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5/1/2012
01:24 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD

Getting to the facts in the war of words surrounding SAP's Hana and Oracle's Exalytics platforms.

There's been a lot of chest thumping of late by SAP and Oracle regarding their fledgling in-memory products, Hana and Exalytics.

SAP has been confidently claiming that its Hana in-memory database will quickly steal database market share that it took Oracle decades to win. It will start with SAP Business Warehouse (BW) deployments, the company says, and by the end of this year, once Hana gains the ability to run core enterprise applications, Hana will start invading the transactional database market.

Oracle's Larry Ellison and Safra Catz have missed few opportunities to discredit Hana in recent months. But executive VP Thomas Kurian took the slams a level deeper on Friday with a one-hour Webinar clearly intended to sow seeds of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of would-be Hana customers. The session was billed as an Exalytics seminar, but each point set up a contrast with Hana. Kurian claimed, among other things, that SAP's product costs five times to 50 times more than Exalytics and that it doesn't support SQL (relational) or MDX (multidimensional) query languages, requiring apps to be rewritten to run on the new database.

[ Want more on SAP's latest moves? Read SAP Launches Attack On Database, Mobile App Markets. ]

So what's the truth behind all these claims and counter claims? SAP database executive Steve Lucas posted a blog on Monday rebutting most of Oracle's claims, and also I spent some time with SAP's CTO, Vishal Sikka, and Gartner analyst Don Feinberg on some of the technical points, as I'll detail below. But first a bit of background.

SAP has always said customers will be free to choose whatever database they want, but the company is counting on Hana's in-memory performance to catapult it to a leading position in the database market. The advantages of in-memory technology are well documented, but SAP has bigger ambitions for the technology than any other vendor. With Hana, the goal is to support "transformational" business advantage, not just faster queries.

Gas and electric utility Centrica, for example, uses a Hana-based app to capture and analyze the massive amount of data generated by smart meters. With real-time analysis of usage as frequently as every 15 minutes (rather than just monthly totals), Centrica has a clearer understanding of usage by neighborhood, the size of the homes or businesses, building types and other dimensions.

Centrica also can exploit Hana's performance to interact with customers in new ways. The utility can change consumption patterns by, for example, creating tailored discounts to encourage specific customers (particularly big commercial customers) to shift their energy consumption to off-peak hours. Efficiency programs can target specific customers segments identified though fine-grained analysis. And to help customers help themselves, the utility can give customers insight into their energy usage patterns with online and mobile tools that track changes in real time, so they can see their energy loads in specific operating modes. That's not something you can achieved with daily batch updates into a conventional data warehouse.

SAP now has nearly a dozen of these new applications designed specifically for Hana, including sales and operations planning, cash and liquidity management, and, for retail, trade-promotion management and merchandising and assortment management. SAP has couple dozen more apps in development. In some cases apps fitting these descriptions already existed, but they've been redesigned to take advantage of what SAP calls "real, real-time" -- meaning you can take action based one what's happening now, not what happened yesterday or a few hours or even minutes ago.

SAP's hype about these apps is getting a little ahead of deployed market reality. Both Hana and Oracle Exalytics can point to dramatic before-and-after differences in query speeds. (Even SAP grants that Exalytics can accelerate queries.) SAP says the real payoff from Hana will be in transforming business processes, not just accelerating queries. But we haven't seen enough solid, real-world customer examples documenting transformed business competitiveness.

SAP recently offered a handful of customer examples, including Centrica (mentioned above), Aqualectra (another utility), Medidata (a SaaS-based service firm that helps big pharmaceutical companies run clinical trials), and an unnamed Japanese retailer. But the summary stories were loaded with platitudes like, "Hana helps us bring our customers new efficiencies that they never even dreamed of." Okay, like what? If I'm spending big bucks, I want rich details about tangible competitive advantage. Hana became generally available last summer, and early ramp-up customers were quoted at SAP's Sapphire event last year. So it's time to start hearing about the detailed case examples and testimonials. I'm hoping that happens at Sapphire later this month.

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UliBethke
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UliBethke,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2012 | 9:17:55 AM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
SAP Hana can't really be compared to either Exalytics or Exadata. Oracle has no similar product that can currently compete.

For my full two cents have a look on my blog: http://www.business-intelligen...

brian9p
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brian9p,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/31/2012 | 4:17:42 AM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
SAP has a plan to migrate its large base of application users to its database platform. It already has the fastest growing share in the database market and is eyeing the number two position by 2013 http://www.informationweek.in/...
Amyn Rajan
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Amyn Rajan,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/8/2012 | 5:36:29 PM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
HANA does support the MDX query language. In fact, Simba worked very closely with SAP to build MDX capabilities directly into HANA. Uwe Fischer from SAP and I presented at the SAP BI conference in March this year how you can easily connect from Microsoft Excel to SAP HANA using OLE DB for OLAP (ODBO) and the MDX query language.

From the Oracle side, the Oracle database does not support the MDX query language natively like HANA does. For Oracle database OLAP Option, you need to separately license the Simba MDX Provider for Oracle OLAP to get this capability.

Oracle Times Ten also does not support the MDX query language.

Oracle Essbase does support the MDX query language. However, Essbase only supports XMLA and does not support ODBO. Therefore, many applications like Microsoft Excel will not be able to connect to Essbase using the MDX query language.

