Early SAP HANA customers separate reality from the hype

SAP's claims of the in-memory database's speed and power are valid, but it still has a new product's growing pains, users say

By , IDG News Service |  Software

Users should also temper their performance expectations, as not every query is necessarily going to run faster, he said.

With any new product, there will be a smaller group of early adopters closely watched by a much larger subset of the potential customer base, who either wait to see how the first group fares and the technology matures before making an investment or make only small steps toward adoption.

"We're in an information-gathering mode" regarding HANA, said an employee of a large energy company who attended Tech Ed, in an interview.

"We have a small project on the books for next year," added the employee, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. The company will search out potential use cases for HANA and look to perform a proof-of-concept, he said.

But other users are already convinced that HANA will provide broad value, and have invested accordingly.

Building materials supplier TAMKO implemented HANA to do operational reporting on its ERP (enterprise resource planning) system data, said Chuck Martin, director of application development, during a Tech Ed presentation.

After implementing SAP ERP software in 2007, accessing data within it began getting more complex and time-consuming, he said. "We couldn't get the reports out fast enough." The company also wants to give business users access to their own data and the ability to develop their own reports with the support of HANA, he added.

SAP was offering a Rapid Deployment Solution package for operational reporting on HANA, with "near real-time" data access, which the company decided to purchase, Martin said. SAP sells a series of RDS packages, which bundle up consulting services and specialized content with the goal of fast but targeted implementations.

In TAMKO's case, the HANA RDS didn't include the development of a security model, so the company had to bring in a security consultant at additional cost.

It's recommended that HANA customers think about security at an early stage of data model development, he added. "If you don't, you'll need to redesign your model later on."

The fact that TAMKO had to apply upgrades to HANA during the implementation process also proved very challenging at times.

Still, TAMKO got some positive results, including a 15-times improvement in SQL performance without any tuning.

It's wise to contract with SAP for consulting help on a HANA project at this stage, according to early customers. In addition, it's possible to get direct feedback from SAP's product development team when issues crop up, users said. That may be harder to obtain over time if HANA sales ramp up as much as SAP hopes they will.

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