Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can SAP be the #2 database vendor by 2015? [Guest Post]

Note: This is a guest post by John Appleby (@applebyj) of BlueFin Solutions. Opinions are his (but I value his opinions!).

Last week 150 people travelled to Boston to listen to SAP talk about their future focus. There was a lot of talk about cloud, muted by the fact that SAP have just acquired HCM cloud vendor SuccessFactors and therefore are unable to talk about the acquisition until it is completed. But their in-memory technology, HANA, was also in centre frame.

And during the conference, SAP senior executive Steve Lucas announced that he intends SAP to be the #2 database vendor by 2015. It wasn't a throwaway comment and hyperbole is not Steve's way. He was clear on who this meant overtaking and clear on this difficulty of this journey. But is this realistic, or just pie in the sky?

For those who don't completely understand: SAP HANA is a next-generation database. At a 30,000ft level it can do anything that Oracle, IBM or Microsoft can do, but hundreds or thousands of times faster, because it runs in the main memory of a computer system rather than on slow spinning disks. I've used it and it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Why doesn't SAP HANA have deeper market penetration?

Put simply it is because SAP wanted it this way. Whilst HANA truly is a general-purpose database, SAP first announced it as an analystics appliance for the 1.0 release. They also priced it really high and didn’t' offer a discount – list pricing can be as high as €180,000 for a 64GB HANA "unit", depending on which version you require.

And what's more, SAP sells solutions and HANA is a platform, so the global salesforce doesn't quite know how to sell it in volume - yet. They didn't want to sell it in volume in any case because they wanted to introduce it slowly to market – building stability, references along the way and avoiding expensive and embarrassing global escalations.

So by the end of 2011 we should expect $100-150m of HANA sales, which is 3-5% of SAP's total revenue. Not particularly significant, right? Well in September they released HANA as being supported for SAP's Business Warehouse software, which allows large-scale data warehouses. And this is where it gets interesting: there are 17,000 existing BW customers, and HANA would provide business benefit to all of them.

What is the wider market opportunity for SAP HANA?

It starts with the SAP BW product, which has 17,000 customers. HANA can replace the database that BW runs on – which is typically from Oracle, IBM or Microsoft. The benefits of this are huge – much faster reporting, data loads, far better agility and a better business experience overall. HANA literally transforms SAP BW.

But that is just the start because the fact that BW runs on HANA means that SAP can allow any of its software to run with HANA – replacing the existing database. And how quickly it chooses to allow this is a factor of how quickly it decides that HANA is mature enough to do this. Larry Ellison from Oracle claimed that there is no in-memory database anywhere near to being able to run as the database for a transactional system at the beginning of 2011. HANA has not yet proven that it is ready yet, but this is exactly what SAP intends.

And even that is just the tip of the iceberg. Because let's be clear: HANA can be used for anything. It supports industry standard connections like ODBC and JDBC and anything that runs a database can be run on HANA – just much faster than ever before. Other vendors have in-memory technologies but the way HANA is designed means it is much more general-purpose than what Oracle and IBM have to offer.

So what is possible by 2015?

Well this is the billion dollar question. From a personal perspective I am deeply impressed with what SAP have done with HANA in 2011. It has gone from being vapourware (January) to being a real product on the price list (July) - albeit immature. And by September a second – much more mature – release was released to market that supports BW. That's an enormous amount of progress in 12 short months.

And I already have projects underway that use HANA as a general purpose database for things like the Sybase Unwired Platform – enabling real-time enterprises with iPads, providing decision making on the move based on events that happened seconds before. There's no doubt that the technology has huge potential. The question is – what happens next, and how fast?

It also depends what you mean by #2 database vendor. For example Oracle say they are the #1 SAP database vendor. Yes – they have the most large systems. Microsoft claim the same, because they have the most customers (a lot of smaller customers run Microsoft). And guess what, IBM claim the same – because IBM have the biggest SAP databases. SAP are going to have to be clear when they explain what they mean by #2.

But based on what I've seen – expect early ERPs to be supported by SAP in 2012 – including the BusinessOne ERP suite – ERP lite, if you like, designed for organisations with 1-100 employees. Expect SAP's SME (10-1000 employee) ByDesign cloud suite to run on HANA and also expect HANA to support standards: because today whilst HANA supports ODBC and JDBC, it does not support 3rd party systems to connect directly into this.

In 2012 we should also expect to see proper support for larger (>1TB databases). HANA compresses around 10:1 to 5:1 compared to other databases so 1TB is 5-10TB of standard database, but it hasn't really been proven to scale properly yet. Expect to see this happen in 2012, as well as scenarios that require disaster recovery and other technical stuff like integration with enterprise monitoring suites like Tivoli.

Why is SAP taking its sweet time?

It seems to be that the answer is pretty simple. The last major database to go to market was Microsoft in the mid-90s with SQL Server. They made an acquisition and it was still awful until the release in 2000. SAP doesn't want this stigma and is therefore phasing the rollout, making the software expensive and thereby limiting the number of customers.

