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SAP's HANA is hot, but still in early days

Chris Kanaracus | Sept. 16, 2011
The potential of SAP's HANA in-memory computing engine permeated the agenda and had attendees' tongues wagging this week at the Tech Ed conference in Las Vegas, but the technology still has some maturing to do.

Overall, customers should "expect the unexpected," Reiter said. "SAP really helps you, but you have to plan ahead. Don't think this is going to work right away."

SAP has made much of HANA's "pipeline," or backlog of sales leads, saying it is the fastest-growing in company history. While that may be the case, many of its customers are likely years away from considering an investment in HANA for various reasons.

Columbia Sportswear is now involved in a major ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) system migration, and adding a HANA project now would cause too much complexity, said Bob Kaila, SAP basis manager.

"We're doing a complete company transformation. [HANA] is something the higher-ups are very, very interested in, but being where we are right now, we're taking on so much change in the company, we just don't want to add another product that we have to ramp up internally."

Columbia uses Teradata as its core data warehousing platform. HANA would probably end up being used in conjunction with Teradata, versus replacing it, since currently Columbia has a great many applications tied into it, including non-SAP products, he said.

One of HANA's initial customers, the large medical products company Medtronic, is set to go live on the system in October after a three-month project, said architect Kiran Musunuru during a presentation.

Medtronic initially will use HANA for two applications, one of which is aimed at global complaint handling. Medtronic serves millions of patients a year, and wants to analyze complaints that come in quickly so problems with products can be resolved as soon as possible, he said.

Medtronic's HANA system is running on a Cisco hardware-based appliance with 512GB of RAM. The company used Sybase's PowerDesigner tool to build an integrated data model constituting a range of source systems, he said.

The project faced assorted challenges, he said. For one, HANA's newness meant there were no best practices to follow. In the end, Medtronic decided to hire an SAP consultant to help with the work.

In a few weeks, Medtronic will start seeing HANA in full-fledged action.

"As of now, everything works fine," he said.

 

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