Is SAP HANA a Luxury?
For SAP, it may be a billion-dollar question: is HANA a luxury like a Porsche or a Dior Dress? Or is it simply a better approach that could and should be appropriate for all SAP’s customers? Today, as SAP customer Steve Rumsby puts it: “ “The problem seems to be that SAP have what they think is a great product, but their customers/potential customers don’t all see it the same way.” What are the roots of this difference in perception? SAP’s HANA Vision The first versions of HANA were focused on analytics, and used for big data “edge cases” that required extreme speed. These typically involved large companies adding an additional HANA server to existing infrastructure to do things that weren’t previously feasible. These use cases can’t really be called “luxury” – they all had hard business cases behind them – but they certainly weren’t for everybody. The natural result is that many people that don’t envisage these kinds of needs in the near future are wondering why SAP talks so much about HANA: “ “Dior is a stunning work of art and such timeless beauty that almost makes you forget about the price tag. But even though I admire the design very much, somehow I just don’t feel compelled to rush and order one for myself. For the simple reason that I can neither afford it nor (more importantly) do I really need it… Where would I possibly wear it? In case you didn’t get the analogy by now, there are SAP customers that need HANA just like I need a Dior dress, at least at this time.” From this point of view, HANA will be adopted as the “edge cases” of today become tomorrow’s normal environments, as with some other previous technologies such as mobile phones: “…the first “bricks” that were an exotic accessory of rich and famous back in the day. But now even some elementary school kids already carry a cell phone to call mom and dad in case a stranger offers them candy. How did we get from there to here? By the means of cheaper and smaller phones, better network coverage and accessibility. Not by worrying about the adoption rates. Not every student or housewife had one of the first cell phones and not every SAP customer is Unilever or Coca Cola.” Is HANA Expensive? The two things that everybody knows about HANA is that it’s fast, and that it’s expensive. But is that true? By all accounts, HANA is indeed fast – for example, Stanford University researchers claim that it can crunch genome data up to 600x faster than previous best-practice techniques. But this emphasis on speed has naturally lead customers to assume that if they don’t need — or can’t use – that extra speed, they don’t need HANA. This view has been echoed by other database industry veterans like Doug Henschen: “ “Speedy insights are only required when people are actually in a position to do something with them or about them in an equally speedy way. SAP is pushing ahead of the customer’s ability to execute” In addition, the speed of HANA has been compared to a Porsche by SAP executives: “ “Asking people who don’t own HANA what they think of it, is like asking people who have never driven a car what they think about the speed and handling capability of a Porsche.” What Does The Future Hold? It’s clear that SAP continues to believe that HANA is not an expensive luxury for the few, but an opportunity for all organizations: “ “The invitation is for all customers who want to transform their business and capitalize on the opportunities that have been opened up through technology innovation, big data, IoT, cloud, and mobility…deploy HANA. Email us, tweet us, call us…we will help you find the right use case to grow your business faster than your competitors and lower your costs at the same time.” Will customers continue to assume that HANA will always be too expensive for them to deploy? What if that weren’t true – would it make a difference, or is the real barrier the challenge of doing things in new ways? What could SAP do to persuade the skeptics? Finally, people are justifiably fed up with analogies, but for what it’s worth, I still think the most appropriate comparison for SAP HANA vs disk-based systems — at least in terms of technology theory — is digital cameras, which are indeed faster, simpler, smarter AND cheaper than older film cameras (this post is from a few years ago — the same ideas could now be extended to include operational systems, not just analytics)