For example there was no shortage of customers out of the 17,000 to join the NetWeaver BW early adoption program that SAP calls Ramp-Up. But there were 50 slots and those were easily filled with customers who had realistic projects that would go live. Little by little they build references, quality software and trust within the customer base – but not growing so fast that there are major project failures. There have been a few instances where HANA was oversold in the early days and those projects were managed carefully – directly by the SAP leadership team.

Projects that use HANA as an ERP database have been deliberately avoided, as SAP Chief Technology Officer Vishal Sikka told me. He described how if Porsche's BW data warehouse were to stop working, they would raise a priority support call and SAP would sort it out. However if their ERP system stopped working and production of cars ceased, he would get a personal phone call from a board member.

So in 2013 expect support for the ERP suite to start to come. And by then, HANA will be sold for every conceivable scenario through 2014 and 2015. And the interesting thing is I don't believe that a killer scenario exists for HANA yet, because all the scenarios right now are really about doing what you do today, but faster. Let's start thinking about what you can't do today – and might give you a huge competitive advantage.

And can SAP be the #2 database vendor by 2015? Really?

Honestly I'm not sure, but it is definitely the right goal. HANA isn't about high-performance analytics – it's about changing the way that customers do business, with a technology enabler. For this reason, SAP have to be looking at going after the database market – and helping customers get a huge competitive advantage along the way.

I honestly suspect that the biggest challenge that SAP have along this way is enabling the salesforce to educate customers on how beneficial it would be – because the SAP salesforce is aligned around industry verticals and Lines of Business. A global reorganisation is underway to change this, and the way that HANA is explained and sold is at the core of this, but HANA is a platform and will need to be sold as such. That is a serious piece of organisational change for SAP and shouldn't be underestimated.

Regardless of whether Steve's goal is met or not, SAP HANA is perhaps one of the most interesting technologies I have seen in my 14 years of working in Enterprise IT, and well worth serious consideration, whatever business you run. If you are a SAP customer I would go a step further and say that you should look at building your HANA roadmap, based on your business imperatives compared to the product maturity and availability roadmap.

Disclosure: SAP paid for John's travel and expenses to the Influencer Summit in Boston. Mine, too, btw, and SAP is a client of mine (Dennis).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My favorite SAP HANA blogs

Here are the "must read" blogs for those who wish to understand SAP HANA.

Jon Reed:

Podcast - Debating the Value of SAP HANA -

Vitaliy Rudnytskiy:Link

Is SAP HANA about the “in-memory database”? -
SAP HANA: Opening New Frontiers -

John Appleby:

Updated: The SAP HANA FAQ - answering key SAP In-Memory questions -
First Impressions on SAP NetWeaver BW 7.3, powered by SAP HANA - amazing -
Why SAP HANA 1.0 SP03 - Project Orange - will be a runaway success -

Vijay Vijayasankar:

Redbull migrates BW to HANA – I am suitably impressed -


What Are the Killer Apps for SAP HANA and Other In-Memory Computing Systems? - and
The Real (Potential) Impact of SAP HANA -
Is SAP HANA Right For You (Now) -
SAP HANA - The Strategic Context -


Friday, December 9, 2011

What Are the Killer Apps for SAP HANA and Other In-Memory Computing Systems?

In a previous blog, I argued that SAP HANA (and in-memory computing) had the potential to bring a number of benefits to enterprises in the short term, including:
  • elimination of lag time between data capture in the operational system and its availability in analytical systems,
  • greatly increased query performance, and
  • simplification of the IT landscape.
A second blog discussed scenarios in which HANA could be transformative to customers today. In summary, customers running SAP BW may find substantial benefits to moving to SAP HANA in the short term - read the blog for more details. It's my opinion that SAP BW is the "killer app" for HANA. However, this is only a part of the answer, since BW is a platform on which customers run many different apps.

