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Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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6 SAP Hana Customers Share Early Lessons

SAP Hana deployment patterns, payoffs emerge in Burberry, Bangkok Airways, ConAgra, John Deere, Mercedes AMG, and Spirit Aerosystems details shared at Sapphire conference.

Don't tell me, show me. That's been the stance of the majority of SAP customers who have thus far resisted the company's four-year-long campaign to sell them on its Hana in-memory technology. At this week's Sapphire Conference in Orlando, Fla., SAP still did a lot of telling, but it also let Hana customers do more showing.

SAP pulled out the stops on Wednesday, with Burberry, ConAgra, and John Deere joining a two-and-a-half-hour marathon keynote session hosted, in turn, by SAP chairman Hasso Plattner and recently promoted tech chief Bernd Leukert. And in separate sessions with smaller groups of analysts and reporters, Bangkok Airways, Mercedes AMG, and Spirit Aerosystems shared their Hana deployment details.

[Want more on the news from Sapphire? Read SAP's McDermott: Say Goodbye To 'Too Complex'.]

Of course, customers aren't invited to keynote stages or conference rooms to criticize their hosts. But there were plenty of use cases and deployment details for Hana skeptics and holdouts to consider. The pattern that emerged in this small sample is that the larger firms are doing analytical projects, whereas the smaller firms are taking the lead on putting their entire SAP Business Suite on Hana. Here's a roundup of what we learned.

Bangkok Airways: This regional Asian airline with 25 Airbus aircraft and 2,500 employees completed a greenfield deployment of more than a dozen modules of SAP's Business Suite on Hana in April. The project replaced home-grown applications and got underway in May 2013. The core applications -- spanning finance, materials management, maintenance, asset management, sales and distribution, and more -- are used by 450 corporate employees. Another 300 field employees working at gates and on tarmacs are using custom mobile apps built on the SAP Unwired Platform to track the use of jet bridges and airport facilities and the uploading of food and fuel.

The selection of Hana rather than a traditional database introduced slightly higher hardware costs, according to Dr. Pratit Santiprabhob, the senior tech adviser to the company's president, but it chose Hana because it represents "the technology of the future," he told InformationWeek. "Hana gives us the assurance that we can grow the system over the next five years and beyond," he said. The airline is using a scale-out, rather than scale-up, architectural approach with Hana so it can simply add nodes to the system (rather than swapping in bigger servers) to support future growth.

ConAgra Foods and Deere & Company are among the largest customers moving workloads to SAP's Hana platform.
ConAgra Foods and Deere & Company are among the largest customers moving workloads to SAP's Hana platform.

Burberry: This luxury retailer with some 9,000 employees started building a customer one-to-one application on Hana two years ago. That application now analyzes data from SAP e-commerce, Salesforce.com, and social feeds, and it serves up customer insight to in-store salespeople through an HTML5 interface on iPads. Burberry had a positive experience with Hana, according to CTO John Douglas, so it now plans to swap out Oracle database and put the SAP Business Suite on Hana. That work will start with SAP Retail and SAP BW.

"We're now at inflection point where we need a step change to real-time applications," said Douglas. "It started with customer one-to-one... but now we're going to put the whole business on one platform, in memory."

ConAgra Foods: This $18 billion consumer goods giant with 35,000 employees is in the process of moving multiple analytical applications onto Hana, as we first reported in February, and Mindy Simon, ConAgra's VP of IT, took the stage to explain material forecasting and dynamic pricing applications that take advantage of near-real-time, what-if analysis against granular, non-aggregated data held in memory in Hana.

"We're working to simulate what the business is going to do, what the markets and our competitors are going to do, and, ultimately, how that's going to impact our results," said Simon, who noted the difficulty of reimagining what could be done with real-time access to granular data in-memory rather than aggregates in traditional databases. "Until you start using this technology, you won't realize that the only constraints that you have are in your head," she said. "Once you see the speed and discreet-level data, it will open you up to how you can innovate."

John Deere: This iconic agricultural equipment manufacturer with 67,000 employees took part in the first Business Suite-on-Hana announcement back in January 2013 and said it was testing financial and manufacturing resource planning processes on Hana. At that time a John Deere exec also "envisioned" real-time information streaming from connected Deere farm and construction equipment in the field so the company could help customers with repairs, parts ordering, and preventative maintenance.

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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 ... View Full Bio
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D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/6/2014 | 10:04:37 AM
Re: Bangkok Airways
Not many hardware details, other than to say that it made things a bit more challenging as there was limited Hana expertise and fewer supporting hardware supplier options in the southeast Asian market in general. SAP execs mentioned at Sapphire that they are supporting both scale-up and scale-out deployment, depending ont he needs and charachteristics of the deployment.  
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