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SAP HANA: From Specialty Database to Universal Data Platform 

Delivering the benefits of in-memory data management to more businesses, more use cases, and more kinds of users has led to explosive growth for SAP HANA.

It's easy to see why SAP HANA has become the data platform of choice for so many companies. The HANA in-memory engine and multi-model capabilities provide these applications with superior performance, columnar storage, and the ability to support a much more agile development style, enabling rapid innovation in a fast-paced business environment. The simplified HANA architecture lowers operation costs and shortens time to market. Reduced data redundancy helps to minimize data latencies, leading to higher data quality—an important metric for decision-making processes. Columnar storage, paired with highly efficient compression algorithms, addresses the challenges of ever-growing data volumes.

SAP HANA is designed to handle both transactions and analytics in-memory with minimal data redundancy, enabling customers to do advanced processing and analytics directly within our platform. Only SAP HANA can process hybrid transactional analytical workloads on multi-model data—spatial, graph, documents, and other formats—in one system in real time without tuning. The ability to define a single, trusted, and unified view of data for advanced analytics is what sets HANA apart.

 

Democratizing HANA

Although viewed by many as a specialty database when introduced in 2010, SAP HANA has become ubiquitous in recent years as it has proved itself to be the platform of choice to address a growing number of business problems. At SAP, we have effectively democratized HANA by offering the advantages of in-memory technology to the full range of data management use cases. The process of democratizing HANA included several important steps:

  • Use SAP HANA as the database technology supporting the SAP application stack
  • Leverage HANA as an acceleration sidecar in the cloud
  • Empower the Business Intelligence community with HANA's capabilities
  • Position HANA as general-purpose database to support custom applications
  • Add connectivity to make HANA a universal data platform

Let's consider each of these steps in greater detail.

The SAP Application Stack

SAP HANA's breakthrough technologies enabled us to take a new approach to support the business processes at the heart of SAP's product stack. With SAP S/4HANA, we adapted our core ERP solution to SAP HANA, simplifying data models and eliminating redundant aggregates and indices. The streamlined design enabled an optimized product stack that delivers new innovations to customers more frequently, and with the modified data models now supports operational analytics. Next came a new version of SAP Business Warehouse BW/4 HANA —leveraging the capabilities of HANA and making data warehousing simpler than ever. From there, we began to enlarge HANA's footprint in our own ecosystem, bringing in acquired platforms such as Ariba, Concur and Success Factors. More recently, we introduced SAP C/4HANA, which combines technology from the Hybris, Gigya and CallidusCloud acquisitions to provide a new approach to CRM running on the underlying SAP HANA technology.

An Acceleration Sidecar in the Cloud

Organizations migrating some or all of their IT to the cloud have found that SAP HANA allows for an easy transition for business-critical applications. HANA Realtime Replication simplifies the development of new applications leveraging real-time replicated data in sync with their on-premise systems. This architecture has enabled these organizations to develop new applications without disrupting existing ones. Increasingly common is a scenario where the organization runs operational systems on HANA on-premise while putting the analytical solution in the cloud. HANA provides the flexibility to support such an architecture, leveraging the richness of metadata and the power of the underlying database.

A Business Intelligence Engine

We have introduced applications such as SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Cloud for Planning, and others to bring the advantages of SAP HANA to a new generation of BI users. SAP HANA supports a broad range of data types, enabling users to analyze all their data assets—structured and unstructured—in context. Additionally, HANA simplifies the development and implementation of intelligent applications and extensions that make predictions or embed real-time machine learning into business processes.

Ongoing enhancements within this ecosystem continue to drive greater user adoption. The SAP Analytics Cloud solution now enables users to add machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to existing business intelligence and planning workflows. Enhanced Search to Insight capabilities make it easier for users to ask questions of their data in natural language. Additionally, Smart Predict capability and user experience improvements have made it easier to predict future outcomes and automate decisions.

A General-Purpose Database

SAP HANA has matured as a general-purpose database outside the SAP ecosystem and is used to support a large (and growing) set of custom applications as well as data warehouses, data lakes, and applications to support them. By leveraging the real-time computing power of HANA, organizations have been simplifying their applications in the same way that we have simplified ours. With SAP HANA, these companies find that they can take their custom applications to the next level of performance while leaving their code largely untouched. As a result, they drive down the cost of operations by getting rid of aggregates and indices, and by reducing the data footprint of their applications.

A Universal Platform

Since its introduction, SAP HANA's connectivity capability has been continuously evolving. We offer an expansive set of Smart Data Access and Smart Data Integration adapters which enable HANA to connect to a growing number of external systems. Managed by an intuitive graphical user interface, these adapters enable democratization of data-driven decision-making across the enterprise. With easier access and better data query tools, individuals from a wide variety of roles (many with limited technical skills) can now use data analytics routinely to make informed decisions. Business users and SDA / SDI developers alike can develop applications on that framework without reference to how the underlying technology is developed. This elegant approach avoids data duplication by using global data dimensions—allowing the business to rely on consistent and trusted data.

 

The HANA Advantage

The market response to these enhancements has been truly phenomenal. In 2018, the SAP HANA customer base grew by 44 percent over the previous year and now includes more than 28,000 customers.

The next step in the democratization of SAP HANA involves broadening the platform's applicability to a variety of use cases across hybrid and multi-cloud environments. SAP HANA follows a multi-cloud strategy allowing users to run their applications across multiple clouds, on hybrid landscapes, and on premise. In my next blog, we will look at how SAP Data Warehouse Cloud offers our customers the ability to leverage all the advanced capabilities of SAP HANA named here and takes the story of HANA democratization to a new level.

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Author
Stefan Hoffmann Stefan Hoffmann
Stefan has worked for the last 20 years in the area of data warehousing across several areas within SAP such as Development, Product Management and Consulting. He gained a profound knowledge on architectures, trends and customer requirements through multiple large scale data warehouse implementations worldwide. In his current role, he is working as Product Manager for SAP Data Warehouse Cloud with a strong customer focus.
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