SAP’s Opens Road for HANA and Big Data at SAPPHIRE NOW

At this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference (Twitter: #SAPPHIRENOW) SAP demonstrated its in-memory computing technology and applications. SAP’s High Performance Analytic Application (HANA), which I think of as a high-availability network appliance, is part of the technology industry movement to increase the performance and scalability across a range of applications, from analytics to transactions, to drive timely insights on data or real-time interactions across a business value chain that includes everyone from customers to suppliers. As part of the in-memory computing initiative, SAP demonstrated its in-memory database, which uses a columnar data store that employs technology SAP acquired with the Sybase IQ product. As I noted before the conference, in-memory technology is part of a major new focus for this global business applications company.

In a technology keynote, SAP CTO Dr. Vishal Sikka let the customers do the talking. More than a couple of dozen testimonials came from the likes of CIOs at Caterpillar, Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle, P&G and other global companies, all of whom said they have been implementing HANA not just to run faster and more cost-effectively but also to enable new levels of efficiency in business processes.

To make the case that you do not need a dedicated appliance like the hardware HP, IBM and Oracle sell, SAP cofounder Dr. Hasso Plattner demonstrated that HANA can operate on platforms as small as an Apple server or as scalable as a Dell PowerEdge R910 rack server. The company highlighted its partnership with Dell to further its message of interoperability.

 SAP demonstrated many applications it has built on top of HANA, including strategic workforce planning, a dynamic cash flow management for supporting financial operations for managing cash and accounting operations across AR and AP, and a new available-to-promise (ATP) order-inquiry application that had many attentively watching. In addition, SAP showed a range of modeling and calculation operations that can be computed on the platform and that could be part of any planning process. It is building a new advanced planning optimization (APO) system for companies that have struggled with limitations of the existing SAP APO. Many of these applications were presented through Microsoft Excel to demonstrate the power of SAP HANA, though eventually they will be more formalized, like the applications SAP offers under its the business analytics umbrella for lines of business and vertical industries. SAP partners offered demonstrations, too, among them Centrica, showing smart-meter analytics, and Medidata, using HANA in a cloud edition for supporting clinical trials and analytics against patient and outcome data.

SAP NetWeaver BW will add support for SAP HANA in the fall with the NetWeaver service pack 7.5 and the SAP HANA service pack 3. HANA will be able to replace the existing database with in-memory computing, which will not just speed up performance but also reduce the cost of database maintenance and support. This new combination should dramatically increase the throughput of BI tools using SAP BW and help further the adoption of the recently released SAP Business Intelligence version 4 that my colleague assessed.

SAP is clearly in the big-data market, where a lot is going on now. A main focus has been on the open source application Hadoop. Commercialization of Hadoop by providers such as EMC and Cloudera illustrates that we are living in the era of large-scale data. IBM is focusing on the unification of Hadoop and large sets of data and shifting away from its acquired Netezza and IBM DB2. Meanwhile, Teradata is expanding its processing power with in-memory computing using solid state disk and the acquired Aster Data to help reach data across multiple platforms. Oracle is advancing its Exadata appliances using Sun hardware and storage with Oracle database technologies as part of its playbook. Part of the vision of HP’s new CEO, ex-SAP CEO Leo Apotheker, includes analytic database technology from newly acquired Vertica, but HP’s technology is yet to be proven to be scalable and ready to compete in this market though the company is promoting like it did with its predecessor product called HP Neoview. So this is a very busy market of technologies to address the need for faster computing of data to support business.

In order to compete successfully in this developing market, SAP must continue to focus on the business applications aspect of big data and in-memory computing. The company has been committing on-site resources for its customers to demonstrate HANA’s capabilities. SAP HANA will extend its Enterprise Information Management products to advance what’s possible in management of data across analytical processing and operational execution. SAP made it clear that HANA and the future integration with SAP NetWeaver BW are part of its new generation of applications and that the company is eager for competitive bake-offs on its reliability and scalability. SAP HANA is definitely something to examine if you are looking to gain significant throughput of your data and analytics for business for which our benchmark research finds to be in high demand by organizations across the globe. Let the games begin.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

RIM Has a BlackBerry and PlayBook for Business

At its BlackBerry World conference earlier this month, RIM promoted its own tablet computer to challenge other providers’ tablet offerings. The BlackBerry PlayBook, which was unveiled at the beginning of 2011, addresses the growing demand for business mobility – a factor I noted as one of the five key business technology innovations of this year.

