OLTP and OLAP sign a peace treaty to end the Thirty Years War
SAP HANA resolves the long conflict between transactional and analytical data, ending a long war over database doctrine.
Two different views of an essential truth caused the most bloody war in Europe since the Fall of Rome. As Catholic fought Protestant across the continent a generation grew up knowing only war, starvation and chaos. The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) ended the conflict and brought in the idea of the sovereignty of the nation-state which redefined national relations.
I was reminded of the end of this war with a comment that Bernd Leukert (SAP Board member for Products & Innovation) made today at SAP Select in Barcelona. He spoke about the fact that transaction data (OLTP) and analytical data (OLAP) no longer had to be stored separately, but that in new in-memory databases the generation-long pain of duplication had been eliminated.
In order to understand how this peace broke out to end the thirty years of IT conflict, we need to understand the doctrine that birthed it.
Transaction data needs systems which provide fast access, and with special capabilities such as transactional integrity and roll-back. IBM, Oracle and others built sophisticated technologies to support transactions such as accountants who needed to post a sales order.
Analytical queries are fundamental to business cognition. To solve a customer service issue you might initiate a query such as “how many times have we shipped a 15mm gasket within a week of a new pump order” which required sequential reads of huge tables. However, it rapidly became clear that allowing reporting systems to co-exist would slow the transactions down so much that a customer would hang up before the order could be booked.
The schism between transactions and analytics had started.
Just as when Luther nailed his theses to the door of Worms Cathedral to kick off the Protestant Reformation, IT managers developed their own doctrine to launch the age of Data Warehouses. Sometimes these were just extra redundant tables (called aggregates) sometimes whole new architectures with specialised programming languages and endless synchronisations, updates, lags, Excel sheets, star schemas and the like. The War had started.
Casualties of the Age of Aggregates were
- Time and Money spent by IT departments in buying, building and supporting data warehouses
- Complexity in software which led to architectures that became inflexible to changing business needs
- Incorrect business decisions based on out of date or incorrect data
Sometimes the conflict was characterised as the difference between a “system of record” and a “system of engagement”. The executives never heard the doctrinal debate, they just knew that a board meeting, despite six weeks of preparation would have data that was either wrong, missing or old. It all sounded as arcane as those 17th arguments about the nature of transubstantiation, which the peasant never cared about but saw the secondary effect: an army raiding his farm.
Now peace is here
Work done by Prof Hasso Plattner led to the launch of SAP Hana, which was re-engineered to provide lightning fast transactions and analytics at the same time, with no duplication at all. Information Architecture is radically simplified as there is one source of truth, updated once, in one place.
The Treaty of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years War led to Europe’s golden age: the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Maybe the elimination of the conflict between transactions and analytics in our Information systems will lead to another Golden Age.
To see what SAP Hana can do for your business, take a look here.