SAP makes it cheaper, easier for customers to use Hana in certain scenarios

The move signals that competition has truly arrived in the in-memory database market, says one observer

SAP has relaxed hardware requirements for using its Hana in-memory database platform for development and testing, in a move that could make existing Hana customers' operations easier and less expensive while also generating more Hana sales.

Rather than being forced to use specialized Hana appliances, now customers can take advantage of lower-cost hardware, including equipment they may already have in hand, according to an official blog post on Tuesday.

Now, earlier generations of Intel E7 chips such as Westmere EX, which cost much less than more modern ones, can be used in non-production Hana scenarios, the blog states.

Second, while SAP has recommended 256GB of RAM per CPU for running analytic Hana workloads in production, this won't be enforced for development and testing environments, according to the blog.

SAP has also relaxed the requirements for storage and networking components in non-production Hana systems.

The moves follow other efforts by SAP to lower Hana customers' total cost of ownership, such as support for virtualization.

SAP has reoriented its entire development strategy around Hana by porting packaged applications to the platform, creating a PaaS (platform as a service) with it, and rolling out a Hana-based hosting service. More than 1,500 startup companies are also developing software with Hana, according to SAP.

Hana became generally available in 2011. In its most recent earnings report, SAP said Hana had crossed the 3,600 customer mark. But it has also stopped breaking out Hana revenue, prompting some observers to question whether sales had slowed.

Tuesday's announcements signal that "the competition has finally arrived with in-memory databases and SAP is under pressure to ensure Hana is as cost-competitive as possible," said John Appleby, global head of SAP Hana at consulting firm Bluefin Solutions and an SAP Mentor, a title given to the company's most involved community members. "I'm certain this is the start of a number of activities over 2014 to reduce the TCO of Hana."

While SAP is facing competition from in-memory database technology sold by Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and others, another factor that may be inhibiting sales is customer confusion over exactly what to do with Hana, as a recent survey by the Americas' SAP Users' Group found.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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