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SAP Unleashes Major Hana Upgrade

SAP Hana Service Pack 9 adds multi-tenancy, data tiering, and streaming analysis, while answering a longstanding cost complaint.

Doug Henschen

October 24, 2014

5 Min Read
This depiction of the Hana Cloud Platform platform-as-a-service offering reveals why SAP is building so much into the underlying database platform.

SAP does "service pack" updates rather than point releases of its Hana in-memory platform. But make no mistake: Hana Service Pack 9, detailed at this week's TechEd event in Las Vegas, is a major upgrade.

The long list of improvements in Service Pack 9 (SP9), expected by year end, includes support for tiered data storage, multi-tenancy, streaming-data analysis, data integration, and graph analysis. In some cases SAP is adapting assets from elsewhere in its portfolio, like data-integration from BusinessObjects. And in some cases the new capabilities -- like tiered storage and stream processing from Sybase -- are optional, extra-cost features as offered through Hana.

Whether optional or not, the new features bring a lot to Hana. And in at least one case, SAP has addressed a longstanding Hana complaint -- the requirement to store all data in memory. With the Dynamic Tiering feature introduced in SP9, Hana can now store "warm" tables of data on conventional (lower-cost) spinning disks. Only the hot data needed for speedy analysis remains in memory.

[ Want more on SAP's latest results? Read SAP Cloud Plan On Track, Says McDermott. ]

"There has been a lot of commentary about the cost of Hana servers, so we've added the ability to manage on a cost- or performance-basis to determine what data should reside where," said Michael Eacrett, SAP's VP of product management for Hana, in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "You can put the warm data on cheaper storage and have much more relaxed hardware specifications for that tier of storage."

New customers can choose servers with the desired mix of memory and hard-drive capacity. Existing Hana customers wishing to exploit this feature can add attached disk storage or separate new servers to a current deployment, Eacrett said.

To developers, disk-based tables look like any other table, and they're managed within the same database, not separate bolt-on infrastructure. All features of Hana -- security, replication, backup, high-availability, and so on -- apply to both storage tiers, Eacrett insists. Examples of data likely to move to disk include documents and textual data that don't change, like warranties or invoices, raw streaming data from logs or sensors, and other forms of big data.

"This is still active data that you can write to, delete, and update, as on any database, and it's brought into memory as needed," Eacrett explained. It's an ACID-compliant, transactional approach, as opposed to something for analytics only or read-only access to archives.

Figure 1: This depiction of the Hana Cloud Platform platform-as-a-service offering reveals why SAP is building so much into the underlying database platform. This depiction of the Hana Cloud Platform platform-as-a-service offering reveals why SAP is building so much into the underlying database platform.

Adding Multi-Tenancy
The addition of Multi-tenant Database Containers in Hana SP9 will sound familiar to many because it's very similar to the multi-tenancy move Oracle

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took with Oracle Database 12c, Eacrett admits, though in this case it's multi-tenancy on an in-memory database.

"This is native multi-tenancy where each in-memory container is isolated from a security and administrative perspective," Eacrett explained. "Each tenant can have its own DBA, and they can't see data in other tenants."

Memory and CPU are also separately allocated to each tenant. Despite this isolation, all container databases can be deployed, patched, and maintained from the same central database management system. Point-in-time recovery is available for each tenant, but high availability, disaster recovery, and system replication are supported at the complete system (rather than individual tenant) level in this initial release. Eacrett hinted that per-tenant support is likely in a future service pack.

[ Want more on SAP's latest results? Read SAP Cloud Plan On Track, Says McDermott. ]

Given the similarity of what SAP is announcing to what was delivered in 12c and given Oracle's litigious ways, is this announcement likely to spark the next Oracle vs. SAP lawsuit?

"I'm not sure these are patentable features because a lot of the multi-tenant features are very similar to things that came out in the 1970s," said Eacrett. "Basically we're running databases within a database."

SAP itself and SAP customers will be able to exploit multi-tenancy. With all SAP SaaS offerings headed to the Hana Cloud Platform, SAP's platform-as-a-service offering, services such as Ariba, SuccessFactors, CRM Online, Simple Finance, and other SaaS apps will be able to support customers on separate database tenants. Customers running Hana on-premises will be able to spin out separate tenants for applications, data warehouses, data marts, and business groups as they wish.

Figure 2: SAP CEO Bill McDermott now describes Hana as 'the great simplifier.' SAP CEO Bill McDermott now describes Hana as "the great simplifier."

Multi-tenancy is built into Hana with the SP9 release, but Dynamic Tiering and other new features, including data integration, data streaming, and graph analysis, are extra-cost options. Data-integration and data-quality capabilities are adapted from SAP Data Services (formerly BusinessObjects Data Services). The data-streaming capabilities are adapted from Sybase ESP (Event Stream Processing), and they make it possible for Hana database developers to support streaming applications such as fraud detection or logistics track-and-trace. Graph analysis was developed from scratch and will support social-network and supply-chain network analysis.

The options are packaged that way either because many SAP customers already own that software or because not all customers want or need those capabilities, according to Eacrett. But by baking these features into the database, SAP eliminates the need for infrastructure that would otherwise be required to support separate software.

"By collapsing the infrastructure requirements, we're reducing the footprint that customers will have to install and making it easier to deliver Hana as a platform-as-a-service in the cloud," Eacrett explained.

Hana already had built-in application server and predictive analytics capabilities, and this everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach will help Hana eliminate more than just unnecessary copies of data.

Just when conventional wisdom had converged around the cloud being a software story, there are signs that the server market is poised for an upset, too. Get the 2014 State of Server Technology report today. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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