This week's SAP Sapphire Now conference marked about a year since the company launched its HANA (High Performance Analytic Appliance) in-memory computing platform. Since then, SAP has done its best to keep HANA in the news, bringing products and partnerships to market quickly and announcing many future plans.
Over time, HANA will "revolutionize" the company's entire software portfolio, SAP CTO and executive board member Vishal Sikka said this week. With general availability of HANA coming next month, that journey is just beginning.
Here are answers to some of the main questions around HANA, based on interviews and Sapphire speeches by Sikka and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner.
What is it?
HANA, which will be available in appliance form from a number of hardware partners, places data to be processed in RAM instead of reading it off disks, adding a performance boost.
HANA is built on a superset of technologies with a long history at SAP, including the MaxDB database and TREX in-memory engine, Sikka said in an interview.
Data held in memory by HANA is backed by a persistence layer that logs transactions and incorporates savepoints that create images of the database, according to an SAP document. This allows it to be restored in the event of a power outage or other disruption.
HANA is compatible with any BI (business intelligence) application that supports common query languages like SQL and MDX, according to Sikka.
What can it be used for?
SAP has initially focused on HANA's ability to support real-time analytics, especially as part of a series of specialized applications that target discrete business problems. One of the first such products is Strategic Workforce Planning, which companies can use to figure out the economic and logistical ramifications of making big shifts in staffing.
HANA can also handle the transactional workloads of ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications like its Business One, Business ByDesign, and Business Suite products. All of those products are expected to gain HANA support, but the enterprise-grade Business Suite is expected to take the longest time.
In the meantime, Business Suite customers looking for an alternative to Oracle or other databases should look to Sybase ASE, which SAP is just about done porting over.
How scalable is it?
HANA is lightweight enough to run "a company" on a Mac Mini server, but it is also capable of scaling out massively, Plattner said during his Sapphire keynote.
But the company has also created a HANA system with more than 1,000 cores, 16TB of RAM, and 64TB of solid-state storage. HANA scales linearly, meaning that if you need more cores or memory, you simply add more nodes, according to SAP.
HANA also employs advanced compression techniques, allowing much more data to be crammed into memory.