SAP's Plattner makes his case for HANA

Hasso Plattner continues to preach HANA and disruption within enterprise applications. Live from the annual SAP Sapphire conference in Orlando.

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ORLANDO — If there happened to be any SAP Sapphire attendees with a longing to relive a college business course, then the Wednesday morning keynote was a real treat.  

For the better part of two hours, Hasso Plattner and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen gave an academic lesson in enterprise applications and the direction they see that space heading. But there was a definite message hidden beneath the lecture, one that attempted to convince the audience that HANA is the way of the future. 

The professorial tone began with Christensen, who controlled the audience as he would if they were students sitting in a classroom in Cambridge, Mass. He gave an explanation of the business disruption model, which he described as a tool for understanding where there are opportunities to grow through innovation. 

Cut to Plattner, and the tie-in to HANA quickly took shape. The self-described revolutionary (and SAP founder and chairman) recalled the skepticism he experienced when he shared his "radical" vision for what business systems would be like and how they would be built.

"People thought I was crazy," Plattner decreed.

But as the story goes, he was not deterred — if anything the resistance made him even more determined to bring his idea to life. That idea would become SAP's keystone product HANA, which was formally announced three years ago. Following a year mixed with skepticism and excitement, and another spent defending it, HANA has turned into the embodiment of SAP's new mantra — simplify everything, do anything.

"I am grateful that SAP felt the potential that it could be disruptive, and it's now HANA," he said.

Plattner said HANA strips away everything not fundamentally necessary for it to function, resulting in a minimalistic data model that runs 20 times faster than predecessors bogged down with redundancies.

"This system [HANA] is so minimalist it basically can not fail," Plattner said.

Circling back to talk of disruptive innovation, Plattner noted another area where some businesses are resistant to change — cloud migration.

"To provide enterprise software in the cloud is simply superior to the on-premise model for many reasons," Plattner said. "So we will have this transition no matter what. It is happening. We must take advantage of it."

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But as much as Plattner preached disruption, he made sure to tell the audience comprised largely of SAP users that the platform is non-disruptive for existing customers. User-specific personalization will carry forward, Plattner stressed.

"The user can decide when they want to make the transition," he said. "This is a mistake we made before."

SAP continued to sell HANA all the way to the end of the keynote, even bringing CIOs from John Deere and ConAgra on stage to implore the audience to give HANA a chance to blow thier minds.

The massive convincing effort could be seen as both encouraging and troubling. Clearly, SAP stands unified behind HANA, and if the information they presented is correct, it does offer a chance for businesses to streamline their cloud applications. But the fact that SAP still feels the need to hard-sell the concept could be indicitive of hiccups the company is experiencing with its own customers as it encourages them to make the migration. 

Still, Hasso Plattner holds steadfast in his HANA mission. 

"For me, it is the biggest step forward for enterprise systems."