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5/17/2011
08:14 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Exclusive: SAP-Oracle Tussle Alters Hana Appliance Plan

SAP is rolling out its Hana in-memory appliance all right, but a hitch could lead to a different data-integration approach for customers running Oracle database.

It's no secret that SAP and Oracle are stuck in a bad marriage. And as is usually the case in these situations, it's the children -- in this case the SAP Hana Appliance and Oracle's Exadata platform -- that end up being damaged.

Talking to customers and analysts at this week's SAP Sapphire user conference in Orlando, I've learned that there has been a bit of uncertainty, in the minds of at least some would-be buyers of SAP Hana, as to whether they would be able to use the new in-memory appliance from SAP with the Oracle databases upon which they run SAP apps.

SAP customer Maple Leaf Foods, a Toronto-based baked goods, poultry, and pork supplier, is ready and eager to buy and use Hana, but CIO Jeffrey Hutchinson told me, "We haven't purchased Hana yet because SAP and Oracle haven't worked out the Oracle runtime license issue."

I immediately asked both SAP and Oracle: What issue? Oracle has been tight-lipped, providing only a partial answer. SAP initially said it has laid all those issues to rest, and there will be absolutely no problem getting data from Oracle databases running SAP apps into Hana.

But it appears SAP will have to use different integration software -- perhaps temporary, perhaps not -- departing from its original approach for doing real-time integration into Hana. More explanation on this below.

The stakes in this latest exchange are huge for both companies. SAP's Hana is the latest wave of an in-memory computing strategy that will carry the company and its customers into the next decade.

For now, Hana is aimed at speeding analytic inquiry -- rapid analysis, forecasting, profit- and promotion-simulation and so on. The long-term plan is for the in-memory technology to serve as both the analytical database and the transactional database running SAP applications.

Exadata is Oracle's next-generation database platform, so Hana is a competitor. Exadata includes a mix of conventional disk drive, flash cache and RAM memory. It's not an in-memory approach, but it does support both analytic and transactional workloads (though not within the same database, as SAP is promising). Exadata is the path forward for a huge swath of Oracle database customers. SAP Hana and the in-memory strategy are direct threats to that business.

Some 60% of SAP's customers currently run their apps on Oracle's database, according to Gartner estimates. If Oracle can somehow impinge customer integration with or performance on Hana, it would put a crimp in SAP's in-memory ambitions.

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