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SAP Business Suite Heads to HANA

SAP this month unveiled a version of SAP Business Suite for HANA, its flagship analytic platform.

It's been a long time in the making -- 16 months, to be precise -- but SAP AG this month announced a version of its flagship SAP Business Suite for HANA, its flagship analytic platform.

SAP Business Suite for HANA shares the same codebase with its general-purpose predecessor. That's because it's the same product, says Ken Tsai, vice president of HANA product marketing with SAP.

"Business Suite running on HANA is [now] completely deployed. It shares one code base with the [extant] Business Suite, but it's optimized for HANA's unique capabilities," according to Tsai. To that end, SAP Business Suite can now push code down into HANA to leverage its in-memory performance. In this respect, it isn't so much a case of the SAP Business Suite's having been optimized for HANA as of HANA now being on equal footing with other established database platforms -- including RDBMSes from Oracle and SAP Sybase: "The Business Suite [detects] which database that you're actually selecting to run, [and] based on the database that you select, some of the code [i.e., database-specific optimizations] will be activated, some will not."

Because HANA comprises three in-memory engines in one -- i.e., a columnar engine, optimized for SQL-driven analytics; a NoSQL-like engine for unstructured data; and a text analytic/graphing engine -- Tsai says SAP Business Suite users "can have descriptive and predictive analysis on one platform, along with transaction analytics and operational reporting."

Rave reviews of HANA are almost invariably leavened with caveats -- most of which concern its pricing. HANA isn't just an in-memory analytic engine; it's designed for massive scale, and can support up to 80 processors and 1 TB of memory in a single system image.

In other words, HANA is designed to run on beefy systems with lots of memory. Even in an age of dirt-cheap servers, hardware of this kind comes at a price. In the case of SAP Business Suite for HANA, Tsai didn't specifically address pricing: the version of its Business Suite approved for use on HANA -- which Tsai says is identical in all but packaging and SKU number to the vanilla SAP Business Suite -- is licensed in similar terms: there's a run-time-only license (in which customers pay annual maintenance costs) and an enterprise license.

"As an SAP customer, when you buy Business Suite, there are two options that you can choose from. These options are available for any database: you can buy a runtime-only license or enterprise license, which enables full use," he comments. At this point, customers can't buy an all-in-one SAP Business Suite/HANA package: both products must be ordered separately, says Tsai.

Although SAP Business Suite can be purchased from any of SAP's hundreds of reseller or integrator partners, on-premises HANA is sold through a septet of hardware partners -- a roster that includes heavyweights Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc., and IBM Corp.

"Customers do have to take delivery of SAP HANA directly from our seven hardware partners. Another deployment option is in the cloud. We also have cloud vendors who will deploy [Business Suite] directly in the cloud," says Tsai, mentioning Amazon Web Services.

SAP has a version of HANA for cloud environments, too. It doesn't yet offer a Business-Suite-running-on-HANA cloud service, however. Were it to introduce one, Tsai explains, it would almost certainly be an on-premises, or private cloud, configuration.

"There's a lot of thinking around the cloud strategy, a lot of thinking around how do you take a HANA platform into non-SAP use-cases," he concludes, noting that HANA-in-the-cloud "has been available since September of 2011. People always say HANA is expensive, but we offer HANA at 99 cents an hour."

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