You get the feeling that SAP was bound and determined to announce at this week's Sapphire Conference that its core Business Suite applications are ready to run on the Hana in-memory database platform. But for some the question is, just how ready is "ready?"
It's hard to believe anybody could question Hana's readiness given that SAP has been "preaching about Hana for four years" as company Chairman Hasso Plattner put it in his Thursday keynote.
In 2011, SAP made Hana available to run selected analytic applications. Last year Hana was cleared to run SAP Business Warehouse, the company's data warehouse. This year, the preaching "reached a climax," Plattner said. "It's no longer about Hana, it's about the applications on Hana."
It's different this year because we're talking about running mission-critical ERP and CRM applications on Hana. Data warehouses and analytic apps can go down for a day without really disrupting business, but that's not the case for run-the-company core applications. Yet on Wednesday, SAP announced the general availability of the majority of its Business Suite apps on Hana.
Mind you, it has been little more than 12 weeks since the ramp-up period (SAP's parlance for beta testing) began. But SAP co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe said in his keynote at Sapphire that testing was going so well, it could give Business Suite on Hana a green light "significantly ahead of schedule." He also reported that roughly 100 companies are "working with SAP" to move Business Suite applications to Hana.
[ Want more on SAP's mobile-minded user interface makeover? Read SAP Gives ERP A Facelift. ]
What Snabe didn't say -- and what I learned after talking to customers and asking a lot of questions -- is that only about 10 companies have brought Business Suite applications into production on Hana as of this week. And only four, Under Armour, Florida Crystals, Deere and SAP itself, are going on record about their deployment successes. The other 90 would-be Hana customers are at some stage of studying, pilot testing or preparing for production roll outs.
To put this in perspective, Microsoft's community technology preview (beta) periods for Microsoft SQL Server typically run 10 months to a year and involve more than 100,000 customers downloading and testing beta software. Oracle announced Oracle Database 12c last October, and six months later we're still waiting for general availability.
Granted, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database have to work with an incredible diversity of applications whereas Hana is most likely to be used almost exclusively for SAP applications. (I say "almost" because SAP insists that Hana is compatible with more than just SAP apps because it relies on industry standard SQL. Indeed, SAP has more than 400 startups building on Hana, but few big third-party software vendors are talking about running on Hana.)
So was Business Suite on Hana rushed to market? "We would never announce a product as generally available unless we felt we have a solid solution," Snabe said in a one-on-one interview with InformationWeek. "We have very rigorous processes around quality and around announcing something as generally available, and I feel very good about where we are."
Analysts and consultants I spoke to -- Donald Feinberg of Gartner, Ray Wang of Constellation Research, Animesh Jhalani of VATs Consulting and Jon Reed of JonERP.com -- certainly raised their eyebrows about the short ramp-up period. But there was also a clear understanding and expectation that customers won't be moving core apps onto Hana quickly.
"There's little risk in saying it's GA because it's not like there are thousands of companies waiting in line to deploy ERP on Hana right away," said Reed. Any company moving Business Suite apps to Hana would likely take their time about it and get plenty of hand holding and support from SAP or a partner, Reed said.
Jhalani, who consults with 20 different SAP customers, including Becton Dickinson, Genentech and Roche, said his customers will want to see cost-benefit analyses specific to their businesses. "Most clients are asking about benefits in terms of functionality," he said. "Hana requires new hardware, and to make that kind of investment, they're looking for the value."