What is SAP HANA Hardware?

SAP HANA is delivered as a flexible, multipurpose appliance that combines SAP software components optimized on hardware provided by SAP’s leading hardware partners such as Cisco, Dell, IBM, HP, Hitachi, NEC, and Fujitsu, using the latest Intel Xeon E7 processors. SAP HANA servers are sold in “t- shirt” sizes ranging from  Extra-Small (128GB RAM)  all the way up to   Extra Large (>2TB RAM). Because RAM is the key technology for SAP HANA, SAP uses the amount of RAM to determine the server’s t-shirt size as well as its price. SAP’s underlying philosophy is “the more processors (cores), the better,” so it does not impose a per-processor charge for SAP HANA.

With the current certified Scale-Out options from SAP HANA hardware providers, companies can deploy up to 16 Extra Large server nodes into one logical database instance, which equates to a maximum of 32TB of RAM and 128 CPUs with 1280 total cores. SAP is currently testing a  60 node  SAP  HANA instance in the labs.

The hardware vendor provides factory pre-installation for the hardware, the OS, and the SAP software. It may also add specific best practices and configurations. The vendor finalizes the installation with on-site setup and configuration of the SAP HANA components, including deployment in the customer data center, connectivity to the network, Solution Manager setup, SAP router connectivity, and SSL support. The customer then establishes connectivity to the source systems and clients, including the deployment of additional replication components on the source system(s) and, potentially, the installation and configuration of SAP BUSINESS OBJECTS business analytics client components.

Although the term “appliance” suggests a “black box” that plugs into an outlet, in reality, installing SAP HANA requires on-site activities and coordination on a high technical level. The appliance approach for SAP HANA systems reduces the implementation and maintenance effort significantly, but it does not eliminate it completely. Furthermore, as of SP7, SAP HANA can be deployed in another way, through the SAP HANA tailored data center integration, which is aimed at large customers with a substantial investment in storage.

SAP HANA Use Cases

Because SAP HANA is both a database (in the traditional sense) and a database platform (in the modern sense), it can be used in multiple scenarios and deployed in several ways. SAP HANA performs equally well for analytic and transactional applications. Due to its hybrid table structure, however, it really shines in scenarios that involve both types of data. It’s important to remember that SAP has developed SAP HANA to be a non-disruptive addition to existing landscapes. With this point in mind, we’ll discuss the key use cases that are most typical for SAP HANA deployments today, and we’ll consider some potential future scenarios.

In its current form, SAP HANA can be used for four basic types of use cases: an agile data mart, a primary database for the SAP Business Suite, a primary database for SAP Business Warehouse, and a development platform for new applications. As SAP HANA matures and SAP renovates its entire portfolio of solutions to take advantage of all the horsepower in SAP HANA, you can expect to see nearly every product that SAP provides supported natively on SAP HANA as a primary database, as well as many more new “native-HANA” applications.

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SAP HANA types

For a listing of hundreds of permutations of these core use cases and details on current SAP HANA live customers by industry and function, please visit the SAP HANA Use Case  Repository.

Agile Data Mart In SAP HANA

A data mart is an industry term for a repository of data gathered from operational data originating in transactional systems (and/or other sources), designed to serve a particular community of information workers by forming a basis for analytics, reporting, or a specific use in another type of application. The emphasis of a data mart is on meeting the specific needs of a particular group of users in terms of analysis, content, presentation, and ease of use.

The earliest scenarios where SAP HANA has been deployed in production are as a stand-alone data mart for a specific use case. In this scenario, SAP HANA acts as the central hub to collect data from a few SAP and non-SAP source systems and then display some fairly simple and focused analytics in a single-purpose dashboard for users.

This use case has the advantages of

(1) being completely non-disruptive to the existing landscape and (2) providing an immediate, focused solution to an urgent business analytics problem.

These projects are also typically completed very quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks, because the business problem is well known and the relevant data and source systems are easily identified. SAP HANA is set up as a stand-alone system in the landscape, which is then connected to the source systems and displayed to a small number of users in a simple Web-based or mobile user interface. This process involves zero disruption to the existing landscape, and companies get instant value because they can now do things that were impossible before they acquired SAP HANA.