"Timeful" software

Why is HANA so interesting? In a sense, what the HANA team did is to look at all the assumptions underlying applications today. Given the enormous changes in the price of high-speed memory, it is now possible and economical to handle essentially all of our typical transactional applications - and a very large fraction of our analytical applications - on a data set in fast RAM, rather than on a slow disk.
As I was discussing SAP HANA with Vishal Sikka (SAP Chief Technology Officer and Executive Board member) and his team over the past months, I came to the conclusion that the software architecture embodied in HANA is a radical re-thinking of the assumptions underlying the enterprise software industry - and this could be transformative for the enterprise software industry and every industry it supports. Disruptive changes in speed and cost have always held the potential for transformations of industries, whether in transportation (from sailboats to airplanes), farming (from ox-driven plows to today's automated equipment), or mining (workers with pick axes to earthmovers and dynamite). As these industries transformed, they also led to transformations in the industries around them, and society as a whole. For example, fast, cheap, reliable transportation led to transformations of every industry from agriculture to energy to trade to government and even to war.
Vishal recently discussed a concept he calls "Timeless Software" (blog, video). Timeless Software embodies the notion that software must evolve as customer needs - and technologies available to satisfy them - change. Business processes and data need to survive even as the technologies around them get invented, flourish, and eventually passed by with new and (usually!) better successors. But what about the situation where the business needs change extremely rapidly, and the business can flourish or perish based on its ability to respond in real-time?
You could think of this scenario, where time is of the essence, as "timeful software" - scenarios in which you could transform an industry by eliminating latency - or lack - of information. HANA's speed allows batch processes to be performed more frequently, continuously, or transmuted into continuous processes. Can such speed - delivering information and insight into the hands of those who need it instantly when it is needed, or re-planning on an "as needed" basis rather than periodically - can such speed really transform an industry? Can moving information and deriving information in real-time make such a difference?
In many business processes, the answer is already, resoundingly "yes." Hotels check availability before confirming your reservation. Banks check for sufficient funds before cashing a check at the teller. Airplanes get rerouted and rescheduled when a volcano erupts in Iceland. But there are many other business processes which are executed periodically, in batches, today due to the cost and disruption to production systems. If the cost (performance) and disruption (latency, system unavailability windows) could be eliminated - as they can be with in-memory computing systems like SAP HANA - then the economics of businesses and industries could be substantially improved.
These "timeful" scenarios listed below are illustrative of those which I think will be enabled by SAP HANA, and which will lead to dramatic efficiencies, competitive shifts, and improved service, creating value for customers in such a way as to transform an industry.
Killer App
A killer app is a typically thought of as an application that is so beneficial that it drives widespread adoption of a new type of platform. This term was invented for the computer industry, with VisiCalc (driving the adoption of personal computers) being a canonical example. Once individuals, and businesses, adopted personal computers to run VisiCalc (or Lotus 1-2-3 for MS-DOS, or Excel and Word on Windows), users started using those same computers for many other applications, ranging from word processing to e-mail to web browsing. The impact of these second set of applications is more profound than was the impact of the spreadsheet, but it was the spreadsheet that paved the way for these applications by bringing PCs into mainstream adoption.
VisiCalc, Lotus, and Excel were really just containers that held data and applications ("macros"), and it was those applications that made the tools into killer apps, used for everything from budgeting to tax preparation to production planning to homework. In many ways, SAP BW is exactly analogous to a spreadsheet like VisiCalc or Lotus. BW is a container that can hold data and applications - applications including the lists of processes above. BW, with scenarios like the long lists above, will drive widespread adoption of in-memory computing (and SAP HANA, more specifically). Once HANA is in place as the database under SAP BW, customers will find many more ways to use HANA to transform their enterprises to much higher levels of performance, much as word processors, e-mail, and browsers are transforming business and society.
Will SAP HANA have the same impact as the PC? Will HANA be VisiCalc or Excel in my analogy? Time will tell, but time is exactly what SAP HANA gives you. And, perhaps in the end, time is the real "killer app."
Do you have additional scenarios to suggest for "timeful" transformations? Share them here!
Note: SAP is a former employer, and current client, of the author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is SAP HANA Right for You (Now)?

Sunrise over Hana BayAs mentioned in my previous post, SAP HANA has been the focus of much of SAP's technical and marketing communications of late, and has been of great interest to the influencer community (see these excellent posts by John Appleby (@applebyj) and Vijay Vijayasankar (@vijayasankarv) for example). Many SAP customers with whom I spoke recently are also interested in HANA for a number of reasons. Strategically, HANA is very important to SAP – it can deliver a substantial new revenue opportunity for SAP and its ecosystem, provide customers with game-changing benefits, and at the same time change the competitive market dynamics relative to Oracle in SAP's favor. Still, it is very early days for SAP HANA, and SAP's customers are not always willing to jump on a new technology until it has been proven to provide a real business benefit. How can you determine if SAP HANA is right for you (now)?

SAP HANA Benefits

Let’s start by taking a look at the benefits of SAP HANA. HANA can provide significant improvements in query performance, low latency between operational and analytical data stores, reduced administrative overhead, and both better TCO and price/performance ratios as compared to traditional data warehouses. Each of these bears some explanation; however, my explanation has run into several thousand words, so I will cover the details in my next blog.

Recently, SAP announced that SAP BW now runs on SAP HANA as a supported configuration, and the product is in a controlled release. SAP also announced an intention to deliver pre-built applications on SAP HANA, but these are not available yet. While I believe that BW on HANA is a "killer app" for HANA, others have urged SAP to focus on applications. According to Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret and an expert in achieving successful enterprise projects, "SAP's challenge is to humanize HANA, focusing on line of business use cases while de-emphasizing the underlying technology, at least from a marketing perspective. If line of business customers see huge value, they will demand that their IT departments purchase HANA."