To summarize:

SAP BW - MDX (yes), ODBO (yes), XMLA (yes)
SAP HANA - MDX (yes), ODBO (yes), XMLA (yes)
Oracle database OLAP Option - MDX (add-on from Simba), ODBO (add-on from Simba), XMLA (coming soon from Simba)
Oracle Times Ten - MDX (no), ODBO (no), XMLA (no)
Oracle Essbase - MDX (yes), ODBO (no), XMLA (yes)
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2012 | 8:11:44 PM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
Exactly, they will need some sort of redundant clustering configuration before anyone uses HANA as an RDB. If it is just a stand alone x86 server with a ton of DRAM, the chances of failure are way too high for a production DB. Even if the process of reloading data from HDD is simple (and there are no compression, dedup, transformation processes), it is going to take awhile for HANA to reload several TB of data from HDD to any location. You are back to the HDD IOPS bottleneck issue.

Another issue that concerns people about HANA is that SAP seems to be pursuing an Oracle "own the stack" strategy. Originally they were an ERP provider, then they added Netweaver and became and application server and pseudo middleware provider, then they added BI and DW, now they have Sybase and HANA and are becoming a database provider. They say that they will be an open provider, preserve choice, etc, but they will have a great deal of power over accounts that are SAP from DB through applications.
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2012 | 7:50:27 PM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
Where am I supposed to "do my home work"? SAP has zero implementations of HANA as RDB, it's not even supported at this point. There is no documentation on HANA for RDB.

"This is real stuff. HANA simply reads the data from disks on startup that is intitially required in RAM."

I get it. How long does it take to rebuild a few TB from disk to DRAM in the case of a memory error or server failure? What happens to all of those IOs that occur in a live OLTP database when HANA is not online? How does it sync the HDD copy to the production DRAM instance to enable near real time fail over so your primary RDB is not down for an extended period? They will have to answer those questions before anyone puts a live SAP RDB on HANA.

"Businesses are screaming for realtime access to OTLP data. It has always been so problematic and the pain runs deep."

I am familiar with the IOPS bottleneck coming off of HDD. My question is, does closing this bottleneck and improving OLTP response time "transform" anyone's business, especially SAP's core industrial and retail accounts? If you can get an materials config processed at GE half second faster or process a POS transaction at Wal-Mart half a second faster, what are the concrete cost savings or new revenue opportunities? The situations where it might be transformational are in the industry where SAP does not have a strong account base, financial services.

"Data latency is problematic and data duplication baloons the storage cost of traditional warehouses"

Are you talking about databases or data warehouses? Data latencies are generally not an issue in data warehouses. Various in-memory, SSD, massive parallel processing and columnar compression technologies have been around for years. You can make a data warehouse perform at insane rates with something like a Netezza appliance or TM1 for small workloads capable of being run entirely in DRAM.

It is not as though SAP does not use dedup/compression and you do not pay for it. It is baked into HANA instead of being a separate appliance.

This could be as good as SAP thinks it is going to be, but at this point they have an in-memory DW. I will await the details of the RDB.

D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
5/2/2012 | 4:06:41 PM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
Good comments. Indeed the current Hana platform includes backup to SSD, and SAP claims it's simple matter to restore. SAP hasn't released Hana support for transactional environments as yet, but CTO Vishal Sikka tells me it will certainly be adding all the high-availability and workload management tools you'd expect to run mission-critical applications. Another case of SAP confidence, but the market will have to vet these capabilities once they're available. Ramp up is expected late this year, so don't expect GA until mid to late 2013 at the earliest. --Doug Henschen
GPATEL000
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GPATEL000,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2012 | 1:19:36 PM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
Please do your home work and do not imagine. This is real stuff. HANA simply reads the data from disks on startup that is intitially required in RAM. No transformations are required since the data is written and stored once and transformations done dynamically as the data is accessed in main ram.

Businesses are screaming for realtime access to OTLP data. It has always been so problematic and the pain runs deep. Data latency is problematic and data duplication baloons the storage cost of traditional warehouses
Sam Iam
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Sam Iam,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/2/2012 | 1:32:33 AM
re: Hana and Exalytics: SAP's Hype Versus Oracle's FUD
The largest issue is that DRAM is still not a persistent state storage medium. If your server crashes or you have a memory error, all of that data goes away. I imagine SAP would recommend you keep a spare copy on SSD or HDD, but how long will it take to transform the data into whatever format is required for HANA DRAM, ensure that the logs are concurrent, load a few TB of data back on to DRAM, etc? Probably quite a while. That isn't going to work in an OLTP order management system or a similar workload with constant IO. They will need a RAC or PureScale equivalent, some technology that can keep the HANA DB up and running with a primary server failure, before it takes on Oracle or DB2.

As you mention, I don't think there are a bunch of people screaming about the need for millisecond response time from OLTP workloads, especially in SAP's core industrial and retail accounts. In your average tire manufacturer or food CPG company, there are no "transformational" effects of getting .01 instead of .24 second responses to queries. It is kind of a solution in search of a problem. In OLAP workloads, in-memory BW has been around for awhile, such as IBM Cognos TM1 or Oracle Hyperion Essbase. There may be specific applications where this makes sense, but not across the board until DRAM gets to be on par with the cost of HDD.
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