Additionally, the development cycles for these use cases are typically very short, because most of these scenarios use a standard SAP BusinessObjects front end with self-service analytics or Microsoft Excel. We label these systems as “agile data marts” because they perform a few of the same functions as a traditional data mart — ETL, data modeling, analytic front end — but they are very fast to set up and flexible to use.

The key advantage of SAP HANA for the agile data mart scenarios is that these scenarios were either completely impossible to build in a traditional database architecture or were so cost-prohibitive that companies could not justify building them. The scenarios might be straightforward, but the deficiencies of the “old” database world made them “unfixable.”

You can access the videos listed below to listen to a few highly satisfied customers talking enthusiastically about their agile data mart scenarios with SAP HANA.

Nongfu Spring

Nongfu Spring, the largest producer of bottled water in China, has successfully gone live on the largest customer implementation of the SAP HANA platform in China.


SAP provides a special licensing bundle to build an agile data mart use case with SAP HANA that includes the extractors and connectors needed to obtain data from source systems and the front-end tools needed to build analytical applications on top of the data.

SAP Business Suite

The second major scenario where  SAP  HANA is being used is to accelerate transactions and reports inside the SAP Business Suite.

SAP Business Suite software, a set of fully integrated applications such as SAP ERP, SAP CRM, SAP SCM, and SAP SRM, enables enterprises to run their core business operations more efficiently.

As of mid-2013, SAP HANA can now be used as the primary database under every application in the SAP Business Suite (excl. SAP SRM). SAP HANA can be set up as either a stand-alone system in the landscape, side-by-side with the database under the SAP Business Suite applications, or as the primary database for the entire SAP Business Suite. In this scenario, however, SAP HANA is being used to “offload” some of the transactions or reports that typically take a long time (hours or days) to run, but it is not being used as the primary database under the application.

We explained earlier that certain transactions or reports inside the SAP Business Suite can be very slow, primarily due to the slow I/O of the disk-based database underneath the system and the huge requests for data generated by these transactions and reports. Budgeting and planning transactions in SAP require the system to call data from many different tables in order to run its calculations and present a result. Reports are also very data-intensive, involving vast amounts of data contained in multiple tables. For both transactions and reports, then, the application must request the data from the database, load it into a buffer table in the SAP application server, run the algorithm or calculation, and then display the results. Sometimes, that completes the process. Other times, however, the user needs to make some adjustments to the results and then save the changes back to the database. Quite often, this process is iterative, meaning that the user must run the report or transaction, review the results, make some changes, and then run the report or transaction again to reflect the changes. Imagine a scenario where every time the transaction or report runs, it takes one hour to finish (from when you press “Enter” until the results are displayed on the screen). What if it took several hours or even a day or two to run that transaction or report? Clearly, system latency can seriously slow down the entire company.

Eliminating System Latency: The Case of Hilti

To illustrate severe system latency, let’s consider the case of Hilti, the global construction tools manufacturer. Hilti is used to generate a list of 9 million customers from 53 million database records in its SAP ERP system in about three hours. A salesperson used to hit “Enter” and then return three hours later to obtain the results. Significantly, 99% of the time the system took to generate that list came from simply retrieving the records of the disk-based database. Once the data were conveyed to the SAP application, the algorithm only took a  few fractions of a  second to calculate.  This  major  —  and unnecessary — the delay was the epitome of “latency.”

To eliminate this latency problem, Hilti set up an SAP HANA system next to their production SAP ERP system and then copied the relevant tables into SAP HANA. The results? Hilti can now run the exact same report in about three seconds. In addition, installing SAP HANA was totally non-disruptive. It required no changes to the algorithm, no changes to the production database, and no changes to the user interface. In fact, the users didn’t even realize there had been any change to the system until they ran the report for the first time. They expected the process to take several hours — as always  — so they got up from their desks to do something else. To their complete surprise, the completed report appeared on their screen before they could get out of their chairs.

Technically, there is very little that needs to be done to accelerate a few problematic transactions or reports in an SAP Business Suite application.  In summary, SAP has already delivered the content for most of the truly problematic transactions and reports as part of the latest service packs for the SAP Business Suite — for free. Once the relevant tables have been replicated to the SAP HANA system, there is a quick change in the configuration screen to redirect the transaction to read from the SAP HANA database instead of the primary database — and that’s about it. Users log in as they normally do, execute the transaction or report, and the results come back incredibly fast. SAP has also set up special fixed-price, fixed-scope SAP rapid-deployment solutions (RDS) to assist customers in the rapid implementation of these “accelerated” transactions and reports.

