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5/7/2013
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SAP Cloud Push Starts With Hana

SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud service promises fast track to in-memory application and data warehouse performance.

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SAP introduced the Hana Enterprise Cloud service on Tuesday to help customers quickly take advantage of in-memory performance. The service will enable customers to move ERP or CRM applications, data warehouses or all of the above onto the Hana in-memory database running on SAP infrastructure.

Hana has been available as a service through Amazon Web Services (AWS) since last year, but the Hana Enterprise Cloud runs in seven SAP data centers around the globe, with two in North America, three in Europe and two in the Asia Pacific region. The service will bring large pools of compute capacity to midsize and larger customers running mission-critical applications.

The emphasis of the new service is on big commitments. Target customers will have at least a terabyte of data and could make use of hundreds of compute cores to quickly take advantage of Hana's in-memory performance, according to Vishal Sikka, a member of SAP AG's executive board.

"We're breaking down the barriers that we've been led to believe exist between rapid delivery of capabilities [via the cloud] and the ability to handle complex, mission-critical workloads," Sikka told InformationWeek.

[ Want more on SAP's corporate performance? Read SAP Outperforms Oracle With Steady Financial Results. ]

Even large manufacturing customers will be able to "run their entire infrastructure" on Hana in the cloud, Sikka said, while gaining the advantages of real-time performance, a point of contrast with rival cloud offerings.

"After 13 years, you still can't do analytics of any significance in Salesforce.com," Sikka said. "Even basic reporting can't be done in real time, and if it involves multidimensional analytics, forecasting, large data sets or fast-moving data, forget it."

SAP has an array of options for migrating data into the cloud, including Sybase and BusinessObjects data management tools. There also will be options for synchronizing data when customers opt for hybrid deployments, with some apps remaining on premises and others moving onto Hana Enterprise Cloud to take advantage of in-memory performance.

SAP has spent two years building out capacity for the Hana Enterprise Cloud service, both at SAP data centers and those gained through the acquisitions of Sybase, SuccessFactors and Ariba. The Hana cloud won't be as elastic as the AWS option in that it will entail monthly subscriptions, versus hour-by-hour usage on AWS. Customers will be able to run multi-application workloads, including analytics, Business Warehouse (BW), CRM and ERP, and shift subscribed capacity to the workloads most in need of available power.

Little detail was available on the technical nature of the Hana cloud, although Sikka noted that SAP eschews virtualization for performance reasons, another sign that the service is akin to hosting on SAP servers. But the whole point is time to value, and on that score, beta customer Florida Crystals was able to complete an ERP and BW migration within two months.

"As part of our aggressive global growth strategy, it was paramount that we have the ability to deploy mission critical SAP applications powered by Hana as quickly as possible via the cloud," said Don Whittington, CIO at the sugar manufacturer, in a statement.

Hana is gaining interest among SAP customers, according to Steve Cardell, president of the enterprise application services practice at SAP systems integrator HCL.

"People originally thought of Hana as a sort of BI and big data tool, but a lot of customers are now opening their minds to the idea of migrating the whole SAP Business Suite onto Hana," said Cardell in an interview with InformationWeek.

According to HCL, upwards of 90% of CIOs and senior executives express interest in Hana, with one possible play being reducing complexity through system consolidation.

"Some companies are waiting on consolidation to see if Hana is fit for the purposes of doing a wholesale migration," said Cardell.

Tuesday's announcement came ahead of what's expected to be a series of cloud-related announcements at SAP's annual Sapphire event next week in Orlando, Fla. During a conference call with financial analysts last month, co-CEO Bill McDermott said SAP would be introducing an array of private, public and multi-tenant cloud services to give customers more deployment options and faster routes to innovation.

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