SAP Partners See Opportunities, Challenges In New HANA Releases

Software giant SAP handed out folded map-style brochures at its Sapphire Now conference in Orlando, Fla., last week detailing the company's product development plans for the rest of 2016. At the core of those plans was SAP HANA, the data management and application platform that since its debut more than five years ago has become the center of the company's product strategy.

It has also become a critical part of the technology strategies of many of SAP's partners and their customers.

"We've gotten past the 'if' question of whether our [SAP] customers will adopt HANA," said Steven Davenport, who leads Accenture's North America SAP platform within Accenture Technology, in an interview at Sapphire. "It's just a question of when and how they will deploy HANA."

[Related: SAP, Microsoft Strike Software Integration Alliance]

Sponsored post

At Sapphire Now, SAP unveiled new releases of SAP HANA, SAP HANA Edge Edition for midsize companies, and the spring 2016 edition of SAP HANA Cloud Platform (HCP), the vendor's Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering.

SAP executives used the event to tout HANA's capabilities.

"The 20th century database is dead, dead, dead," said CEO Bill McDermott, addressing hundreds of SAP partners during an SAP Partner Summit that preceded Sapphire Now.

SAP recently passed the 10,000-customer threshold with HANA, with the majority on-premise deployments, said Ken Tsai, vice president and head of cloud platform and data management product marketing, in an interview at Sapphire Now. He said the channel would play a significant role in expanding HANA adoption, including cloud deployments.

"Growing the HANA ecosystem is critical," Tsai said. As for the new product releases, "the feedback from the ecosystem has been very strong," he said.

The new HANA release, officially SAP HANA SPS12, includes a number of new capabilities and enhancements including graph data processing, workload management capabilities for multitenant environments, the ability to capture live workloads and replay them on a target system, text mining tools, security enhancements, and additional configuration and monitoring options for the HANA Cockpit administration tool.

Perhaps most significantly, SAP announced a beta program for upcoming HANA hybrid data management services in the cloud.

Generally, there are two schools of customers that Ernst & Young, a major SAP partner, is working with, said Scott Schlesinger, a principal with the systems integrator, at Sapphire. One is SAP customers looking to adopt HANA to replace older systems and the other is businesses and organizations that already have HANA and are looking to expand its range of uses -- such as integrating its analytics capabilities with Hadoop and other data sources, Schlesinger said.

Bluefin Solutions, a Chicago-based consulting firm, often finds itself working with customers who may be aware of HANA, but have no clear road map for adoption or any idea of how to implement it, said U.S. General Manager John Appleby. Some customers have even purchased HANA, but haven't implemented or activated it. Bluefin's bailiwick is working with SAP customers to integrate HANA with the rest of a company's IT system and generate value from it.

Late in the Sapphire show, Appleby, in an interview, said he had met with executives from 46 businesses, all with annual revenue between $5 billion and $50 billion, "and all of them are planning to do some sort of HANA transformation," he said.

CenturyLink's Cognilytics, based in San Jose, Calif., is building a data management and analytics practice around SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, the private managed cloud service based on the HANA system. Chief Data Officer Andrew Clyne, in an interview at Sapphire, said the service would include building data lakes for customers for collecting and analyzing huge volumes of data.

Clyne was particularly excited about HANA Vora, a built-in query engine for analyzing Hadoop and Spark data, calling it a potential "game changer" in the business analytics arena.

SAP HANA, Edge edition, is a version of the HANA platform with a low entry price that's targeted toward midsize companies and sold through indirect channels. A number of SAP's partners bundle SAP HANA Edge Edition with their solutions.

At Sapphire, SAP launched a new advanced version of SAP HANA, Edge Edition, which supports a 32-GB database and 128 GB of dynamic tiering, a feature that allows IT to manage growing volumes of data by moving it from in-memory to lower-cost storage. The new edition also is packaged with SAP Predictive Analytics for analyzing business data and predicting outcomes.

SAP partner Vision33, based in Irvine, Calif., sells the vendor's Business One, a set of applications for small and midsize businesses that run on either the SMB edition of HANA or the Microsoft SQL Server database. While the majority of Vision33's customer deployments are on-premise, Vice President Alex Rooney said in an interview that most new customers are subscribing to Business One in the cloud, and Business One on HANA in the cloud has become the solution provider's standard offering. (Vision33 also won a Pinnacle Award at Sapphire for "Customer Choice -- Sell.")

The HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) is SAP's cloud business platform for extending existing cloud or on-premise applications, and for developing new cloud applications, HCP competes with other PaaS systems including Microsoft's Azure and's

The new spring edition offers extensions for the SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (S/4HANA) applications and SAP SuccessFactors human resource management applications. The new API Business Hub provides partners, customers and developers with centralized access to APIs for HCP and other SAP applications. A new HCP-based iOS software development kit for developing iPhone and iPad applications follows the recently announced alliance between SAP and Apple.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), one of SAP's leading consulting and systems integration partners, has been working with customers since HANA's 2011 debut to help them understand "whether, where and how to implement" the database platform, said Akhilesh Tiwari, the global head of TCS' SAP practice.

