Quick Takes on SAP's 'New DB' - InformationWeek

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5/19/2010
05:51 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Quick Takes on SAP's 'New DB'

How soon could the SAP Business Analytic Engine, or "New DB," as Hasso Plattner described it, replace data warehouse infrastructure and the databases underlying applications? Hold on there, dreamer. That's something for years down the road...

I'm generally impressed with most of what SAP announced at SAPPHIRE as well as with the sheer scale and smooth operation of the event. I've had many interviews with SAP executives and customers alike, so here's a roundup of key questions, impressions and takeaways...

  • The SAP Business Analytic Engine looks like a game changer. The product has yet to ship, of course, but the long-term promise is compelling. Big customers I've talked to here, like executives from Kraft and Celestica, are excited as much by the prospect of simplifying their environments as they are by gaining real-time access to application data.
  • How soon could the "New DB," as Hasso Plattner described it, replace data warehouse infrastructure and the databases underlying applications? Hold on there, dreamer. As I explain in this article, that's something for years down the road. The engine/appliance starts as a complementary product (as in "works with what you have," not "complimentary" as in free). The idea is that real-time insight will be so compelling that you'll naturally add this technology to your existing environment. It will first replace separate analytic environments (including ETL) as you gradually move load over to that new environment. Finally, after maybe five or more years, according to co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, [CORRECTION: This was clearly the impression I picked up, but I went back to the recorded interview, and Hagemann Snabe never actually specified a time frame. It's "too soon to tell," was all he actually said about when...] it could replace databases underneath SAP apps -- if that's what you want to do. SAP execs stressed that database choices are entirely up to the customer.
  • What will the technology cost? That's what customers really want to know (I quote an executive from Kraft Foods on this topic here). Those who run the Business Warehouse Accelerator say it's seven-figures expensive, and the cost is mainly SAP licensing, not the hardware. That's not to say the hardware won't be a cost factor. We're talking about accessing vast data stores directly from memory. DRAM is much cheaper than it used to be, but it's still not as inexpensive as spinning disks.
  • Why does SAP need Sybase? The in-memory and column-store technology demonstrated at SAPPHIRE (as part of Business ByDesign and in various lab demos) is all SAP's. The apps vendor has even developed event-processing technology on its own, so there's probably little need to exploit Aleri's super-high-end CEP for SAP's purposes. The main reason SAP needs and wants Sybase is mobility, but I'm sure there are opportunities for SAP to gain database and analytic expertise from Sybase. On the Sybase side, access to in-memory technology, BusinessObjects assets and SAP apps could give that company a big boost. And what's good for a Sybase subsidiary will ultimately be good for SAP.
  • Are enterprises ready for the cultural change? Assuming SAP proves the New DB, there's a possibility that executive ambitions might run afoul of entrenched loyalties, habits, opinions and attitudes among data integration, BI, DBA and other employee constituencies. Will laggards and Luddites place roadblocks in the way of change? I wouldn't worry. This will be a years-long transition and IT people love innovation. If the New DB is truly a better mousetrap, it will win.How soon could the SAP Business Analytic Engine, or "New DB," as Hasso Plattner described it, replace data warehouse infrastructure and the databases underlying applications? Hold on there, dreamer. That's something for years down the road...

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