SAP executives provided new details about the company's plan to make the HANA in-memory database the focus of a sweeping reinvention of its software architecture during an event in Boston on Tuesday.
HANA, which is the brainchild of company founder Hasso Plattner and technology chief Vishal Sikka, was initially introduced in mid-2010 as a platform for running analytic workloads much faster than traditional databases. The system holds data to be processed in RAM instead of reading it off of disks, providing a boost in performance that SAP has claimed is significant, if not dazzling.
But SAP soon began discussing HANA's ability to handle transactional workloads from ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other types of applications, and positioning it as an eventual replacement for products like Oracle's flagship database.
"There is an incredibly exciting opportunity in front of us to build totally new applications," Sikka said during a keynote address on Tuesday at the company's Influencer Summit event.
Sikka displayed a slide depicting the future HANA-powered software stack. HANA and related lifecycle and infrastructure services sat on the bottom, topped first by application services; then ABAP and Java platform services; then development environments; and finally applications built by SAP and third-party vendors.
SAP is seeing some momentum on the last front, announcing on Tuesday a number of HANA-related initiatives with middleware and analytics vendor Tibco, ERP provider UFIDA, BI (business intelligence) visualization vendor Tableau, and Jive Software, which is known for its enterprise social networking offerings.
Going forward, SAP intends to have a "fully open ecosystem" for HANA, Sikka said.
That makes sense, of course, given that HANA is a relatively new product that has a great deal of catching up to do with Oracle and others. Still, another SAP executive made a bullish prediction on Tuesday during a session after Sikka's talk.
"Mark my words. By 2015, we're going to be the number-two database company in the market," said Steve Lucas, global general manager and senior executive, business analytics and technology. "I know who we have to pass. They're not inconsequential companies. It's going to take us years and a lot of engineering to get there, but we will."
SAP will also look to form partnerships with ISVs (independent software vendors) who will embed HANA in products, Lucas said.
Another good way for SAP to make some headway toward that goal would be to add HANA support for its core Business Suite software, many implementations of which now run on Oracle.
That work is ongoing, and while no concrete date has been targeted for completion, the market can expect an update at next year's Sapphire conference, SAP deputy CTO Sethu M said during the session. "This is a key project. We are making progress."
SAP hasn't decided whether it will also sell HANA as a standalone database, Sikka said in an interview.
In the meantime, SAP recently hit a milestone with HANA, topping $100 million in sales, Sikka revealed during his keynote. HANA is being sold in appliance form by a number of hardware vendors. The $100 million figure refers solely to software license revenue going to SAP, Sikka said in the interview.