— written by Frank Deppe, Head of Compentence Center Analytics Germany, intelligence AG —
What does SAP HANA mean for all of us?
In-Memory technology, SAP HANA platform, and Big Data are catchwords that each of us has heard regularly for some time now. But what does all of this mean for our current and future business? Will we have to familiarize ourselves with a completely new technology – must we forget our experience in customizing and ABAP, and relearn everything?
The answer is a clear no and that is a good thing. Much of what we already understand has been retained in SAP HANA; still, SAP HANA requires that we rethink some things, which can be explained very well by way of the subject of “analytics”.
From the vision to the reality
When I was at SAP in November 2010 I was told about SAP HANA for the first time. Since then, a lot has happened. In less than three years SAP has managed to make, out of a purely analytical tool, an absolutely fundamental component of the overall solution portfolio. Products and solutions such as SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA, SAP Customer Relationship Management powered by SAP HANA as well as the SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA are available for all customers. In my view, only the higher hardware costs speak against a decision for SAP HANA in an ERP re-launch. Here we are challenged as a consulting firm; it is our job together with the customer to find out what added value ERP would offer running on the SAP HANA platform, and whether that value justifies the additional costs.
What is SAP HANA?
Is SAP HANA an analytical tool? Is it a database? SAP HANA is much more. Above all it is a platform. A platform for real-time applications. A platform upon which future real-time companies will run their business. A platform upon which the core applications of the SAP Business Suite in a databank run, and thus can be connected and used together. In the same way, additional applications from SAP and from partners will be able to run on and use the common database. Replication or transfer of this data – and we are talking about huge amounts of data – is thus redundant. All information is accessible, in real time.
SAP has defined so-called “Value Scenarios” for the SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA. Here SAP HANA can already be seen to offer distinct added value, for example, through the substantial acceleration of the MRP drive.
SAP HANA is not an end in itself
In-Memory and SAP HANA are the answer to altered circumstances and requirements in daily business. For one thing, business has grown much more hectic for most companies, which must react ever faster to changing requirements. Being proactive is a real challenge for many companies. Secondly: there were always companies which generate huge amounts of data, of which the evaluation, and use in decision-making, was hardly imaginable. In particular through the use and analysis of social media, the growth of data amounts in some industries has reached completely new dimensions.
Thus the challenge is even more pressing to be able to use this information. In areas more familiar to us, too, massive amounts of data are coming into existence. These include, for example, measurement data from machines and systems. If it can be managed to evaluate it and use it in prognoses, service intervals in companies could (hypothetically) be improved.
If one combines SAP HANA with other future technologies, especially mobility, it becomes clear what kind of possibilities we are talking about:
- The ability to react to changes at all times flexibly and with agility
- The ability to make fast and fundamentally sound decisions everywhere
- The ability to develop “head start” capabilities and use them.
SAP HANA and analytics
Especially in the analytics field, challenges and new opportunities are growing rapidly. In many ERP systems the adequate analysis of information has long been scarcely possible. The escape route was found in the development of data warehouse solutions. These were originally conceived as management information systems, but due to the impossibility of analyses in ERP, the trend ran more and more to transferring all operative data into the data warehouse. Ultimately the data warehouse system, too, reached the limits of its capacity.
Also problematic in this connection is the limited flexibility of a classic data warehouse. The creation of such a solution is complex and requires a substantial amount of time. Adaptation of data models to steadily changing requirements cannot be executed at will. Questions which arise cannot be answered immediately. Best Practice solutions for BI, like the BI.Booster, can mitigate this problem, but ultimately cannot solve it permanently.
A promising approach: SAP HANA Live
Along with the SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, SAP is introducing the SAP HANA Live Browser technology. On this point I want to speak less about the product than about the concept behind it. I see the following aspects as the most important:
- Operative analyses remigrate into the operative systems.
- Operative analyses on an SAP HANA platform will be possible in real time and cross-application, meaning it will be possible, for example, to evaluate data from the SD, the CRM and the FI together in real time.
- SAP NetWeaver BW will again become a strategic information system for the collection and analysis of consolidated and company-wide relevant information.
- SAP NetWeaver BW will also be the basis for advanced applications like corporate planning and legal consolidation.
- SAP BI solutions such as SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio, SAP Crystal Reports, and SAP Lumira will come into more intensive use both in the BW context and in operative reporting
A glimpse into the future
In light of the diversity of our clientele, we will for some time need to come to terms with quite varied manifestations of SAP landscapes.
In addition to the early adopters who are already investing in SAP HANA, we will still be seeing the already proven solutions in use by our customers for quite a while yet. Still, I am convinced that within the foreseeable future executing ERP launch projects running on the SAP HANA platform will be the standard procedure in business with new customers. I see one of the important jobs in demonstrating to customers when and where they can profit from this technology, in order to generate more value for their companies.