Checkout SAP HANA Interview Questions

Accelerated SAP ERP Transactions and Reports

You can expect to see many more  “problem”  transactions and reports generated at previously unimaginable speeds as  SAP  introduces enhancement pack updates to SAP HANA. Here’s a short listing of some of the SAP ERP transactions and reports that are currently available:

Sales Reporting

Quickly identify top customers and products by channel — with real-time sales reporting. Improve order fulfillment rates and accelerate key sales processes at the same time, with instant analysis of your credit memo and billing list.

Financial Reporting

Obtain immediate insights across your business — into revenue, customers, accounts payable and receivable, open and overdue items, top general ledger transaction, and days sales outstanding (DSO). Make the right financial decisions, armed with real-time information.

Shipping  Reporting

The HANA-based reports for shipping give the opportunity to explore data relating to different stock types and provides information on the materials’ stocks at plant and storage location levels.

Rely on real-time shipping reporting for complete stock overview analysis. You can better plan and monitor outbound delivery — and assess and optimize stock levels — with accurate information at your fingertips.

Purchasing Reporting

Gain timely insights into purchase orders, vendors, and the movement of goods — with real-time purchasing reporting. Make better purchasing decisions, based on a complete analysis of your order history.

Master Data Reporting

Obtain real-time reporting on your main master data  —   including customer, vendor, and material lists — for improved productivity and accuracy.

SAP Solutions for Accelerated  Applications

SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation 10.0 Powered by SAP HANA

The power of SAP HANA dramatically enhances unified planning, budgeting, forecasting, and consolidation processes. Powered by SAP HANA, SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation 10.0, version for SAP NETWEAVER aim to increase agility by helping enterprises harness big data to plan better and act faster with better insight into all relevant information and rapid write-back. The application is planned to be the first enterprise performance management (EPM) application to support the SAP Business Warehouse component, powered by SAP  HANA announced last year.   SAP  intends to allow customers running the application that has invested in SAP HANA to leverage the power of in-memory computing technology to boost performance by accelerating planning and consolidation processing.

SAP CO-PA Accelerator

SAP CO-PA Accelerator dramatically improves the speed and depth of working with massive volumes of financial data in ERP for faster and more efficient profitability cycles. The solution helps finance departments to perform real-time profitability reporting on large-scale data volumes and to conduct instant, on-the-fly analysis at any level of granularity, aggregation, and dimension. Furthermore, finance teams can run cost allocations at significantly faster processing time and be empowered with easy, self-service access to trusted profitability information.

This solution can also be implemented alongside the wider SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Performance Management solutions portfolio to help organizations create a complete picture of their cost and profit drivers.

You can try the solution on your own with the SAP CO-PA Accelerator TestDrive and visit the website to discover how organizations are generating significant business value with the solution.

 SAP Finance and Controlling Accelerator SAP Finance and Controlling Accelerator supports finance departments with instant access to vast amounts of the ledger, cost, and material ledger data in ERP as well as easy exploration of trusted and detailed data. The solution offers four implementation scenarios — Financial Accounting — Controlling — Material Ledger — and Production Cost  Analysis, which can be implemented individually or in any combination.

The power of SAP HANA combined with SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) empowers financial professionals to perform faster reporting and analyses, accelerate period-end closing, and make smarter decisions.


SAP Sales Pipeline Analysis

With SAP Sales Pipeline Analysis powered by SAP HANA, sales departments can get real-time insight into massive volumes of pipeline data in CRM while performing on-the-fly calculations and in-depth analysis on any business dimension. Sales managers can now leverage the power of SAP HANA combined with SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for complete and instant visibility of accurate and consolidated pipeline data. They can react more quickly to changing sales conditions with real-time information, and accelerate deals through the pipeline with powerful and user-driven analytics. As a result, best-run businesses can unlock hidden revenue opportunities as well as significantly increase profits and sales effectiveness.