Last week SAP, at its annual conference, SAPPHIRE NOW, endorsed RIM and its PlayBook as a platform for its mobile applications and tools. The use of RIM’s tablet was evident in many SAP applications areas, including sales.

About the size of a hardbound book, PlayBook makes it easy to run business applications or explore the Internet. It addresses some of the limitations of the Apple iPad with its support for Adobe Flash and a multitasking environment for applications and browser-based tools. The PlayBook provides secure tethering to the BlackBerry smartphone and supports Wi-Fi networking; RIM is expected to introduce a new model that will operate across Sprint’s 4G network. The company also realizes it needs to create a 3G version to work with other carriers.

The PlayBook’s technical specifications are sufficient for a first entry into the market. It comes with a dual-core processor that is symmetric multiprocessing and runs at only 1GHz. It comes with 1GB of internal memory and up to 64GB of internal storage. Its screen resolution of 1024-by-600 pixels is sufficient for most general consumer and business use. From my hands-on analysis and discussion with people at SAPPHIRE, the PlayBook’s touch screen can be hypersensitive and takes a little getting used to.

In a business environment, the PlayBook is designed to run tethered to a BlackBerry smartphone. RIM is helping integrate the tablet with corporate telephony by working with Avaya, Cisco and others so employees can get calls through unified communications. RIM has also released a video chat application to drive more collaboration on the tablet. RIM also introduced BlackBerry Balance, an application designed to improve security of a BlackBerry employed for both business and personal use. But anyone who wants to use a PlayBook without a BlackBerry will encounter some challenges. For instance, the PlayBook lacks a native email client so users must employ a Web browser or a third-party application to connect to their mailboxes.

Software providers in the applications and analytics and business intelligence market have been blazing a trail in mobility for many years. SAP, with its BI version 4 continues to support RIM as it has over the years. However, others such as IBM and MicroStrategy have said nothing about support of the RIM tablet in their recent communications of mobile strategy.

Overall, software providers have been slow to announce support for the platform, unsure how quickly users will adopt it, which will determine the amount of investment they care to make to support another mobile platform. On the other hand, many of the software providers have more confidence in RIM than in Microsoft and its Windows Phone 7 or HP’s webOS and its new mobile technologies.

To make the PlayBook a success, RIM must get a commitment by a broad range of application providers, in the way many have embraced Apple and the iPad. Key applications include talent and workforce management, like that from KronosSaba and SuccessFactors, as well as sales applications like those from Oracle and

At the same time it is pushing its PlayBook tablet, RIM is advancing its family of smartphones, with new 9900 and 9930 models to support a range of near-field communications (NFC) and meet demand for easier and sexier smartphones in business. RIM is also focused on helping corporate IT manage large deployments of its smartphones and tablets by providing device and application management in an upcoming version of its server powered by software acquired from ubitexx.

On the fun side of mobile computing, RIM is working with gaming companies to ensure that their games work within the PlayBook environment. The business and consumer balance of application and games is a critical driver for adoption, and RIM knows that for success. In addition the PlayBook supports high definition (HD) 1080p playback for movies and videos that could be for pleasure or business.

RIM has moved fast to make the PlayBook available for purchase in as many channels as possible. RIM supports BlackBerry Java apps, and also provides SDKs to help developers of Android-based applications port programs to RIM’s platform. The company created BlackBerry App World to provide a place to find a range of applications. And of course no smartphone or tablet would be complete without support for Facebook.

Can the RIM PlayBook grow its market share fast enough to make a dent in the massive adoption of Apple iPad and Google Android tablets? PlayBook reviews have been mediocre, but I believe the tablet has great potential as a business tablet if RIM can strategically engage with software providers and carriers to make the PlayBook an independent tablet as much as a tethered one. The PlayBook has many advantages over the iPad, and I am not just speaking about security and supporting Adobe Flash, but also its form factor and design to support collaboration, video and multi-tasking better than its peers.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer