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SAP Delivers Promised Analytic Appliance

HANA is the application vendor's first step in a multi-year plan to reinvent enterprise IT with in-memory computing.

SAP introduced the first in a planned series of developments around its column-store and in-memory computing technologies on Wednesday with the release of SAP High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) software.

SAP HANA promises near real-time analysis of dynamic data within SAP applications as well as external systems to deliver time-sensitive insight.

Utility companies, for example, could use HANA to monitor and manage power loads as usage levels fluctuate. Airlines, hotel chains and e-retailers could monitor sales and adjust pricing in real time to continuously optimize revenue and profitability. And any sales-driven organization could gauge the sales pipelines and provide up-to-the-minute forecasts.

These and other new applications based on real-time transactional insight will be delivered in the coming year, according to SAP. The first HANA-based application, also introduced on Wednesday, is SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning.

It's a surprising choice as a first HANA application in that it does not involve fast-changing transactional data, as employee ranks don't tend to change from day to day. But the predictive modeling and ad-hoc simulation required for rapid-fire workforce planning would not be achievable without HANA's in-memory analysis capabilities, SAP said.

Image Gallery: SAP Unveils Integrated BI Strategy Roadmap
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
HANA is merely the opening salvo in SAP's long-range plan to move its entire application portfolio onto the in-memory platform. HANA is pitched as a "non-disruptive" add on to existing environments. As such, it supplements, rather than replaces, the SAP Business Warehouse (BW) and it works alongside existing BW Accelerator (BWA) and SAP BusinessObjects Explorer deployments.

Over time, SAP says it will release upgrades of HANA that will replace BWA, Explorer and BW itself. Eventually, SAP says it will give customers the option of running their entire application platform on top of the technology. As outlined by SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner at the company's SAPPHIRE event earlier this year, that final step will erase the boundary between transaction processing and data warehousing, eliminating the need for costly and redundant infrastructure.

The HANA software available today will be preinstalled on appliances powered by multi-core, 64-bit blade servers from hardware partners including HP, IBM, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens and Cisco.

These blade servers have up to two terabytes of onboard random access memory (RAM) and sell for as little as $50,000 per blade. That combination has forced a rethinking of data management to take advantage of the massive computing power available, SAP said.

"We can now take the raw transactional data out of ERP systems and other sources, replicate that data into HANA and let end users directly analyze the information without aggregations, summarizations or transformations, as the data comes in," said Vishal Sikka, SAP's executive board member overseeing technology and innovation.

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