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SAP leaders bang the drum for Hana as a platform

Brian McKenna

SAP executives are positioning the supplier’s in-memory database, Hana, as a pivotal technology for its customers.

Speaking to a group of European journalists at the recent Sapphire event in the US, Jim Hagemann Snabe (pictured), co-CEO, and Vishal Sikka, head of technology innovation, said Hana will prove its value as a platform.

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Hagemann Snabe, as he argued for the value of a platform, referred to the supplier’s experience of the acquisition of SuccessFactors: “They had 14 vendors to run their business. It was not a beautiful sight.

“A platform approach is better, more flexible. If we can move our installed base to a Hana-based infrastructure, we have a good chance of being the [best enterprise software] platform”, he said.

He added that the biggest inhibitor of the spread of SAP’s innovation drive, comprising Hana, cloud and mobile, has been the process of adoption itself. 

“Many customers say, ‘That sounds great but how do I get there?' It’s a combination of skills and new types of hardware. If you take SAP as a user, we have moved our BW [business warehouse], our CRM, and our ERP to Hana. That took us 12 months," he said.

“We want adoption to be easier and non-disruptive. Business Suite on Hana is not an upgrade. That would be a big mistake. With our rapid deployment, and now the enterprise cloud we reduce the complexity of the infrastructure. 

"Of course, for emerging markets, it is cleaner. They are leapfrogging a generation of technology. But Hana takes away the need for specialist skills. It speaks SQL – [SAP founder] Hasso Plattner made that important strategic decision”.

He cited, as an example of the relative ease of developing on the in-memory database, the instance of three sixteen-year-old German winners of a Lego robot programming competition.

They demonstrated their robot to German chancellor Angela Merkel at this year’s Cebit IT trade show in Hanover. They had used Hana to get the robot to respond to simulated flooding emergencies.

“They argued only about whether it took them two weeks or three”, said Hagemann Snabe.

He said the in-memory database should give a new lease of life to ERP.

“The more consistent your core is, and the more consistent your data structures and processes are, the more you can leverage the ERP. So it is more relevant than ever. Because of Hana, ERP has become more dramatically relevant,” he said.

Vishal Sikka, who has since Sapphire been put in charge of the entirety of the supplier’s innovation agenda, also said Hana’s significance lay largely in what he maintains is its capacity to act as an enabling platform.

He echoed Hassno Plattner’s remark, standing before a slide listing the 431 startups who have been working on the supplier’s in-memory database since February 2012, that this outward direction was “the future of SAP”.

“It was a deliberate strategic move”, said Sikka. “We had never got close to fast-growing companies, and we have now vowed to be closer to the leading edge”.

Sikka directed an 88-day project which has resulted in SAP Fiori, described by the company as a collection of applications that provide an intuitive user experience for broadly and frequently used SAP software functions, across desktops, tablets and smartphones.

This stemmed, in part, from a collaboration with Google Chrome engineers. “We had wanted to work with Google for a long time. It was a big monkey on our backs that our traditional applications gave a user experience that had not been good”, said Sikka.


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