SAP Hana Overshadows BusinessObjects 4.0 At Sapphire - InformationWeek
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Cindi Howson
Cindi Howson
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SAP Hana Overshadows BusinessObjects 4.0 At Sapphire

The in-memory appliance and the big BI release are both set for release next month, so why is it that only Hana got the limelight and customer testimonials at this week's event?

At SAP's Sapphire conference this week, business analytics dominated a large portion of the exhibit hall in a prime location. Business analytics is SAP's umbrella term that includes data warehousing, information management, and business intelligence. In years past, these topics did not get such prominent positioning at Sapphire, but I was surprised that BusinessObjects 4.0 did not get more attention during the event.

Taking center stage during multiple keynotes was Hana (the SAP High-Performance Analytic Appliance), an innovation that combines in-memory processing and a columnar database on an appliance. What was just an idea at last year's conference was released to rampup in December. Hana customer testimonials were central to CTO Vishal Sikka's keynote, with companies from around the world and across industries touting its value, ease of deployment, and low cost of ownership.

Tom Greene, CIO of Colgate-Palmolive, cited tremendous savings in time with queries going from 77 minutes to 15 seconds. A Bosch-Siemens exec described his company as a data-driven enterprise that makes decisions on facts. The home-appliance manufacturer is using Hana to study profitability by customer and product, a level of analysis that took days before but that now takes seconds on Hana.

Nestle, which sells more than 1 billion consumer products per day, described how Hana lets the company analyze the granular detail, not just the summary aggregates they were previously limited to in SAP Business Warehouse (BW). Nestle's Hana implementation took only three weeks and brought a 2,000-times performance improvement over BW alone. The list of deployment scenarios went on.

The keynotes brought the excitement. I learned more about SAP's product positioning through track sessions, micro forums, and one-on-one sessions. Here are three important clarifications on SAP's data warehousing products:

SAP BW, despite rumors of its demise, will continue as a data warehouse solution for SAP ERP customers. BW is considered to be better suited for financial consolidations and historical aggregates.

Hana is for real-time, granular-data analysis, initially for SAP ERP customers, with expansion beyond that group next year. Hana could be used as the database engine for SAP BW, posing a clear threat to a market currently dominated by Oracle. (IBM would stand to lose database share as well, but IBM is one of the Hana hardware providers.)

Sybase IQ supports larger data volumes than Hana, with a lower price point, and integration with any data source. Sybase IQ is also more proven, with more than 3,000 installations over more than a decade, compared to a score of Hana deployments over the last few months.

The lower acquisition cost for Sybase IQ makes sense given that it's a software-only product, versus the Hana appliance (but then, you'll have to add the cost of hardware for IQ). I wish SAP would publish a price list (like Oracle does!), as Sikka cited Hana running on everything from an Mac mini at the low end to a blade server with 2 terabytes of RAM and 80 cores at the high end. Surely prices will vary across that range.

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