                                           SAP Sales Pipeline

SAP Customer Segmentation Accelerator

The SAP Customer Segmentation Accelerator helps marketing departments build highly specific segmentations on high volumes of customer data and at unparalleled speed. Marketers can now work with large amounts of granular data to better understand customer demands, behaviors, and preferences — targeting the precise audience with the right offers across every customer segment, tactic, and channel. The power of SAP HANA combined with SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) empowers marketers to maximize profits with highly tailored campaigns, dramatically reduce the cost of marketing by targeting more easily high margin customers and react quickly to optimize campaigns and tactics.

You can view a  demonstration of the solution and discover how organizations like yours are generating significant business value.

                               SAP Customer Segmentation

SAP HANA is the first SAP solution that has been built to be specifically run as an appliance and optimized for a very specific combination of processor, memory, and operating system. This approach represents a departure from SAP’s long history of broad platform support. SAP implemented this new policy to still provide customers with multiple choices in hardware platforms while avoiding the TCO implications of multiple OS and processor support combinations. In order to understand why, we need to look back historically at some of the hardware platform changes that led SAP to adopt this policy, this strategy and explore why this path offers SAP customers the best balance of broad hardware partner options and focused innovation around a stable set of key components.

When SAP shifted from mainframe to client-server architecture with SAP R/3, two of the critical benefits were the lower costs and the more standardized options associated with the UNIX-based servers that had just become available. When the mass adoption of SAP R/3 took of, customers began asking SAP to certify more and more new combinations of operating systems and databases on various hardware platforms. This made sense because many companies were employing existing landscapes from a preferred hardware vendor and had developed expertise in certain versions of operating systems and databases that they wanted to leverage for their SAP environment.

SAP happily obliged, building out a robust certification laboratory in its headquarters to constantly test and validate new hardware and software combinations that were being released by its partners for customer use. At the time, SAP believed that providing customers with such a broad choice would help them achieve lower TCO of their SAP solutions by reusing technology and resources that were already in place. SAP also felt that being the hardware and OS/DB “agnostic” would be the best strategy to set itself apart from the other enterprise app vendors. This “technology-neutral” strategy worked very well for SAP for more than 30 years. At a certain point in the mid-2000s, however, the small number of combinations that SAP began with had exploded into a truly dizzying collection. Customers no longer benefited significantly from such a broad list of hardware and technology choices, and the costs for SAP and its customers of this broad coverage was becoming unsustainable.

After SAP R/3 was released, the UNIX platform began to splinter into multiple dialects, with each hardware vendor putting its efforts behind its preferred variant (HPUX, AIX, Solaris, etc.). In addition, x86 platforms from Intel and AMD began to displace the RISC-based platforms of the early UNIX hardware vendors due to their lower costs and their support for industry standards. Later, Linux began to displace the original UNIX operating systems due to its lower costs and the advantages of open-source code. Soon, the Product Availability Matrix (PAM) for SAP ERP exceeded 200 combinations of OS and database, with a vast number of hardware platforms for those combinations. At a certain point, the choice became a liability for SAP and its customers rather than the benefit that it was originally intended to be.

So, when SAP began development on the precursors of SAP HANA, the company made a strategic decision to avoid all of the costs and complexity of supporting so many variations of hardware and technology platforms. SAP was primarily concerned with the three pieces of technology that had the greatest impact on performance and would be the largest drivers of TCO reduction: operating system (OS), RAM, and processors. SAP decided to bet on open-source and industry standards as the core platform for SAP HANA. By supporting only ONE combination of OS and processors, SAP could invest all its development and testing resources into a single platform while still allowing customers to choose which hardware vendor would deliver and support the appliance.

SAP had been working with Novell/SUSE for many years to support Novell SLES Linux as a certified operating system for SAP applications. Because Linux is so technically similar to UNIX, almost any UNIX engineer could transition his or her skills easily. Moreover, because Linux was open-source and easily supported by third parties, it was clearly the lowest TCO option for running an SAP system.

In addition to selecting a single OS, SAP had to settle on a single processor family for the new solution. Although there were many chips on the market that could handle SAP’s traditional application-processing requirements, there weren’t any processors that had been designed to handle in-memory processing tasks (because enterprise-scale in-memory computing didn’t exist yet). The initial SAP  HANA conversations that SAP’s executives held with anyone outside the company were with Intel because SAP realized that shifting to in-memory computing would require a new breed of processors that were optimized for the new architecture, and Intel has a long history of innovating for the future needs of the enterprise.

