transactional and analytic data/processing into one data store? Because it’s more efficient and doesn’t need the same level of administration and support that legacy database products require from vendors like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Of course, these companies will tell you that an in-memory “add-on” solution is all you need because this is all they’re able to provide and it protects their install base. Vendors like these don’t want to sell you less databases – they want to sell you more and the best way to do this is by distracting you from the real benefits of SAP HANA.

Nearly ten years ago we created an “add-on” in-memory accelerator product (BWA Accelerator) and found that, while it addressed the symptom of slow data response times from traditional databases, it didn’t address the entire problem. BWA was the catalyst that enabled SAP to define a new market segment of in-memory—SAP HANA! I think many traditional database vendors will go through a similar evolution themselves, but it will take them the better part of a decade to realize this. Can any business afford to wait that long?

Why would you want to reduce the number of products you use to create and run enterprise applications?

The answer to this question is apparent to our customers (I hear it from them all the time) but not so apparent to these other database software vendors. If an IT organization needs to invest in and then integrate three, four, five or more different server products (e.g. database, analytics, application server, etc.) in order to produce a single business application, then the opportunity to really innovate is spent on the “cost” of multi-product (and multi-vendor) integration. This is exactly what SAP HANA addresses, by providing an array of capabilities in one platform, enabling powerful business applications to use HANA “and HANA alone” as the engine to deliver the best, most efficient results possible. This is simply not possible with an “in-memory” database add-on from vendors like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.

Why would you want to remove complexity from IT?

Because the traditional enterprise IT architecture prescribed by legacy data database vendors is just too hard and expensive to support. This is why the cloud is so appealing for many organizations. That said, just because we like the cloud doesn’t mean your existing IT infrastructure will just “go away” in a few years, but it’s important to have a simplification strategy in place for your company. Organizations who have been customers of SAP for 20+ years consistently tell us that when they switch from a legacy database to the HANA platform, they immediately see a reduction in database management, administration, and modeling efforts, saving them time and money right out of the gate. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Customers who have been using SAP HANA successfully for years like T-Mobile, John Deere and many more for mission critical applications have realized that simplifying their IT infrastructure, accelerating existing applications and innovating with new, better solutions for today’s challenges are the real benefits of HANA.

I am extending an open invitation to everyone to try SAP HANA and work with SAP on creating a strategy for your organization that focuses on simplification, innovation, and acceleration. Let’s build a better future together vs. the one these legacy database companies have attempted to dictate!

Postcript: My colleague, Irfan Khan, sees things much the same way. Read his blogs: Getting to know SAP HANA Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Days of Future Past, where he addresses Oracle’s in-memory announcement head on.  

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