SAP marries transaction processing with analytics by putting Business Suite on Hana

Germany’s enterprise software giant SAP(s sap) has made it even clearer than ever that Hana is its ticket forward, unveiling a version of its core Business Suite for the in-memory platform.
The point of ‘SAP Business Suite powered by SAP Hana’ (currently available to existing customers) is to marry online transaction processing with analytics, with the primary benefit being speed. Indeed, SAP chairman Hasso Plattner said at the launch on Thursday that the goal for transactional query response times was three seconds. Now SAP’s purchase last year of enterprise mobile tech company Syclo starts to make more sense.

“Why is speed so important? One reason: mobile,” Plattner said. “When we use mobile devices… we do not want to wait more than three seconds.
“We will build a new world of front-end and we will do this together with our customers… We have to be on every device.”

Analysts at Ovum reckon processing speed is “the least of Hana’s potential benefits”, though. In a note on Friday, Ovum pointed out that there were clear efficiency benefits to embedding analytics with transaction processing. It also suggested that the ability to generate data views on-the-fly should trim database footprint requirements and, over time, simplify the design of applications running on top of Business Suite.
For SAP, though, this is largely a bid for relevance. Customers are used to running its ERP applications on other companies’ databases – Oracle(s orcl), IBM(s ibm)’s DB2, Microsoft(s msft)’s SQL Server – and this is a way of bringing them onto SAP’s own platform.
And Hana is clearly core to SAP’s future. The platform went into the cloud last October – perhaps finally giving SAP a lasting foothold in that arena – and Plattner noted on Thursday that all new SAP applications will be developed for Hana. That said, those rival databases will still be supported, although their vendors may need to do some optimization.

“Customers have the choice,” Plattner said. “There are some features missing in the other databases [but] we will tell the other database manufacturers what those features are and, if they can develop them, we will also support them.”

Will the Hana-fied Business Suite tempt enterprise customers? SAP is touting a ‘comprehensive’ set of migration and rapid deployment services for those who want to make the leap, but Ovum’s cautious, partly because it thinks SAP may have a messaging problem on its hands. After all, Hana was a database then an analytics platform, and now it’s just a platform — and it’s only a couple of years old.

“SAP Business Suite on HANA has the potential to be a game changer by making SAP much more relevant to its customers. But in the near term, SAP Business Suite on HANA should be seen as opportunistic upgrade for existing customers or greenfield opportunity for new ones,” the analyst house said.
“Few if any enterprises currently rank replacement of enterprise systems as top priority. Convincing customers that the ‘transformative’ benefits of Suite on HANA will be non-disruptive technically is the challenge SAP faces with an entrenched Business Suite customer base. Companies don’t swap out their database and ERP investments overnight.”

One thing that could help convince existing Business Suite customers to jump to Hana is the pricing model, which SAP set after consultation with its German user group, DSAG. Essentially, customers will only have to upgrade licenses that access the Hana database, rather than having to upgrade the whole license agreement.

“As far as licensing costs are concerned, the database for the Business Suite on Hana will now cost existing SAP customers exactly the same as the conventional databases,” DSG board member Andreas Oczko said in a statement. “This will give each individual customer the chance to use in-memory technology at a reasonable price.”