SAP's roadmap: All HANA all the time

SAP executives stopped short of saying the company's HANA platform would cure cancer, but not by much.

NEW YORK---SAP's product roadmap and innovation strategy is wrapped up in its HANA analytics platform, but when you strip away the technology the software company's playbook is well worn and from the 1990s. SAP aims to revamp processes, work industries and team up with customers on innovation.

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The biggest takeaway from SAP's investor symposium is that HANA, the company's in-memory database and analytics platform, is going to be used to power cloud applications, consolidate the software footprint and remake processes.

Vishal Sikka, SAP's technology lead and member of the company's executive board, stopped short of saying HANA would cure cancer, but not by much. HANA will be the underpinning of everything SAP does. HANA is expected to be one of SAP's primary ways to grab wallet share.

hana platform



Among the key claims on Tuesday:

  • HANA has more than 1,300 implementations. 
  • Companies like Conagra Foods are using HANA for predictive analytics. 
  • HANA will revamp the way SAP does financials, but Sikka said news on that development will come at a future date. 
  • ERP built on HANA has a 30 percent smaller footprint. 
  • HANA will hold all the database services, app libraries and app services and eliminate data silos. 
  • Back-end processes will be revamped. 
  • HANA will power simulations, machine-to-machine analytics and real-time behavior monitoring tailored to industries.

"We are working on this day and night to bring the benefits of simplification," said Sikka.

Internally, SAP plans to use HANA to power its cloud portfolio. 

sap cloud portfolio


He added that the goal is to use HANA to bring the benefits of big data to customers. "Data by itself is dead without a process and thread connected to it," said Sikka. "Without the process providing context on the data it's dead."



For SAP, the HANA stakes are high. Sikka said the transformation to business isn't different than what ERP did to companies in the 1990s. If HANA doesn't work, SAP's relevance will be threatened. "If we don't do it we lose our relevance and we can't let that happen," said Sikka.

Can HANA sell?

HANA is a fast-growing business for SAP, but analysts aren't sure what is HANA revenue vs. application licensing. HANA is wrapped up into other products.

The primary effort will revolve around selling HANA via line of business applications and the executives---chief marketing officers, data scientists and HR leaders---who buy them.

Conagra's Simon

SAP is focused on industries as well as being co-innovation partners with its 400 largest customers. SAP had customer Mindy Simon, vice president of information technology at Conagra Foods, talk about HANA and its implementation. She said Conagra evaluated HANA rivals, but couldn't replicate what SAP could do.

Keep in mind SAP wouldn't bring Simon to an investor powwow if she was disgruntled, but she had a few points:

  • HANA was her fastest SAP implementation and Simon noted that the company has never been able to do things in weeks. 
  • Conagra was able to try HANA on smaller projects and then expand. "Flexibility was the differentiator," she said. "The barrier to get into HANA wasn't high."
  • Forecasting materials and dynamic pricing was the win for Conagra.
  • Conagra did use HANA to replace other databases.

The game for SAP is to use its advantages with integration between cloud, on-premise apps and HANA to entice customers to enjoy lock-in and that suite approach that historically wins in software.

Will the suite ultimately win in the cloud too? SAP sure hopes so.