Given the lack of availability of other packaged apps on HANA, I think the only real appeal of HANA can be – at this point – to SAP BW customers. Fortunately, given the benefits mentioned above (wicked fast query performance, reduced loading and preparation time, no latency between operational and analytical systems, and reduced complexity and cost), BW appears to be the perfect killer app for HANA – this will bring HANA in the door at many customer accounts, and then customers will find other uses for it.

Customers: Is SAP HANA Right for You (Now)

If you don't get on that plane ...If you are a customer of SAP, chances are you will adopt HANA – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for … oh, wait, this is not that movie, and I don’t think you'll regret leaving your expensive and slow databases behind for HANA. Seriously, more than 13,000 SAP customers use BW today, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 customers use SAP Business Suite. In time, HANA will become so integrated with the Business Suite that customers will likely move to HANA, though this migration is some years out.

So, if you're planning on continuing to use SAP Business Suite, chances are you will adopt HANA. This means that the question for SAP customers is more "should I begin my adoption of SAP HANA now, or should I wait?" And the answer is quite simple: you should begin your adoption of HANA if there is a good business case for this adoption in your organization. After all, the price of a HANA appliance (assuming you already own your BW license but not the HANA software) is going to run you up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars. If you are not currently (or planning to start) using BW, then this might not be the right time for your enterprise to use HANA. However, a number of HANA-native applications are in the works from SAP, such as the famous CO-PA accelerator; as these applications come out, you may find a good business case for their use in your organization.

You should strongly consider using BW on HANA if your organization has:

  • ... some reports or analytic applications that simply run too slowly to provide optimal business benefit, and a 5x to 1000x performance improvement would be material to your business,

  • ... unacceptable downtimes, where your data warehouse is not available due to the need to load data,

  • ... a need to see current, up-to-the-moment data, and/or

  • ... a frequent need to create new reports or analytical applications, but IT struggles to maintain BW and keep it performing under changing user demands.

Note: even Business Warehouse Accelerator (BWA)BWA customers may find that they have some reports or analyses that cannot be made to perform well in BWA, or there are long loading times, and users cannot see near-real-time data.

Many BW customers with whom I’ve spoken are happy with BW, but most have a few reports that run in hours instead of seconds, or IT can’t respond quickly enough to user requests, or the system is offline during the business day in one of their regions, or the data in the warehouse is "stale." If any of those issues sound like I’m describing your BW data warehouse, you might have a strong business case to move BW off Oracle (or whatever database you are using) and deploy it on HANA instead.

Even if you don’t think you need HANA (now), you could still benefit from HANA. Just go to your Oracle (or IBM, or Microsoft) sales rep and say that you are thinking about moving to HANA, and see if you can use that for leverage to get a better price on licenses and maintenance for your current database!

Systems Integrators: Is SAP HANA Right for You (Now)

Fujitsu Pimergy SAP HANA applianceSAP Systems Integrators range from IT mega-vendors like IBM and HP, to "pure play" consulting and integration companies like Wipro and Accenture, to boutique consultants like Bluefin Solutions and Jon Reed (@jonerp). The question these shops are all asking themselves right now is whether now is the right time to invest in developing SAP HANA skills. I can think of a single question that should help clarify the answer: does your firm do a lot of BW engagements?

If you answered "No" to this question, then this is a good time to keep an eye on HANA, but not a good time to invest in it. On the other hand, if you answered "Yes," then ask two more questions:

  • Is SAP going to invest to make HANA important to my customers in the next twelve months?

  • Can I develop HANA skills in-house or do I have to look outside?

Judging from the response HANA has been getting from SAP customers, and from the emphasis SAP senior management is placing on this technology, it is clear that SAP is going to invest to make HANA work, to develop more and more applications on the technology, and to drive the technology deep into the Business Suite. The marketing effort around HANA, combined with a working solution, is sure to drive a lot of customer interest in this technology.

A quick glance at the job boards shows that several consulting firms and integrators, SAP included, are looking outside for HANA skillsSAP HANA jobs on There are about 50 job posts for HANA skills on and, posted by firms like SAP, IBM, Fujitsu America, and PwC. The good news is that – if you already have BW (or even better, BWA) skills in-house, you can easily upgrade these skills to HANA. SAP is making it easier and easier to learn HANA, from the information and test software available on to new and simple utilities like the Information Composer in HANA SPS3.

In fact, if you have an in-house data warehouse built on SAP BW, it should be a matter of days to migrate it to HANA, assuming you have the budget for a system (which could run between $50,000 and $300,000). Think about trying hard to get a test system from IBM, Cisco, Dell, HP, Fujitsu, or Lenovo. Also, think about splitting the cost of this system with your marketing department, because nothing should help you close your first HANA client faster than saying "we've done the migration for our own data warehouse, and let me share our experiences with you."

Independent Consultants: Is SAP HANA Right for You (Now)

Do you consult on data warehousing and/or BW? If so, you really should get started on HANA right now. The benefits of HANA are so compelling for BW customers, that you can really increase your business by demonstrating HANA to your clients.

Alternatively, if you are consulting in another area of SAP, and are looking to learn a little about HANA, you don’t have to go to the expense of buying your own HANA system. SAP has a HANA system running in the cloud, which you can access at, where you can study HANA and even implement your own systems to test out the software and develop your skills. Also check out this blog for information about another program SAP has created to get you hands-on with HANA.

ISVs: Is SAP HANA Right for You (Now)

Sadly, I don't think this is the right time for ISVs to think about developing custom applications on HANA. The tools are not really there, and the HANA platform team has other priorities right now. If your product uses BW, then by all means get some HANA experience, and think about how your application could evolve for a world of high performance analytics. If your solution includes BW content, then definitely begin testing HANA with your solution, so you can support your customers. But, unless you’re an SAP Demo Jam master, this may be too soon for you to adopt HANA for new, HANA-native applications.


Given the substantial performance improvements, up-to-the-moment data in the warehouse, reduced operating costs and complexity, and other significant benefits HANA offers to SAP BW customers, it seems likely that SAP HANA will have substantial appeal – and uptake – in the SAP customer base by the end of 2012. SAP BW customers should look at SAP HANA as the optimized database appliance for HANA, and most SAP BW customers should begin planning or piloting an adoption of HANA soon. SAP consultants and integrators should expect a great deal of demand for SAP HANA skills both in the short- and long-term, and should begin preparing now. It may be too early for ISV's to benefit from HANA, other than as it improves any BW components in the ISVs' solutions.

Note: SAP is a client, and former employer, of mine.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

SAP HANA – the strategic context

This is part one of a three part series on SAP HANA.

Many years ago, SAP’s founders had the dream of implementing accounting and finances in real-time. They believed this could revolutionize business, making it possible for enterprises to have a clear picture of their financial positions at all time, enabling companies to make better decisions. Ultimately, this vision grew to include business processes across the enterprise, supporting real-time integration across all business processes in the enterprise. Over the years, SAP and other vendors have not always accomplished this level of real-time integration, but the days of batch processing of invoices, receipts, inventory updates, and other crucial enterprise information are largely behind us.

Except in business intelligence. Most enterprises today extract data periodically from their operational systems, transform that data into unified units and schema, cleanse the data of errors and gaps, aggregate the data to support faster queries, and then deploy that data into the enterprise data warehouse for reporting and analytics use. This process generally introduces a lag between when data are entered into the operational system, and when that same data are available in the data warehouse. This lag can be as short as a few minutes, or as long as a month, but is rarely less than an hour. Many enterprises “refresh” their data warehouse nightly (although when is “nightly” in a global enterprise?) or even weekly. One CRM system I used recently had a caveat on its reports, stating that “the data in this report may be 24 hours out of date.” In other words, on the last day of the quarter, a sales manager could not use the system’s reporting capabilities to determine if she had made her quota or still needed to make some more calls. For some applications, this lag time is unavoidable, but eliminating this gap between action and insight should be a goal of every IT organization.

For many enterprise topics, new ideas come from the consumer world – this trend is known as “the consumerization of IT” (or #CoIT, to insiders on Twitter). Consumer-facing companies (like Apple and Facebook) hear more clearly from their users and customers than Enterprise Software and Solutions companies (#EnSW on Twitter), and so they are often the source of innovation in the IT space. CoIT gives us many ideas about user experience (iPad!), social capabilities (Facebook!), mobility (iPad!), and scaling to massive data volumes (Facebook!). However, the consumer world does not offer us many good examples of real-time integration of operational and analytical data.

Into this critical need – powerful analytics on current data with real-time response – stepped SAP recently with SAP HANA. SAP aimed to bring the same real-time advantages to analytics that they brought to transactions. HANA is an extremely ambitious undertaking for SAP, which is not known for its leadership in the worlds of databases or analytics.

Over the years, SAP has offered its own database (SAP DB), which did not have a great deal of success in the market despite the obvious pricing advantages in comparison to commercial database products. Most notably, Oracle has been adopted by most large SAP customers, both for their operational databases and their data warehouses; Oracle has focused on the needs of large customers, and has achieved scalability, stability, and operational reliability not generally available from other commercial databases. Open Source databases have lagged far behind in these areas.

Additionally, SAP has offered first reporting and then generalized business intelligence solutions of its own (e.g., SAP BW), but these products have achieved only limited success, and that only in the SAP installed base. SAP BW has about 13,000 customers, but many of these customers use other analytical products alongside their SAP BW environments.

Recent years have seen SAP begin to make some serious moves to improve their position in the database and business intelligence spaces, specifically through the acquisition of Business Objects and Sybase. SAP has vaulted to a real leadership position in the BI world with the combination of its BW and “BOBJ” products, although it is still a distant #5 in the database market according to IDC.

IDC 2010 Database Market Share, Top 5 Vendors

Vendor2010 Database Market Share

If SAP could offer a discontinuous breakthrough, a game-changing technology, it might be able to capture a much larger share of this lucrative market, bringing some real benefits to the SAP shareholders and employees. Further, with Oracle's large share of the databases in SAP environments, a large increase in SAP’s share of this market would likely most hurt Oracle, SAP’s largest competitor in the applications business, reducing Oracle’s ability to fund its competing applications products through database profits, while simultaneously reducing Oracle’s insight into applications customers’ needs. Finally, if SAP could come up with a technology that provided real, new benefits to its customers, such as dramatic reductions in TCO, dramatic improvements in performance, or unification of the operational and analytical data stores for real-time data analysis, then SAP would be providing its customers with the kinds of benefits that could bring new levels of performance to their enterprises. This is precisely what SAP has set out to do with SAP HANA.

SAP HANA has no entered ramp-up, where SAP will take it from the first handful (or, technically, two handfuls) of customers up to several dozen, and then on to hundreds and thousands. Notably, SAP is using HANA internally, to speed insight for top management. At this point, HANA is primarily being used as a high-performance data store for BW, but stand-alone applications (such as “CO-PA Accelerator”) are not far behind, and eventually SAP plans to run their full suite of applications on HANA. Yes, that would mean a great potential savings for customers, and a significant reduction in business for Oracle, but this is years away from reality. In the meantime, SAP HANA looms as a potential boon to SAP shareholders, employees, customers, and partners.

The next blog in this series will discuss how to tell if SAP HANA is right for your organization – or for you.

Thanks to Mike Fauscette and IDC for providing market share data for this blog.

Please note: as of the time this blog was written, SAP is a current client of the author's.

Friday, September 23, 2011

SAP HANA Makes Progress and Threatens Oracle

SAP HANA has garnered a great deal of attention in recent weeks and months. For an overview of the technology and its potential, please check my recent blog on the subject, "The real (potential) impact of SAP HANA."

Since that blog was written, there has been a great deal of news in the SAP HANA world, and the surrounding cosmos as well. Rather than write another long blog on this topic, here is a list of some highlights:
  • The pricing of SAP HANA is getting clearer. A low end (128GB to 256GB RAM) SAP HANA appliance could start at around $80K-$100K for the hardware. A few sources inside and outside the company (not under NDA) also indicated to me that the price of SAP HANA software is around $120K at the low end, stretching up to $1M to $2M at the high end. SAP says the pricing is not discountable, but early customers have told me that (at least for them), everything is negotiable. This puts the entry-level SAP HANA pricing at around $250K plus services. A pilot project could be done for less than $300K, with potential for very large business benefits. How hard is it to find a business analytics problem that is worth $300K if it can be completed 10x faster? For many businesses, there is no shortage of such analytics problems, and in some cases SAP HANA will actually perform 100x faster - or even better.
  • Pricing for higher end SAP HANA boxes is not as clear. If your data can fit into 1TB of RAM, then these single-system boxes should be OK for you. But how will you know if your data can fit into that memory size? It seems (and I would welcome a knowledgeable person's correction on this if inaccurate) that SAP HANA can't be used when data can't fit entirely into one system's memory, which currently tops out at 2TB (and at much higher pricing - an additional $250K or so, from those few vendors offering that high-end configuration).
  • How much data can fit on any SAP HANA configuration? From discussions with a number of current SAP HANA users, this is not always clear, and SAP has some work to do to deliver good sizing tools. On average, users I spoke with report compression ratios of between 4 and 10 times for data - that is, if the data would take up 400GB in an ASCII file, the same data with HANA's columnar compression would take between 40GB and 100GB in SAP HANA (your mileage may vary). Of course, the operating system and other software needs some memory to run, but this size of data should fit fine onto the smallest SAP HANA appliances. In a disk-resident database, you might need dramatically more disk space for such a data warehouse, since space will not be used efficiently (sparse data) and since the indices may take a significant amount of space - even more than the data sometimes!
  • How about this for a sizing tool - load all your data on a removable hard drive (ENCRYPTED!!!), and bring it to IBM, HP, Cisco, Fujitsu, Dell, and anyone else offering a SAP HANA appliance. Have them load it up for you on their hardware, and test out your queries. If everything is as simple as some customers and integrators have been telling me (which is pretty close to how simple SAP has been saying it will be), then the hardware partners should be willing to do a pilot like this for free. You'll know exactly how much hardware you'll need, and you'll have a very good idea of its performance!
  • As a killer new application, SAP HANA will be certified in November for running SAP BW. All BW reports, extractors, etc., should all run without changes (except MUCH FASTER) on SAP HANA after this release. Let's face it - the overwhelming majority of SAP BW data warehouses are running on Oracle databases. If you have an Oracle database license priced in the range of $800K (and many medium-sized data warehouses are on such licenses), with a 25% annual maintenance fee, you are talking about $200K per year just for the database maintenance. If you could migrate that database over to SAP HANA, you might find that you paid for it in the first year by dropping your Oracle maintenance, and at the same time you may be delivering ten times more users or ten times faster results on reports and analyses. It wouldn't be hard to imagine many Oracle databases being converted over to SAP HANA in the coming year - especially those running under SAP BW (and Business Objects soon too!).
  • SAP recently also discussed several analytical applications that will be made available on SAP HANA. These are interesting, but not where the short-term value will be for most customers - this will be SAP BW or Business Objects running on SAP HANA, and ultimately the rest of the SAP Business Suite running on SAP HANA. Or Sybase, for that matter.
  • Oracle may be feeling some heat from SAP HANA - Oracle just introduced a low end database appliance offering, with hardware and software bundled for between $100K and $300K. While it is unlikely that this appliance would be able to deliver comparable performance to SAP HANA for those applications most suited to HANA's current capabilities, this appliance would have broader application - for example, being currently suited to running production transactional applications such as SAP.
  • At the high end, a SAP HANA appliance might cost on the order of $1M for hardware and $1M for software. An Oracle Exalogic data warehouse solution might cost 10x that number, delivering slower performance, consuming a lot more energy, and taking a lot more space.
  • SAP has expanded the mechanisms for loading SAP HANA. You can now use log-based replication (replaying the logs on another database to copy it), and trigger-based replication (having a system notify SAP HANA when data is changed), as well as the previously available ETL-based replication (using BW extractors or other technology to copy data out in bulk/batch). The trigger-based replication mechanism is particularly interesting, because it updates the "data warehouse" (can you even call it that anymore with technology like this?!?) continuously, in near real-time. In addition, the trigger-based replication approach allows for consolidating data from several databases quickly and easily into a single data warehouse. If you have one database for your CRM system and another for your financials, both databases can propagate their updates into a single SAP HANA system for consolidated reporting and analytics. Trigger-based replication supports many-sources-to-many-targets replication.
  • Business Objects metadata integration with SAP HANA metadata was not announced at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, but perhaps will be available soon. Business Objects Explorer can run today on top of SAP HANA, which gives some level of integration that will benefit many SAP customers running SAP Business Objects. The more integration at the metadata level, however, the more appealing SAP HANA will become to Business Objects customers not running SAP systems.
  1. SAP HANA is getting to the point where any customer running SAP analytics (especially SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse aka BW) should be starting or at least planning an evaluation.
  2. SAP HANA will make its biggest impact - for customers - initially as an "accelerator" for SAP BW.
  3. SAP HANA may pay for itself in reduced database maintenance payments ...
  4. ... thus its biggest impact - for vendors - in creating pricing pressure on Oracle RDBMS for data warehouse instances.
  5. We may be still a long way from seeing SAP HANA replace Oracle, IBM DB2, or Microsoft SQL Server as the transactional data manager for SAP Business Suite.
For more on the strategic impact of SAP HANA, please see

I worked for SAP for six years, including the period when SAP originally acquired the technology at the heart of HANA. SAP is a client as of the time of this writing.

Monday, September 5, 2011 Dreamforce 2011: Some insights from The Greatest (Cloud Computing) Show on Earth!

Ringling Brothers bills itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth," but's Dreamforce 2011 could easily claim the title of "The Greatest Cloud Computing Show on Earth." With over 40,000 attendees, dozens of exhibitors, great concerts and parties, and presentations galore, the event was an unqualified success for, but it also heralded a real coming of age of enterprise Cloud computing. Why?

1. The show was jam-packed with insight, guidance, case studies, education - and energy! Not only did this show demonstrate conclusively that has vision (as usual), it also showed that's ecosystem is moving ahead decisively into the Cloud, across many areas of their businesses. Sure, the keynotes were educational and entertaining, but the proof was elsewhere at the show ...

2. knows how to throw a party, but they also know how to create a movement. The speakers across the board (from partners and customers) accurately and compellingly presented the themes of the show - Cloud, mobile, and social. The Developer Zone was hopping with highly effective and productive sessions teaching developers how to become part of the Cloud, mobile, and social revolution - and what developer doesn't want that?

3. The Cloud Expo was hopping with businesses doing business. I visited several dozen ISV booths (like Kenandy, Google, Progress, Jitterbit, BMC Remedy, Informatica, Infor, LinkedIn, Workday, SnapLogic, Appirio, and Persistent Systems), and it was all I could do to get to a company representative. There was so much traffic, interest, business card exchanging, and follow-up meeting scheduling going on that I thought I was at an Oracle or SAP conference in 1993. Here are some photos from different attendees on Flickr that I found showing the mob scene on the show floor - but it wasn't just a mob, it was a mob determined to move their businesses into the Cloud:

The vendors I spoke to said that they were very happy with their relationship, that a very large fraction of their leads came from salespeople at, and that the show was very much worth the money spent on the booth and related expenses. This is an ecosystem that has the Cloud, mobile, and social religion - because customers are leading the way.

Oh, and didn't let this event go by without using it to maximize its impact on their top line. Deals were being struck, and you can expect to see the results in's next quarter numbers.

