The future roadmap for SAP HANA is actually very simple: Continue to make SAP HANA faster, better, cheaper — plus BIGGER and BROADER.
Moore’s law doesn’t look as though it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. It is likely, then, that we’re only a few years away from having more than 1000 cores and 10TB of RAM on a single “medium” SAP HANA server. With that much processing power and high-speed RAM available, there really are no limits to how fast SAP can speed up its own apps and literally any other app on the planet. SAP will continue co-innovating with Intel and other hardware partners to ensure that SAP HANA is continuously updated and optimized to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology advances to become even faster than it is today.
Although the speed boost generated by the hardware is exciting, it is only half of the equation. Renovating applications to take advantage of the ever- increasing horsepower is also critical. There’s a great deal of value that can be achieved by doing things “better” in the applications. Renovating and re-imagining how applications work and how they deal with data in the “no constraints” paradigm represents a fundamental philosophical shift for application developers. There are enormous opportunities to streamline, optimize, and simplify application architectures by adding SAP HANA as the database engine underneath them. SAP will invest an enormous amount of resources to extend SAP HANA’s capabilities as an application platform for both its own applications and non-SAP applications. This investment will result in an increasingly rich and robust set of developer tools to renovate and re-imagine any application and build amazing new applications.
This opportunity for optimization and simplification not only makes things even faster than just the hardware speed boost, it also results in significantly lower TCO for companies. SAP HANA can have a massive impact on reducing TCO and improving business value. “Cheaper” isn’t achieved only through industry-standard processors, RAM, and servers. Cheaper is a holistic mindset that starts from application design and then progresses through user eficiency all the way to administration and operations. SAP will continue to invest heavily in many areas to make SAP HANA the cheapest and most efficient database to operate in production environments. These efforts include innovating in new landscape configurations such as native cloud deployments of SAP HANA.
Significantly, however, SAP isn’t satisfied to “only” be the fastest, best, and cheapest database on the planet. SAP’s goals also include enabling the BIGGEST data scenarios by offering integrated solutions with Sybase “Big Data” products and open-source projects like Hadoop.
In November of 2012, SAP showed the extreme scalability of SAP HANA by showcasing a 250TB RAM SAP HANA system with 250 nodes.
In addition, with a robust ecosystem of ISVs, system integrators, and SAP customers building their innovative applications on SAP HANA, SAP intends to become the BROADEST database platform for new applications. In just the first year since SAP HANA became available, over 100 startups have been founded to harness this power to drive their innovation. Just as Apple provided the platform for App Store developers, SAP will provide SAP HANA as a platform for thousands of amazing new enterprise applications for the ecosystem.
SAP customers need to understand that SAP HANA not only is the engine that powers the current generation of SAP applications, but it will be the growth engine for all kinds of amazing NEW SAP apps. Over the next few years, SAP HANA will become the primary database for EVERY enterprise application in the SAP portfolio. That’s true for standard, on-premise applications like the SAP Business Suite; SME solutions like SAP Business One, SAP Business ByDesign, and SAP All-in-One; and the emerging portfolio of cloud/on-demand solutions. In poker terms, SAP is going “all in” with SAP HANA. SAP has made a passionate commitment to innovate for the future of its ecosystem, and the benefits of this shift for SAP’s customers and partners are too overwhelming for the company to do anything less.
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SAP HANA will be the heart and soul of SAP’s “real-time data platform” design philosophy to renovate all existing applications and build amazing new applications.
The renovation work is moving very quickly inside SAP, so much so that it has surpassed even the most optimistic timelines. The SAP BW renovation and porting to SAP HANA was the first major step towards a completely renovated SAP Business Suite. The next major step was the release of its flagship application, SAP Business Suite — SAP CRM, SAP SCM, SAP PLM on SAP HANA. In parallel, SAP is adding SAP HANA to all of the other applications in the portfolio, and it will release them as they come on line.
Renovating these applications involve much more than simply replacing the database. Over the years, SAP has had to make many adjustments in its application layer to avoid the I/O bottleneck associated with the database. Unfortunately, these “database avoidance techniques” have resulted in extensive “plaque” buildup inside the applications, in the forms of redundant code, tedious data aggregations and transformations, replication of data, and so on. These problems were “necessary evils” to work around the constraints of the disk-based architecture. In an SAP HANA world, however, they’re completely unnecessary and therefore need to be removed from the system.
Obviously, SAP’s renovation efforts will involve a great deal of streamlining and cleanup. At the same time, however, this renovation also represents a golden opportunity for SAP’s engineers to reimagine all of the things that these applications do from the perspective of living in a world with no constraints. These experts can question their original assumptions, invent better ways of doing things, remove latency from the processes, and program their applications to perform calculations more efficiently deep inside the database. All of these developments will lead to lower TCO and more flexibility for customers, which in turn will make their investment in SAP much more valuable.
This exercise is also having an amazing effect on the SAP culture. Going back into the code of all of their apps with a fresh eye and ambitious dreams free from constraints has rekindled a firestorm of innovation within the SAP development group. The coffee corners in SAP labs around the world are literally buzzing with new ideas and passionate discussions. In fact, you can often see code samples from these discussions, written on the windows because the participants ran out of whiteboard space. This is the “intellectual renewal” that SAP executives have been talking about, and it is having a monumental impact on the speed and volume of innovation coming from SAP. SAP HANA is literally awakening a sleeping giant of innovation inside SAP. Moreover, this enthusiasm appears to be contagious: People are witnessing the same type of awakening throughout the SAP ecosystem.
In the long run, once the entire SAP portfolio has been “HANA-fied,” SAP will be able to deliver a vast simplified landscape for its customers. By merging OLAP and OLTP into a single SAP HANA instance, SAP can provide a massive reduction in layers and TCO in the landscape while at the same time providing much more flexibility and business value through real-time access to all of the relevant data. It will take SAP several years to engineer and deliver this vision to its customers. If the past five years of in-memory (r)evolution at SAP are an indication, however, the next five years of this journey will be extraordinarily fast and exciting.
SAP´s goal is to provide customers a rich portfolio of attractive, high-quality, ready-to-implement applications based on SAP HANA across all industries.
Partner-built Applications for SAP HANA
The SAP partner ecosystem provides thousands of SAP-certified software solutions that plug into SAP’s applications to provide a variety of value-added extensions and process enhancements. From that perspective, anything that speeds up an SAP system will also have a positive impact on any partner solutions that are integrated with that system. There are also numerous SAP partner solutions that need to “turbocharge” themselves to increase their own performance — and to keep up with the turbocharged SAP systems coming on top of SAP HANA in the future.
Regardless of the programming language these partner apps are written in, and they all can be ported over to SAP HANA in a fairly straightforward way. However, just as SAP is renovating its existing applications, partners too can approach re-platforming as an opportunity to rethink some of the design parameters that they employed in the original solution design and to rebuild their apps to take advantage of SAP HANA’s many benefits natively.
Oversight Systems is one of the first ISVs to renovate their SAP-certified solution along these lines. Oversight Systems provides solutions that continuously monitor user activities — in real-time — inside SAP systems to detect policy violations and potentially fraudulent transactions, such as travel and expenses, accounting and reporting, and HR and payroll. Their solution conducts complex, on-the-fly calculations that demand a great deal of I/O performance from databases. Therefore, the addition of SAP HANA underneath their solution makes perfect sense.
Custom Applications for SAP HANA
As stated earlier, SAP HANA is a full-blown, do-just-about-anything-you-want application platform. It speaks pure SQL and it includes all of the most common APIs, so you can literally write any type of application you want on top of it. There are a few rules and “guide rails” that are designed to keep things from going wrong, but the sky truly is the limit when it comes to imagining what to build with SAP HANA.
Although SAP HANA is valuable for all types of activities, it “shines” particularly well in a few unique situations. For example, if you’re building an enterprise-scale application for a business scenario that
- Needs to search or aggregate huge volumes of data,
- Requires detailed/granular data analysis and/or complex algorithmic or statistical calculations, or
- Suffers from latency between transactional recording and reporting, then SAP HANA is a great choice.
That’s not to say that SAP HANA can’t run your “standard” applications — it certainly can do that (really fast). Nevertheless, the most exciting use cases, SAP is seeing for SAP HANA as the foundation of custom apps are situations where a company has an urgent business need that is literally impossible to automate today due to the limitations of traditional databases or the lack of a supercomputer. If you’re a business owner who has a killer idea that fits the above description, then SAP HANA could be the solution that makes the impossible, possible.
This is where the “Angry Birds” analogy really starts making sense. Once the SAP ecosystem of ISVs, SAP partners, and SAP customers start to unleash their innovation on top of SAP HANA, there literally is no limit to the amazing and game-changing applications they can build. It is incredibly important for SAP to renovate its portfolio and build amazing new applications to exploit the vast potential of SAP HANA. It is even more important, however, for the SAP ecosystem to do this, because there are millions of unrealized business ideas in their companies that SAP HANA can bring to life.