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Even SAP developers didn’t believe it was possible: the story behind SAP HANA

We will probably not exaggerate much by saying that SAP HANA has changed the history of IT enterprise. The whole concept of storing data entirely in the memory was once considered revolutionary and even close to impossible. But going from the impossible idea to the actual solution, the product found its way to the market. What is the secret of SAP HANA that makes it so popular with companies?

 

SYSTEMS DROWNING IN DATA

 

It has all started when companies began to experience more and more data being produced and the demand for faster processing growing bigger. With the massive influx of data, the amount of requests increased exponentially and it became difficult to derive added value from the information at hand. This means, for example, that if you wanted to analyze data generated around the company, you had to wait for hours (at least). It became apparent there was a weak point. Of course, companies needed recent data and they needed them fast. On top of that, they often worked with large sets of different data types.

 

There clearly was a market need for a product which would help customers with access to real-time operational information, faster reacting time, quick detection of trends and better business processes. Think of the high costs of hardware which would handle the increasing data volumes and you get plenty of space for improvement. SAP recognized these issues and started working on a solution.

 

COMING UP WITH A SOLUTION

 

The idea of storing data in memory appeared for the first time in the 90’s. With the evolution of RAM, the idea of in-memory computing evolved as well. In-memory database keeps data in the memory, not in the hard disk and retrieval is much faster (in theory 10 times) than traditional database.

 

That’s how a concept of relational database management system was formulated. In the RDBMS, data no longer resides on hard disk but in the memory (RAM). Since all data is stored in the local memory where all operations are executed as well, operations can be extremely fast. The point is that you no longer waste time on loading the data from hard-disk to RAM.

 

HARNESSING THE IDEA

 

The technology got a green light and SAP company commenced works on its new product – HANA is considered to be the fastest software launch in the SAP history. The vision was officially announced in 2010 by Hasso Plattner, supervisory board chairman and chief software advisor in SAP. The first customer appeared a year later and until today there have been more than 400 licenses issued, with about 200 implementations underway.

“We said, ‘We want to create a database with zero response time.’ Only in a university could you do this. In SAP, they would have left the meeting and said ‘He’s too old, he’s lost it.”

– Hasso Plattner on the  on the early development of HANA

 

SAP HANA relies on the SAP In-Memory Database, which is a massively parallel processing data storage and it brings data physically closer to the CPU (CPU stands for central processing unit – the brain of the computer). What HANA does is that it moves data into the main memory off disks. Using HANA, companies can run analysis by processing high volumes of data on demand (which is called real-time analytics).

 

HANA AND ITS COMPETITION

 

So what distinguishes the SAP HANA platform? Other available systems are either good at dealing with transactional workloads or at analytical ones, but not at both. There are transactional DBMS (database management system) products which you can use for analytical work. But the process is rather long: the workloads are separated into different databases. Then the data is extracted from the ERP transactional system into BW (which is a reporting database). HANA makes the best out of these two worlds: you no longer have to spend time loading data from one database into another and there is no need for building structures which would enable reporting. On the contrary, as already mentioned, you can report on transactions live as they are happening. HANA also saves you a lot of time, effort and costs since you no longer need to move data between the database and applications if you want to perform additional operations.

 

HANA is a game changer when it comes to speed and performance. It empowers businesses to analyze their data in seconds and enables effective management.


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