On November 7th, SAP will release the new version of its in-memory database - the much heralded Project Orange, or SAP HANA 1.0 SP03. They'll probably change the name before I publish this article, but hey.
Project Orange is huge - because it's not just the kind of theoretical analytics appliance that we have available with the current SAP HANA 1.0 SP02. It's a complete replacement for the Microsoft, Oracle or IBM database that SAP requires to underpin its Business Information Warehouse, SAP NetWeaver BW.
Around this, a vigorous discussion took place on Twitter between Mike Bestvina (@techdisruptive), Jon Reed (@jonerp) and myself. It surrounded pricing: @techdistruptive: @applebyj let's say I have a 5TB db and already have BWA. So £2 million for ETL to be sped up??
Well this paints an interesting question. The answer is that on the face of it, it sounds like a terrible value proposition. So where is the value in HANA 1.0 SP03?
What's the price anyhow?
Well SAP HANA 1.0 SP02 is priced by the 64GB increment and pricing isn't publicly available - but it is very expensive. Given that BW databases are typically about 5-10x the size of the useful data in them (this is normal in a datawarehouse as there is duplication due to the way data is organized), customers aren't going to want to pay for 80x 64GB HANA units at the current price.
I'm sure SAP know this and I very much doubt they will price HANA for BW at the same price as the full-fat appliance. But pricing hasn't been released and won't be until the product is available. We will see. If SAP have sense, they will look to do market penetration rather than high-value.
What are the benefits of running SAP HANA 1.0 SP03 for BW?
For my money, the benefits are huge. The headlines are here:
Massively improved dataload time (a key business pain point for organizations trying to get data loaded before 8am).
Improvement in query performance even compared to BWA 7.2 because it collapses the database, application server and OLAP engine into a single item. Most customers don't have BWA and if they do they aren't running the 7.2 version which provides benefits.
Massive improvement in Integrated Planning performance because the planning engine is written in C++ in-memory. Expect 3-5x faster planning functions and even bigger improvement in planning query performance.
Improved organization agility due to being able to move faster, develop faster and collapse some data layers and replace them with logical layers.No requirement for separate application and database servers. Simplified hardware structure.
No need for very expensive enterprise disk storage or expensive UNIX boxes. I've seen BW systems that cost millions of dollars. HANA will be far cheaper than this for the bigger customers. It may be a bit more expensive for the SME market, but HANA is not yet a SME value proposition
So what's stopping us going there?
The big question right now is product maturity. HANA 1.0 SP03 hasn't been released and most customers value their data warehouse highly. I think customers will want to see the benefits and the stability of the HANA platform first hand.
HANA 1.0 SP03 will at least bring (expected, not confirmed as it's not been released!) high-availability, point-in-time backup and restore, the ability to scale up and out.
So for me, HANA 1.0 SP03 as a replacement to Oracle, IBM or Microsoft databases is a complete no-brainer. The question for customers is when, not if. The factors they will need to take into account when deciding this is:
How important is my data warehouse stability to me compared to improved performance?
How am I depreciating my current platform? Can I reuse it elsewhere? Is it shared capacity e.g. IBM pSeries where releasing space may provide value.
How big are the business pain points around performance?
If you can answer this and the answers suggest that HANA is interesting - go ahead and buy a Test & Demo license and do a trial migration. It's the same heterogeneous platform migration as any other hardware migration, though you need special HANA-certified consultants to do the migration. Seeing may be believing.