SAP's HANA (high performance analytic appliance) in-memory computing engine went into general availability on Monday, giving the vendor a flashy new weapon against the likes of Oracle's Exadata data-processing machine and others in a highly competitive market.
HANA, which is based on a superset of technologies SAP has been developing for some time, places data in main memory, providing a performance boost over reading it off disks. With HANA, customers will be able to analyze data from their SAP systems and other sources in near-real time, with blazing performance, according to SAP.
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SAP has seen an "extraordinary response from the marketplace," with several dozen customers already signed up, said executive board member Vishal Sikka in an interview. The HANA "pipeline," or backlog of deals in process, is the highest for any product in the company's history.
Only "very serious" opportunities are put in the pipeline, he added. "It's not like we had a [single] conversation with someone."
Wholesale wine and spirits distributor Charmer-Sunbelt Group is in the middle of implementing HANA, CIO Paul Fipps said in an interview.
The company had already been using a range of SAP technologies, but until now, not its BI (business intelligence) products, Fipps said. "When HANA was first introduced it looked like a real opportunity for us to do real-time analysis of business transactions."
CSG has many warehouses around the US. "There's a lot of nighttime activity going on there in order to get products to our customers," he said.
HANA will help CSG give managers analytics to make those operations run more efficiently, according to Fipps, answering such questions as "where am I putting my labor?" and "do I have the right amount of labor in the right areas to do the replenishment?"
HANA will also help CSG roll up various analyses into a "massive" operational benchmarking report, allowing executives to make warehouse-to-warehouse comparisons, for example. Such reports now take a month to produce, "and we're going to get it down to every single night," he said.
CSG is also looking to pull data from its SAP ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for tasks like deep analysis of profitability.
Fipps declined to describe the query performance CSG is getting from HANA. "We're not there yet in terms of true metrics." But he says a friend who is further along on a HANA project has told him the performance is "unbelievable."
HANA does feel like the new product that it is, but not unexpectedly, he said. "We went into this with eyes wide open. We knew we were going to hit the bumps." Overall, the project is well-staffed and "everybody is looking for a big win," he said.
He declined to say how much CSG is paying for the HANA system. "But relatively speaking, if HANA does what it's supposed to do, I think it will be well worth the price," Fipps said.
Right now, "several" customers have HANA running in production, according to Sikka. Many others are live, "meaning they have an instance running actively and are using for their business, but the IT department doesn't consider it a production system," he added.
But the fact that SAP is putting HANA into general availability roughly a year after it was first announced and before a wide range of customer case studies has been made public may cause some to wonder whether the technology isn't being rushed along a little.