SAP HANA: The smart person's guide

In this age of data everywhere, it’s essential to have databases that are quick, well organized, and that can pull all the info you need when you need it. Database management systems are many, and choosing one can be tough: End up with the wrong one and it may not work as well as it needs to. SAP HANA (High-performance ANalytics Appliance) has many features that make it a snappy and well-respected platform. If you’ve been considering it as your database manager read on.

Executive summary

  • What is SAP HANA? HANA is a database management system that uses in-memory, column-oriented, and relational technology to speed data retrieval. It acts as an intermediary between software requesting data and the databases themselves.
  • Why does it matter? SAP claims that HANA is unique among database engines because it is able to handle both transactional and analytical workloads. That means no extracting, transforming, or workload splitting.
  • Who does it affect? HANA’s hybrid structure is designed to minimize the time needed to process data and send it to requesting apps, making it an ideal solution for real-time analytics and applications.
  • When is it happening? The new database has been on the market since 2010. In the past seven years, SAP has created multiple versions of the database, including a cloud-hosted PaaS version.
  • How do I start using SAP HANA? Licenses for local installs can be purchased from SAP, who also offers PaaS hosting in the cloud. It is also available as a service from AWS, Azure, and other cloud providers.

What is SAP HANA?

SAP’s HANA (High-performance ANalytics Appliance) is a database management system. It uses in-memory processing to get around limitations in disc read speeds and sorts data in a column-oriented relational manner.

It is designed to do its job with little need for setup and tinkering because it uses a hybrid model that allows transactional and analytical calculations at the same time. It does all of that work in-memory, allowing for real-time reporting at supposed near-instant speeds.

Why does it matter?

While basic in-memory, column-oriented, and relational features may not be unique SAP claims its hybrid model is. If true that means it is one of the fastest, most streamlined database managers in the world.

Traditional database analytics requires several intermediary steps between transactional and analytic stages. Data has to be run in one form, extracted, translated, and then re-run in the other form.

SAP says it is able to do all of its work without data prep, pre-aggregation, or tuning: Just get the data in and start crunching it. For companies processing a lot of data that can be a lifesaver.

Who does it affect?

HANA was designed with real-time processing in mind, making it perfect for any organization that needs immediate feedback from their data.

SAP breaks HANA’s applications down into two categories: real-time analytics and real-time applications. Its analytics specialities are operational reporting, data warehousing, and predictive/text analysis of big data. For applications, it is suited to core process acceleration, planning and optimization applications, and sense and response reporting.

In short, HANA has the potential to affect anyone who works with data in any form, be it social media, finance, IT, or even project management.

When is it happening?

SAP released HANA in 2010 as a locally installed database management platform. In 2012 it added a Cloud Platform and Hana One (a less memory-intensive version for smaller operations).

In 2013 SAP added its capabilities to its Business Suite, as well as rolling out the Enterprise Cloud, a managed private cloud option.

In 2015 SAP released a major overhaul of its Business Suite called S/4HANA. Unlike previous versions of Business Suite, which could operate on top of databases from companies like Oracle, S/4HANA is a complete package that only operates with HANA databases, putting SAP into direct competition with other database providers.

Competitive products

HANA was alone in its field until 2013, when Oracle announced Database In-Memory for its 12C, which uses much of the same technology. Debate rages as to which one is faster and which product is superior—much of it seems to come down to platform preference.

How can I start using it?

SAP HANA is built into several cloud hosting platforms: AWS offers it, as does Microsoft Azure, IBM Softlayer, Huawei FusionSphere, and HP Helion. SAP also offers its own cloud-hosted solutions.

Licenses can be purchased from SAP directly if installing and operating locally sounds like a better idea. It isn’t cheap, though: Pricing is hard to find and varies a lot based on the desired setup.

Also – take a read of 10 questions answered about S4/HANA


Posted in: Articles

Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 16 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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