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11/13/2012
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SAP Takes Big Step Putting CRM On Hana

Watch out Salesforce.com: SAP releases a Hana in-memory database upgrade capable of running core transactional applications, starting with a customer relationship package.

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For years now, SAP has said its Hana in-memory database would eventually support both analytic uses and core transactional applications. That day has finally arrived.

SAP on Tuesday reached the first major milestone in running applications in memory with the release of an update of Hana together with a preview release of the SAP 360 Customer solution, a package clearly aimed at competing with Salesforce.com. Under the hood is SAP CRM, an updated core, on-premises application tuned to run on Hana.

SAP's announcement was made at SAP's Sapphire Now event in Madrid, where the vendor also announced the anticipated release of SAP Financials OnDemand. But the center of attention was Hana. SAP has long promised that running both transactional and analytical workloads on a single database would drive "dramatic simplification" by eliminating layers of complexity and data redundancy built into conventional architectures.

With applications like CRM and analytics like data marts, warehouses and analytic apps running on a single database, SAP says Hana will consolidate the database layer. That's the vision, but with just one major core app now supported (with CRM now moving into beta on Hana), customers will still need a separate database(s) for all their other transactional applications.

[ Want more on SAP's evolved cloud computing strategy? Read SAP's Ugly (ByDesign) Baby Gets Prettier. ]

On the database side, SAP released Hana Service Pack Stack 5 (SPS5), which the company described as a simple, plug-in-style update of Hana -- not an "upgrade" or "replacement" that will require an IT-intensive deployment. Nonetheless, the update packs new features including Extended Application Services that will enable customers to deploy HTML5, Javascript, SQL Script, JSON and ODATA applications directly on Hana, without a Web application server that other vendors (like Oracle) would require.

SPS5 also beefs up Hana's analytics capabilities with built-in natural-language-based text analytics (for uses such as sentiment analysis in 31 languages) and a broader set of embedded predictive algorithms than previously available. Hana also now supports PMML (predictive Model Markup Language), so a range of third-party models can now be integrated with Hana.

The vendor says running SAP CRM on Hana reduces the size of CRM databases by 50% because Hana does not require indexes. More than 10 early adopter customers including Lenovo are now running CRM on Hana, according to SAP, and the company is now recruiting customers to join its "ramp-up" beta-testing program. The general release of SAP CRM on Hana would follow within three to six months. Of course, those migrating existing CRM deployments to Hana will also have or acquire the memory-intensive hardware necessary to run the application entirely in memory.

The broader SAP 360 Customer solution that the company introduced on Tuesday goes beyond CRM, addressing not just sales force automation and customer service but also marketing and customer-facing mobile applications.

"It's an entirely new and extended packaging of SAP CRM, and we're going from being a back-end CRM company to enabling front-line employees and consumer experiences," said Amit Sinha, VP of SAP Hana solution marketing.

That billing sounds like it could have been written by Salesforce.com's marketing department, as it emphasizes the front-office worker ties and relationships with marketers that SAP's biggest cloud rival has cultivated through its acquisitions of Radian6 and Buddy Media .

The substance backing up SAP's marketing claim is a long list of bundled applications, including Social Media Analysis (a Hana-based application), Sales OnDemand (a cloud-based sales force automation app), SAP Audience Discover and Targeting (an on-premises app that segments customers using CRM data), and SAP Account Intelligence (an on-premises that analyzes customer-purchase histories using CRM data).

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FritzNelson
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FritzNelson,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/13/2012 | 4:38:49 PM
re: SAP Takes Big Step Putting CRM On Hana
The target for Financials On Demand, as described here, sounds much like NetSuite's mission, where there's something at the core, but NetSuite consolidates around the edges. In a recent interview with InformationWeek, NetSuite's CEO said of this strategy that not too many companies have been successful (financially) moving down market. In other words, good luck to SAP. Overall, though, it sounds like SAP is looking for customers wherever they can find them for now, as they build out their entire portfolio of cloud apps, and around Hana.
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