HANA on premise is not necessarily expensive or difficult to operate. It offers tangible advantages to SAP customers.
In the June edition the German SAP magazine E3 commented on the SAP’s new CIO’s (Bernd Leukert) announcement to rework HANA. In the light of this situation with SAP, the E3 magazine recommended SAP customers to not run the SAP HANA platform by their own.
It is true that to implement HANA correctly and migrate into HANA a bit more is required than for a simple OS/DB migration. However, this is independent of cloud/hosting or on-premise. The reasons are adaptations of the data model and system operations, which are required to utilize the modern in-memory technology, and make the system fit for the future. Many of these adaptations would be necessary in any case to implement upgrades.
SAP and partners offer consulting service and tools to support migrations and continues running of HANA in a cost efficient way. A good starting point is (among others) to take a deep dive into the SAP SLO portfolio and the solution “Road to HANA” which we offer together with SAP.
The general rule of thumb is that data should be stored and used in line with its value.
SAP, the Walldorf, German, based software company opened a new era in data processing with the innovative in-memory technology SAP HANA. As with all revolutionary technologies, reactions range from hype to skepticism. The truth however is that the database technology improves the operation of large SAP systems on one hand, and enables completely new application scenarios on the other.
For many SAP customers this brings huge advantages. SAP’s decision for re-working HANA and any doubts connected to this does not change this basic truth.
Many SAP customers don’t fully see how SAP HANA as database can improve operating SAP systems and how this can help optimize business processes. Our experience shows that in the context of ERP HANA can only help in special scenarios, which can benefit by the in-memory technology. This includes classic applications in ERP such as CO-PA reporting, LIS, but also long running processes such as payroll in HR, MRP runs in ERP etc. Often, the ERP modules and processes still need to be optimized for HANA. The full potential of HANA is not tapped into yet. For business warehousing this is fundamentally different. A simple 1:1 migration of a classic database to HANA can bring tangible improvements of system performance. Of course, a bad data model will not automatically be transformed into a good and efficient one.
A migration can be a quick and easy first step to gain some quick wins in performance and system operations. This should however always be going closely together with housekeeping, NLS (Nearline storage), code-optimization and system monitoring / alerting. A pure migration to HANA is merely band aiding. Putting a bandage on an open wound is a good first step, but no cure.
Unfortunately it appears to be that SAP is struggling to answer the question “Why should a customer migrate to HANA”. Very often the answer is vague improvements and is best summarized with “Just because”. This may lead to a lack of customer confidence and trust with regards to HANA or SAP. However, this does not decrease the pure technological value. SAP and partners have to deliver industry specific use cases that easily and intuitively show value.
A problematic conglomerate of engines?
It is true that SAP HANA combines many engines. Our experience with HANA migrations shows that this fact is usually not problematic for companies switching to HANA. The reason is that when using HANA as database these engines are either not visible or part of a black box. Just a simple comparison: a legacy database also consists of many components, which are intransparent to users (or developers) – as long as the access is done using SQL… After all, who knows exactly how the Oracle-Optimizer works, or how Oracle runs just-in-time precompiled PL-SQL scripts?
In the areas of Business Warehouse and ERP (e.g. when reporting within ERP), the advantages of SAP HANA as SQL-database with in-memory technology outweigh any disadvantages. Other than sometimes stated, the number of engines within HANA does not make it impossible to be maintained. The topic of maintenance is a challenge for SAP as vendor. However, we shouldn’t forget that SAP maintains and develops the ERP suite since decades very successfully, even though the suite consists of many engines (only difference is that they’re called modules).
In our experience, the recommendation for SAP customers to currently not use SAP HANA is exaggerated.
Simple to use as database
SAP HANA is easy to run as replacement of a legacy database when used for a data warehouse. SAP Customers don’t need a bunch of special engines or the HANA-studio to achieve this. All SAP customers in the BW area can benefit from this advantage, starting with performance improvements and the flexibility for reporting this brings.
Looking at costs this may be an initial investment. Often, SAP-customers combine this with overhauls of the IT landscape or with projects, which were planned in any case. “HANA is expensive” is in our experience a myth originating in the fact that often other overdue projects are integrated into a HANA migration. These can be system consolidations, harmonizations, upgrades, archiving / NLS, sometimes even Unicode, outsourcing, and process changes, etc. These seem to make HANA migrations long running, expensive, and tedious. In real life this often follows the thinking “take three, pay two”, while the resulting complexity of projects is underestimated.
On-premise is an alternative
SAP HANA is not necessarily expensive or difficult to run on premise. Customers deciding to run HANA in their own data center have full control. Hosting or cloud can make sense, but this needs to be validated in the light of the full contract and the SLAs defined in the contract. Many customers, are initially blinded by the light; of the seemingly cost-effective hosting models. However, as soon as services are required which are not part of the hosting contract they have the potential to turn out to be very expensive. It is not without good reason that every year several of our customers switch their hosting partner. This always means a migration from data center to data center and leads to process changes and hidden additional costs. This is true for both “HANA in the cloud” as well as for the hosting of classical solutions.
Good preparation is everything
When preparing a migration it is important to clarify which data is to be used in real time with SAP HANA. If a business wants to use the possibilities of real time reporting then it requires an intelligent data management to guarantee data quality, performance, and storage. Many businesses struggle heavily with this first step already. The reason is simple: the underlying data models are too complex and the data volume gigantic. Therefore it is difficult to run a valid proof of concept for a migration of the data. To help with this, we as SAP partner offer specialized analysis services and a tool called “Heatseeker”. This helps our customers to put data volume, granularity and frequency of data access into relation and determine the true value of data.
A further, helpful approach is a selective migration, which enables cost effective migrations into SAP HANA with reduced system size. All SAP-customers can benefit from a step-by-step selective migration.
As a first step central use cases should be identified. Subsequently a blueprint combining all data layers needs to be created. This leads to a representative PoC without costly investments into new hardware and software.
SAP HANA is not the solution to all problems. However, it is a database, which is fast as lightning and brings advantages for special scenarios. In the context of increasing infrastructure costs business should consider the value of their data. If they want to tap into the full potentially of HANA they first need to decide which data are worth to be kept in memory for real time access. The topics of data management and Information Lifecycle Management are becoming core IT strategy topics. SAP HANA is the future.