Follow @ASUG365 for all the latest news from ASUG.
Last week, customers started to see what the roadmap to HANA, SAP’s in-memory database, looks like.For starters, BW customers can be reassured that SAP is committed to the data warehouse deployed by 15,000 of them. By the second half of 2011, customers will have the option to migrate to HANA as the database running BW. It’ll be a traditional database migration using the SAP R3Load tools, and SAP promises it’ll dramatically accelerate query performance and simplify administration.In turn, SAP started to show what in-memory has in store for customers that don’t have huge amounts of data. SAP plans to release sales and operation planning, and cash and liquidity management applications in the third quarter of this year. By the fourth quarter, applications in trade promotion management, intelligent payment broker, smart meter analytics, profitability engine, customer revenue performance management, merchandise and assortment planning, and energy management for utility companies are due.“People have wondered, at what point does HANA become real for the rest of us?” said Jim Shepherd, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner in a phone interview. “These are applications [SAP’s either] building from scratch or refactoring substantially. I think it is certainly surprising and kind of a breakthrough. I don’t think anyone anticipated anything as aggressive as a whole set of applications coming out in the second half of this year.”In time, the code of every SAP application will be refactored to run on in-memory technology, including and especially the Business Suite and SMB applications. That is not a reality now. While SAP has Business One and Business All-in-One running directly on the HANA database in its labs, as SAP CTO Vishal Sikka noted at the event in Boston, none of HANA’s pilot or ramp-up customers is running it as the database under the transactional applications. Instead, data in the CRM system that is running on DB2, for instance, is replicated into HANA using the Sybase replication server. SAP says this can be done for customers on releases as far back as 4.6c.What was most clear at SAP’s event is Sikka’s belief that HANA will dramatically simplify running SAP applications—enabling “innovation without disruption,” a favorite SAP line.As in-memory technology is adopted, SAP claims, there are fewer moving parts between delivering the data in that SAP back-end to end-users. In-memory should save money on hardware costs. And because database administration will be easier, Basis administrators can use their time for other tasks. Calculations sit in libraries in the database, “liberating,” as Sikka put it, the application from its complexity. SAP’s in-memory applications will even allow organizations to turn off certain functionality they replace in the on-premise modules—for instance, HANA Cash and Liquidity Management will allow organizations to essentially turn off the dunning functionality in the FI module.But are there disruptive steps and choices customers will be faced with along the way? For example, there are those customers running BWA—the Business Warehouse Accelerator, which can almost be called an early iteration of HANA. For BWA customers, or potential ones, there’s a big question: Should we wait to buy it, or extend our investment?SAP says don’t wait, and that the transition to HANA for BW and BWA customers who want to get there will be painless. Execs also say that the HANA roadmap continues to support third-party databases for customers who prefer to run BWA; those customers will not be required to move to the HANA data layer or database.Some BWA customers I have spoken with have confidence SAP will provide them with a clear path to HANA, while others have questions.And then there are plenty of questions for the longer-term, such as how exactly will the existing applications be refactored?Sikka lent some clues to that when asked about SAP’s enhancement package strategy in light of the in-memory direction.“The enhancement package notion was fantastic—a great example of Timeless Software,” he said during an interview in Boston. “However, the practice, if you ask any customer…the implementation of the enhancement package strategy left a lot to be desired.”The enhancement package strategy is heading in a new direction, Sikka stated, and “you can be absolutely certain that the in-memory based, re-thought applications, the natively mobile applications, will all come to the existing suite customers as a part of that. This is the mechanism by which you can refactor and rethink the existing applications.”One thing is clear: Those PowerPoint slides and handwritten drawings Hasso Plattner