The new API Hub, SuccessFactors extensions, Apple iOS development kit and prebuilt extensions for SAP S/4HANA applications "should now give customers and partners more flexibility to drive transformation in the cloud," Tiwari said.

There are 420 solution providers and ISVs who have built, or are currently building, software on the HANA Cloud Platform -- a number that already exceeds the goal of 400 for the entire year, said Marc Geall, head of SAP HANA cloud platform partner innovation. SAP has had no problems recruiting partners for the cloud platform, he said, and the focus is now on supporting their efforts. "There's clearly momentum," he said in a Sapphire meeting.

"There's a lot of [intellectual property] work being done" on the HANA Cloud Platform, said Scott Jones, SAP's recently hired North America channel chief (officially senior vice president of commercial and ecosystem sales) in an interview at Sapphire. But SAP has ambitious cloud growth goals of 55 percent annually, and partners need to get out and sell the vendor's cloud offerings, Jones said.

At the conference, Rodolpho Cardenuto, president of global partner operations, outlined plans for a new Cloud Business Partner initiative, part of SAP's PartnerEdge channel program, to specifically help partners sell SAP's cloud services.

But the cloud version of HANA may have some catching up to do with the on-premise edition. HCP uses a different architecture and its performance, so far, isn't as good, said Chris Dinkel, director of business intelligence and data analytics at systems integration and consulting firm Deloitte Consulting. HCP doesn't have a dynamic tiered architecture, he said, and doesn't handle huge datasets as well.

Dinkel does see big potential for HCP applications down the road, including with Internet of Things applications.

HANA Cloud Platform does appear to be catching on with SAP's ISV and OEM partners.

Reveal, a Naperville, Ill.-based solution provider and SAP partner, has embraced the vendor's cloud approach, moving to the SAP HCP last year for its supply chain applications and services. Earlier this year, the company launched oVo Lighthouse, a supply chain analytics application built on HCP.

Jim Cameron, a partner at Reveal, praised HCP as a comprehensive development platform the company uses to build "sidecar" applications that access SAP systems. "The ability to build these sidecar SAP HANA Cloud apps has been very profitable for us," Cameron said. The platform helped the company move to a recurring revenue model, he said.

Startup MacroMicro developed its OrgInsight software, designed to help human resource management executives analyze employee and organizational data, on HCP and taps into HANA's built-in analytical capabilities. (MacroMicro was SAP's Pinnacle Award winner for application development partner of the year.)

Earlier this year Smart Utility Systems moved its mobile applications for the utility industry to HCP, transitioning off of other platforms including Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, said Kurt Sweetser, the company's vice president of alliance partnerships and customer relations. The applications take advantage of the prebuilt services within the HANA Cloud Platform, and HCP provides the link between the mobile applications and a utility company's IT system, he said. (Smart Utility Systems also won a Pinnacle award for OEM partner of the year.)

And PTC's ThingWorx business, which is assembling an Internet of Things platform, is integrating its system with both HANA and HCP. "That gives us access to the whole world of SAP products," said John Stuart, division vice president of technology platform group global sales and partners, at PTC ThingWorx.

HANA adoption is also being driven by growing demand for S/4HANA, the next-generation suite of ERP applications that SAP launched last year. TCS recently set up a task force to work with its top customers to set up road maps for implementing S/4HANA, based on their needs.

Many clients of Itelligence, one of SAP's biggest channel partners, are considering implementing S/4HANA in a cloud environment, said Steve Niesman, president and CEO of the Downers Grove, Ill.-based solution provider.

The new releases of HANA and HANA Cloud Platform are, in turn, generating demand for tools and services like business process testing and discovery software from Worksoft, based in Addison, Texas, that help companies ensure that no business processes are broken when new software is introduced into an IT network.

"It's a big change for a lot of customers," said Shoeb Javed, Worksoft's chief technology officer, in a Sapphire interview, noting that some businesses have custom code written for HANA that has to work with the new release. And increasing sales of the SAP S/4HANA application set is also driving demand for Worksoft's technology. Worksoft is itself an SAP partner that, in turn, also works with other SAP integration and implementation partners.

At Sapphire, SAP also unveiled plans to give customers more flexibility in how they upgrade their HANA implementations. SAP currently delivers HANA updates twice a year, but some businesses and organizations prefer not to upgrade their IT systems that often, given that updating HANA can mean updating applications that work with the platform, said Tsai, the SAP HANA product marketing executive.

Under the new expanded maintenance life cycle program, customers can stay with a specific edition of HANA for up to three years, receiving only security updates. At any time during that period, a customer can upgrade HANA, getting all the functionality added to the software since the customer's last upgrade, Tsai said.