How it works and who's using it...
In-memory computing (IMC) is being sold as a way for enterprise to pluck useful insights from an ever-growing tide of corporate data, and of doing so in record time.
Business software vendor SAP has developed its own IMC platform called Hana. First announced in late 2010, Hana has now been rolled out to some 50 early-adopter organisations which are testing how the platform performs in a variety of data analytics tasks.
Hana, and other IMC platforms, processes data stored in computer memory rather than on a hard disk. Because of the speed at which data can be accessed from computer memory, and other technical differences such as the use of parallel computer processors to carry out data analysis, IMC systems can analyse data in a fraction of the time it takes using traditional relational databases stored on hard disks.
Part of the way Hana is able to handle large datasets at speed is by reducing the amount of data in a database.
Hana stores some data differently to traditional relational databases - storing some data in columns rather than rows, which makes it easier to compress and reduces the amount of data that needs to be searched for certain queries. It also doesn't store data where there are empty fields in the database, reducing the overall size of the dataset.
Hana also cuts the amount of data that needs to be duplicated. In traditional data warehouses, data is stored in cubes that bring together information needed to answer specific questions - such as calculating stock levels in a region. This can result in the same data being stored many times in different cubes in order to answer different questions. Hana is fast enough to analyse the entire database without the need for separate data cubes - meaning data only has to be stored once.
"More responsive to the business"
Dutch animal nutrition company Provimi operates in 70 countries worldwide and deployed a Hana platform to carry out profitability analysis in October.
Provimi CIO Rogier Jacobs said the company is able to carry out queries a "couple of hundred" times faster than was possible using data stored in a traditional relational database in a SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse system.
"If a report takes 20 minutes to run or more then that's not very responsive to the business," he said of its previous analytics set-up.
"The interaction with the system in terms of action-response doesn't suit the way we do business," Jacobs added.
"Now we can be more responsive to the business and can access better reports, so we can make better decisions and purchase more effectively. In due time we should be able to see that in figures and hard money - in lower inventory, lower working capital, better margins on deals and products," he said.
Provimi uses Hana to...