This article is part of our Essential Guide: SAP HANA in-memory analytics: Harness the power of real-time

Making sense of SAP HANA and in-memory computing – a user view

For SAP users, in-memory computing tools such as SAP HANA promise to deliver a step change when it comes to data processing and analysis

Advances in technology, improved connectivity and growing regulatory compliance demands mean that organisations are dealing with a larger amount of more varied data than ever before.

As a result, more and more people are talking about big data, while also looking at how they can use all this information they are collecting to improve their business operations. However, as data volumes increase, many organisations are asking how to process such a huge amount of information in a timely manner.

For SAP users, in-memory computing tools such as SAP HANA promise to deliver a step change when it comes to data processing and analysis. Furthermore, with SAP’s recent announcement regarding the availability of Business Suite on HANA, in-memory technology is on the verge of going mainstream for a number of organisations.

One of the most immediate benefits of in-memory computing is its processing speed. No longer do organisations have to access information stored in a data warehouse. Instead, transactional data is stored in memory, meaning that analytics can be carried out in real time. 

SAP HANA’s architecture stands to accelerate routine reporting functions, such as the ability to run end-of-period reports in seconds or minutes, instead of pulling information from a database with a batch run of hours.

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Speed is not always of the essence

But processing power is not necessarily the biggest benefit for many organisations. The in-memory architecture of SAP HANA promises to allow data views to be generated on the fly – a benefit that not only reduces database footprint and storage requirements, but also potentially simplifies the modelling and use of data.

Not every organisation has large volumes of data they want to crunch very quickly. Some just want the right data to be with the right people at the right time. The power of in-memory computing means that users can investigate entire sets of data rather than representative samples. Ultimately, through having a complete picture of all the transactional data, organisations can make much better business decisions.

SAP Business Suite on HANA could prove to be very attractive to smaller organisations in particular. To date, many have done little with the analytic capability of SAP because it is a further investment. Yet now, with HANA, they can do that within the enterprise resource planning (ERP) transactional system, as opposed to exporting the data into a separate business warehouse and worrying about implementing the analytics capability around it.

Weighing up your options

With the continued rise of big data, it is somewhat inevitable that many organisations will be required to adopt in-memory computing in some way or form in the future, if they are to continue to function efficiently. 

No matter the size and type of the organisation, with any new technology there is always an element of hand-holding – and with SAP HANA it is no different

For certain sectors such as finance, utilities and the public sector, which are already generating huge amounts of data, in-memory computing cannot come quick enough. For others, the choice is perhaps less straightforward, as they may not yet feel that they have a big enough need to justify the cost of an in-memory implementation.

No matter the size and type of the organisation, with any new technology there is always an element of hand-holding – and with SAP HANA it is no different. With that in mind, organisations should take advantage of all the sources of information provided by SAP and user groups to help them make their decision. Whether they decide to implement SAP HANA now, in the future, or not at all, organisations need to ensure that they are making a well-informed choice.

It is still early days for a lot of organisations when it comes to the deployment of HANA. Many still want to see more real-life use cases before taking the plunge. However, based on feedback from attendees at our recent user group events, customers certainly want to hear a lot more about it.

Philip Adams (pictured) is chairman of the UK & Ireland SAP User Group.

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