We had some banter in our office today around the poor quality of SCN posts on SAP HANA and the confusion surrounding in Memory technologies as a whole. And the subject of the new movie HANNA came up - a movie which has the tag line "Adapt or Die". As an aside, this reminds me of John Tashek's blog "IT: Become Relevant or Die". It felt fitting to talk a little about this in the run-up to SAP's annual sales conference, SAPPHIRE NOW.
Last year we were given a baptism of fire at SAPPHIRE NOW, when Hasso Plattner got on stage and basically said that Oracle was dead, and SAP was looking to replace it with in Memory technologies, which he then called NewDB. A year on and it has a name: SAP HANA. Actually the name keeps changing, but that's neither here nor there. The first step on this journey, named HANA 1.0 is due to be released to the market next week.
What is HANA 1.0?
Basically an analytics engine powered by Kool Aid. You can suck information out of transactional systems like SAP's Business Suite - in real time, if you can afford the additional license cost - and push them into a super-fast in memory database. On top of that, SAP have built tooling so you can present this as reporting views to e.g. SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise - both with the ability to model business rules and to perform calculations, all in memory.
What isn't HANA 1.0?
HANA 1.0 isn't a strategic Data Warehouse. It's not a replacement to SAP NetWeaver BW and nor can it be a general purpose database (yet). The main use cases for HANA 1.0 are for places where a Data Warehouse is not fit for purpose - where there is a need for large data volumes, for relatively non-disruptive installation and where there is a business case to build all the business logic required, manually. And for those use cases, it has real potential.
What are HANA Apps?
HANA Apps are basically business content for HANA. Josh Greenbaum (another Enterprise Irregular) penned a nice blog on HANA Apps back after the SAP Influencer Summit in February. They bring business content - prebuilt business logic to get information out of SAP ERP or CRM - and these are vertically or line of business aligned apps e.g. Trade Promotion Management. They are accelerators to get up and running with HANA faster and get faster time to value.
What is in the HANA roadmap for SAPPHIRE NOW?
We'll see at SAPPHIRE NOW, and I will no doubt write an update to this, but we expect HANA 1.x at the end of this year (for a SAPPHIRE 2012 debut). This will be a database for SAP NetWeaver BW 7.3 - and allow existing BW customers to push BW onto the HANA appliance and get rid of Oracle. SAP expect one day to do this for the Business Suite and do away with BW as well, but I'd suggest that is a long way off.
I asked Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP about this in February, because if BW can run on HANA then so can ERP - and he jokingly responded that the CEO of Porsche had his cell phone number and if BW went down, they would raise a high priority support call - but if the Business Suite crashed and car production stopped, he would get a personal call.
So if SAP get something right at SAPPHIRE, for me it would be to set out a realistic roadmap with what it means to the customers. Hopefully this will including firming up the HANA Apps roadmap and showing customers the look and feel - getting hands on - and also bringing some early HANA customers to talk about what it meant for them and what value they received from HANA.
So where's it all going wrong?
From a product perspective, I think that what SAP have done to deliver in 15 months is incredible, but I question the strategy of hitting the market so heavily. SAP customers are now confused what HANA is about, and people - both inside and outside of SAP - have chimed in to try to make sense of it, often with desperately confusing results. Check out these two posts on SAP's community network!
HANA an In-Memory Vision
With the advent of HANA, SAP BW is endangered species? - Part -I
By the way the real content in these posts is in the comments. Pay particular attention to what Vitaliy Rudnytskiy has to say, he knows his stuff.
To exacerbate this, SAP appear to have toyed with the product and technical names several times already, and no doubt this will continue in time-honoured style. Is it HANA 1.2 or 1.5, for example? It's a mystery.
The concern is that customers stop believing the hype when they don't get the product that they expected and that in turn, that extends the sales process and HANA takes longer to come to market. In retrospect, I suspect they wish that they didn't put Hasso on stage last year to wave his equipment at Larry Ellison.
Of course, none of this matters if HANA delivers to promise.
If you're interested in some further context of what's going on next week at SAPPHIRE NOW, then here is a video recording with Jon Reed of jonerp.com on the hot topic including in Memory, Mobile, BI and on Demand.