SAP spruiks HANA, slams Oracle

Hasso Plattner, one of the five co-founders of SAP and chairman of its supervisory board, clarified the potential that HANA, SAP's in-memory database technology, will have on the company's future — from both technical and strategic standpoints.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Hasso Plattner, one of the five co-founders of SAP and chairman of its supervisory board, clarified the potential that HANA, SAP's in-memory database technology, will have on the company's future — from both technical and strategic standpoints.


Hasso Plattner
(Credit: Tom Raftery)

"HANA is not an experimental thing," he said at the company's Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Florida. "We got lucky and we found something and it runs things 10, 100, 1000 times faster. HANA is a platform; and is on the way to become the foundation for most of our applications, whether they're on-premise or in the cloud."

Plattner wasted no time diving deep into the technical details of the technology, a somewhat odd choice, given the thousands of businesspeople in the audience. Nonetheless, he was frank about the limitations of today's technology and why he thinks HANA will help free companies from those limitations.

His talk was easily more than an hour long, and largely involved explaining the benefits of HANA, by walking through the application, step by step. Still, along the way, he offered several observations about the technology and its relevance.

A collection of highlights from Plattner's talk:

  • "I'm not saying aggregates are forbidden, but aggregates are not the organisation of choice"
  • Don't expect a single-select database to exceed the physical capabilities of a computer
  • "We have to make changes to the code. And we cannot abandon 99 per cent of our customers" who sit on IBM's DB2, Oracle, NextDB, Microsoft, etc. "We will not have a version, from a functionality point of view, [that is] completely different," ie, between HANA and the existing platforms that customers use
  • Customers will receive benefits of the suite, regardless of the set-up. There will not be "HANAs" and "HANA-nots"
  • "I feel very good about this, that SAP is not continuing to grind and hone what we did 15 years ago"
  • With the rise of mobile, in-memory matters even more. You're not going to wait more than three seconds for something. "This is where the world is going: direct access from anywhere to any type of data, whether it's a small piece of data or a small answer, but a long algorithm to create that answer. The user doesn't care about this"
  • "New applications will have to deal with big data. We have to analyse it on the fly, so we have to have a system that is transactional and analytical, at the same time. We cannot have a multi-stage system. This is too slow for modern applications"
  • "SQL is not dead. The world is living on SQL. If you pull SQL out of the enterprise world, the world will break down"
  • "We run 18 times faster, today, in the data transfer. Why don't we run 100 times faster? We still have to write to disk. This is the bottleneck. We cannot be 500 times faster in data input"
  • "Business reporting is not dealing with objects, it is dealing with relationships between objects"
  • "There are many uncharted areas where we can go now and at least provide technology. Probably help to build applications or let others build applications. HANA is totally open to third parties. This will be the difference. We tried this 20 years ago [but the platform was dropped in the face of another success] ... this time, we will not make this strategic decision again, to go for SAP applications only. We go for non-SAP applications, as much as we go for our own"
  • "We find more and more companies where the application of speed opens up the door for completely new applications"
  • "We have to deal with petabytes in the future. We cannot deal with this reorganisation [that] we've done in the last 20 years."

Plattner didn't resist in taking a few swipes at rival Larry Ellison, of Oracle, for spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about a technology, with implications not yet fully understood.

"Please, please, please, my dear competition," Plattner pleaded. "We can beat each other and fight each other, as much as we want, and argue. But do not predict how a system really works, when you really don't know and don't want to know. Either be better informed, or don't do it."

At one point, Plattner pointed to the massive display behind him, projecting a diagram of the HANA system, to ensure that it was visible, via streaming video, "for our friends in Redwood Shores", Oracle's headquarters.

He added, later: "We should not let FUD creep into our core operation. The other ones don't know enough."

Plattner employed several technology demonstrations, during his talk, to illustrate his claims. Among them: SAP's Business One integrating enterprise resource planning (ERP) system; the use of real-time promotions in a Bigpoint video game; an overview of luxury outfitter Burberry's "clientelling" app; and a demonstration of HANA's high-availability capabilities, by systematically turning off servers at its datacentre in Santa Clara, California, and watching the system respond in real time.

At the core of all of it? In-memory computing.

"It is fantastic for me to see, after 44 years in the industry, that we have computer resources of that magnitude, for relatively little money."

But he couldn't resist one more dig.

"Oracle BI runs nicely on HANA," Plattner said. "[But] it's not the preferred version, from an Oracle perspective."

Via ZDNet US

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