SAP Is Betting Heavily On Its HANA Technology

If there were any lingering doubts about the strategic importance SAP is attaching to its HANA in-memory database product, they were dispelled Wednesday in a blitz of HANA-related news and presentations on the last day of the Sapphire Now conference.

SAP debuted a release of HANA that expands the in-memory database's capabilities and scalability and makes it more attractive as a platform for developers. The vendor also launched a number of analytics applications built on HANA and a new data discovery and visualization tool that's powered by the software.

HANA provides a boost for a company's IT systems, quickly processing large volumes of structured and unstructured data and speeding up complex analytical queries.

[Related: Partners See Progress In SAP's Evolution Into A Channel-Friendly Company ]

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"HANA is on the way to becoming the foundation of most of our applications," said Hasso Plattner, SAP chairman and one of the company's co-founders, in a keynote speech Wednesday where he spoke about the technology's importance.

HANA is quickly becoming one of SAP's flagship products and a key element of its database and technology business, one of the company's five technology initiatives (along with applications, mobile computing, cloud computing and business analytics). Company executives recently made it clear they intend to use HANA to challenge Oracle and its dominance of the data management market.

CTO Vishal Sikka followed Plattner, offering a more detailed look at SAP's plans for the software. "The momentum we are seeing is just incredible," Sikka said, noting that HANA is only a year old.

The software currently has 353 customers, 145 of which have implemented the technology. One is Burberry, and John Douglas, the clothing maker's CTO, took the stage to declare that HANA is quickly becoming a core technology for the company's operational computing systems and business analytics projects.

NEXT: SAP Pitching HANA To Partners

SAP also has plans to make HANA a staple of its channel efforts, convincing solution providers and ISVs to build applications and services around the technology. Currently only HANA Edge, a scaled-down edition of the product, is available to channel partners.

Partners are starting to ask for the right to sell the enterprise edition as well, said Mark Milford, national vice president of SAP's North America Partner Ecosystem Group, in an interview. "We're getting tremendous pull from the channel for HANA right now," he said.

Some partners are taking a cautious approach. RJT Compuquest, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, is getting certified to work with HANA, but Senior Vice President Fred Degley said in an interview at Sapphire Now that his company will "get more comfortable" with the technology before really selling it.

But in pre-Sapphire interviews, several SAP channel partners said they saw opportunities to work with HANA. Alex Rooney, a vice president with Vision 33, an SAP Gold partner, is eagerly anticipating an edition of the SAP BusinessOne application suite that works with HANA. That product is now in the beta stage of development.

"For some of the larger companies with high transaction volumes and serious analysis needs, it will be significant," Rooney said.

HANA support for SAP's flagship Business Suite applications is under development and slated for later this year, Sikka said.

The latest release of HANA, Service Pack 4, is now available with native text search features, predictive and business libraries, high-availability capabilities, integration with Apache Hadoop for big data analysis, and integration with the R development language for building predictive applications.

New support for multinode systems will make it easier for businesses to scale up HANA to work with larger data sets, SAP said. And the release supports SAP's NetWeaver Business Warehouse data warehouse system.

SAP also is making HANA available for developers through Amazon Web Services.

On Wednesday SAP also debuted Visual Intelligence, a desktop version of the vendor's BusinessObjects Explorer product, which allows users to visualize and analyze information without the need for IT departments to develop reports. Visual Intelligence is powered by the HANA platform.

And SAP unveiled a line of business analysis software built on HANA including planning and consolidation, cash forecasting, sales pipeline analysis, deposit management and other applications.