SAP laid out its strategy for the shift to in-memory computing to Intel’s executives, and the two parties discussed the level of co-innovation that would be needed to jointly engineer both an in-memory database and optimized processors that could handle the unique needs of this new architecture. The top executives from each company agreed that then they would have to establish a new level of co-innovation partnership and starting in 2005, Intel sent a team of their best software and chip engineers to SAP HQ to begin the work of jointly optimizing each successive version of the industry-standard Intel Xeon chips for the needs of SAP’s evolving in-memory database. Since that time, SAP has benefitted from early access to each new generation of Xeon processors from Intel, and Intel has incorporated SAP’s unique in-memory processing requirements into its chip capabilities.

Intel and SAP: A History of Co-Innovation

For more than 10 years, Intel and SAP have worked together to deliver an industry-leading performance of SAP solutions on Intel® architecture, and a large proportion of new SAP implementations are now deployed on Intel® platforms. The latest success from that tradition of co-innovation is available to customers of all sizes in SAP HANA, which is delivered on the Intel® Xeon®  processor.

The relationship between Intel and SAP has become even stronger over the years, growing to include a broad set of collaborations and initiatives. Some of the most visible:

Joint roadmap enablement. Early in the design process, Intel and SAP  decision-makers identify complementary features and capabilities in their upcoming products, and those insights help to direct the development cycle for maximum value.

Collaborative product optimization. Intel engineers located on-site at SAP work with their SAP counterparts to provide tuning expertise that enables SAP HANA and other software solutions to take advantage of the latest hardware features.

Combined research efforts. Together, researchers from Intel and SAP continually explore and drive the future of business computing

As a result of these efforts, customer solutions achieve performance, scalability, reliability, and energy efficiency that translates into favorable ROI and TCO, for increased business value.

Having created an optimized “core” (operating system, RAM, and processors) for SAP HANA, SAP needed to reach out to the server manufacturers to package the software and hardware into industry-standard appliances in a way that would remove as much configuration and integration work from the customers as possible (again, lowering TCO). SAP realized that even though the core components of the SAP HANA servers would be nearly identical (OS, RAM, and processors), the hardware vendors provide a great deal of additional value in the implementation, management, and operations of the hardware. Plus, customers typically have a preferred hardware vendor for their enterprise landscapes. This is really where SAP felt that customer choice would have the most value. So, they engaged seven of their primary hardware vendors (see the next paragraph) to build certified SAP HANA appliances and create packaged services to implement SAP HANA quickly and easily at customer sites.

In early 2011, Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, IBM, and HP all jumped on the SAP HANA bandwagon and had their flagship Intel-based servers certified and in production. Hitachi joined the list later that year, and NEC was certified in early 2012. Huawei, VMC, and Lenovo joined in 2013. This broad support from industry-leading hardware vendors provides customers with a choice of seven hardware partners to deploy their SAP HANA solution, each with unique service and support offerings to fit their customers’ needs. SAP’s strategy of “solid core,” multivendor hardware support for SAP HANA has been received extremely well by customers because it eliminates the confusing number of hardware combinations and focuses on the value-added solutions that each vendor can offer on top of the “solid core.”

In May of 2013, SAP made a major step forward in providing an even lower cost, higher-value deployment option for customers by announcing the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. The SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud offering is a comprehensive RAM-optimized cloud infrastructure combined with managed services. Customers can now run their SAP HANA applications, including SAP BUSINESS SUITE powered by SAP HANA and SAP BUSINESS WAREHOUSE POWERED BY SAP HANA, in a managed cloud environment. It delivers the power of real-time in-memory technology with cloud simplicity and elastic economics.

SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud is a fully scalable, enterprise-ready, mission-critical, secure, and high availability cloud offering with a fully managed services approach.


About Author

I am Ruchitha, working as a content writer for MindMajix technologies. My writings focus on the latest technical software, tutorials, and innovations. I am also into research about AI and Neuromarketing. I am a media post-graduate from BCU – Birmingham, UK. Before, my writings focused on business articles on digital marketing and social media. You can connect with me on LinkedIn.

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