SAP thinks customers are ready for HANA

LAS VEGAS – Executives at German business software vendor SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) put its HANA appliance front and centre at day one of its 2011 TechEd conference, but the jury is still out on how quickly its customers and partners will buy into a vision SAP sees as key for the future of the company.

HANA is SAP’s in-memory computing platform. Delivered in an appliance model combining industry-standard x86 hardware with SAP analytical software and a services play for the channel, it sits in the datacentre and allows companies to draw real-time analysis and reporting from their legacy data stores. It went into general availability in June, but was first discussed at Sapphire in 2010.

Vishal Sikka, SAP’s CTO and executive board member, told TechEd attendees that SAP has seen an “explosion” in interest around HANA, and it has the fastest-growing pipeline in SAP’s history. Still, when SAP asked for a show of hands to see how many were developing a HANA strategy, just five per cent of TechEd attendees – some of SAP’s most engaged customers and partners, indicated they were looking at HANA.

At a press conference in response to a question from CDN, Sikka re-iterated that interest in HANA is strong, and that SAP’s user-base is crying-out for the real-time analytics enabled by in-memory computing.

“Every customer we talk to, every prospect is incredibly excited,” said Sikka.

The question though, he added, is how far and how fast they’re willing to jump. There will be a feeling-out and analysis phase. It will also take time for SAP and its partners to develop applications to run on top of HANA, and for SAP to move more of its core ERP and CRM systems onto HANA.

“The interest we see is incredible and we’re doing everything we can to do justice to this demand,” said Sikka. “It’s still very early. We’re doing everything in our power to stay true to our constitution of being a trusted and reliable vendor.”

Several SAP announcements Tuesday centred around HANA, including two new applications to run on top of HANA. SAP Smart Meter Analytics is designed to help utility companies better understand and develop offerings around customer usage patterns, and SAP COPA Accelerator aims to improve the speed and depth of working with large volumes of financial data. They join SAP BusinessObjects Strategic Workforce Planning, a HANA application launched earlier this year and more will follow, developed by both SAP and its partner ecosystem.

Amit Sinha, vice-president of marketing for SAP HANA, told CDN that, in addition to targeted niche applications that demonstrate the power of HANA such s the Smart Meter tool, the intent is to have every SAP platform on HANA. SAP Business One will leverage HANA later this year, and SAP will launch at least 15 HANA apps over the next year. In time, he expects the majority of SAP’s customer base to adopt HANA.

Part of the challenge for SAP with HANA is that it’s an entirely new business offering, and communicating that value will be a challenge said Dan Wilhelms, president of Symmetry, an SAP partner and hosting provider in Milwaukee, Wis. “The challenge for SAP in promoting HANA is it can solve problems I’m not sure our customers have formulated yet as problems, or don’t realize they can answer a question they didn’t know they could ask before,” said Wilhelms. “They’re coming out with use cases to articulate business problems that have been insurmountable in the past. (It will take time, but) the light bulb will go off for CEOs.”

Wilhelms said right now it’s the Fortune 100 that are kicking the tires on HANA; it will take time for the mid market to get on board, and it will begin with limited pilot projects.

In other news at TechEd Tuesday, SAP launched SAP Solution Manager 7.1 and Sybase Unwired Platform 2.1. The new Solution Manager release offers performance improvements and a redesigned user interface, while Unwired Platform aims to improve mobile application development with an enhanced software development kit and new developer resources.

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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