4. The team did a great job on the logistics for the show, despite its monumental size and enormous growth over previous shows. Keynotes were delivered well, camera angles were picked intelligently and for maximum visibility, schedules and meals were arranged to maximize traffic in the Cloud Expo, and thousands (seemingly) of developers were given the requisite skills to build their first Cloud, mobile, and social apps.

5. has so much momentum in Cloud, mobile, and social, that several partners and even competitors arranged events around this show. Of course, there was the predictable Oracle attempts to do some guerilla marketing around the event - not Oracle's greatest and most successful marketing moments. One other competitor hosted an analyst gathering right after Dreamforce, and several partners had similar events before and after the conference.

6. Perhaps lost in all the hoopla were some impressive product announcements, demonstrating that continues its ambition to lead by example, and to continue innovating to create customer value:, Chatter Connect, Chatter Approval, availability, social profiles,, and much more.

Once again, has put on a great show, but Dreamforce 2011 was much more than that - it may have marked the beginning of an industry-wide movement to the Cloud.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How vendors think about licenses: marginal price

CRN recently ran a story summarizing a Forrester Research study (sorry, I don't have the link - hopefully, someone will provide it in the comments) which revealed certain vendor practices which are stirring up resentment among CIOs. There is a lot within this report that our industry needs to take to heart, but there are a few items in there in which CIOs appear to want to have their cake and eat it too.

One item is based on a significant difference between how vendors view license fees for marginal users, versus customers viewing those fees (years after the contract is written) based on average price. Let's eavesdrop on a typical enterprise software sale to see the roots of this later dispute.
"So, I think I will need about 1000 users licensed for your CRM product this year, and then the population will grow by about 500 users next year, 1200 call center agents the year after, and then all international users in year four, which would be around 2500 additional users," said Carol Cio.

"I don't know if I'll still be on this account next year, let alone in four years," thought Sam Salesguy to himself. "Let's see if I can move this deal into this quarter."

"I'll tell you what," said Sam Salesguy, this time out loud. "How about if we do all 5200 licenses this year. If you can move that through procurement, I think can get you an additional 40% discount overall, and we'll phase in the maintenance on those licenses according to your schedule."

"I don't know if I'll still be in this job next year, let alone in four years," thought Carol Cio to herself, "but getting such a great concession from this vendor will improve my chances, make the CFO happier, make budgeting for the next few years easier, and will leave a little money on the side for us to bring that tablet roll-out for executives into this budget year."

"Let's do it," said Carol to Sam. "I'll push this through the CFO and procurement, as soon as you get approval from your sales management on the discount."

Later, Vince Veep said to Sam, "If we can pull in the deal this year, we can do the increased discount because we'll have reduced costs of administering contracts, we'll be sharing the risk with the customer, and because you and I will both be getting paid more for the deal." Vince thought to himself, "Of course this is what the company wants, because that's how they write our comp plans. If they wanted something else, they would compensate us differently. And it totally makes sense to share the risk with the customer, taking less money overall in exchange for a contractual commitment now by the customer. If the customer only wanted 1200 licenses now, they would pay more now for those licenses per user, and they would also pay more later for the other 4000 users. I would never offer this discount if the customer wanted an "out" clause, because then there is no shared risk. In fact, my friend Ed Economist would point out that the marginal price for the last 4000 users is lower than the unit price for the first 1200, so of course the maintenance price for those 4000 users is also lower. If the customer ever wanted to negotiate a cancellation of those last 4000 users, we'd have to go back to the higher price, plus we'd have to somehow be compensated for the commissions we already gave out and can't get back, plus also get compensated for the extra costs we have in contract administration and perhaps other areas of the company."
Perhaps I'm exaggerating what is going through Vince Veep's mind, but you get the point. To the customer, in economic terms, the marginal utility of a license in the future is about the same as the marginal utility of a license in the present, so that customer feels like she is getting a real bargain by getting that future license at a greatly reduced price, and often doesn't stop to think that there is a contract - that must be honored - underneath that price.

To the sales rep, the marginal utility of a deal in the future, when he may not have this account any more, is close to zero, so he would like to pull the largest check possible into this quarter, regardless of the interest of the vendor. The vendor's interest is enforced by a contracts and discount policies process, ensuring that the sales rep doesn't give away the farm, and that the customer gets a reasonable discount for taking on the risk of acquiring additional licenses.

If the customer needs to return those licenses in the future, the customer may be thinking about the average price of those licenses, but most likely the vendor is thinking about the marginal price of those licenses, plus a "restocking fee."

Obviously, in this short blog post, I'm oversimplifying a lot of things, and I'm not trying to fully represent the buyer's point of view, since that is widely covered elsewhere (e.g. at Constellation Research Group). I just want to communicate why it might be worthwhile to think about the marginal, rather than the average, price when thinking about license returns or exchanges. After all, understanding how your vendor is thinking might help you to better negotiate the best possible outcome for you and your enterprise.