Lately there has been quite a bit of hype around the launch of SAP HANA. There is some information on SAP’s site (along with a pretty good overview of the technology from Gartner), though an IBM Redbook sheds more light on the technology underneath the covers and the go to market strategy.
Even though SAP had acquired Business Objects and Outlooksoft, it has had a gap in its analytics portfolio when it came to acceleration of adhoc analysis. Oracle acquired Hyperion mainly for (at the time) robust planning, budgeting and financial modeling capabilities, though got perhaps the most advanced OLAP engine as well (Essbase).
As such, SAP’s answer to this gap in capabilities has been HANA. Though there are additional (mainly Sybase and Business Object SKUs) capabilities, the core appliance basically provides adhoc query capabilities that one would expect from an OLAP engine. In addition, it supports write-back which has been a key component of Essbase and TM1 (acquired by Cognos, which was then swallowed by IBM).
Thus it is not surprising that the key use cases being touted by SAP are around acceleration of financial budgeting and profitability (CO-PA for those familiar with module names) as well as potential evolution of SAP’s liveCache solution that powers the analytics behind its supply chain capabilities.
In addition, it will not be surprising to see enterprise users of Business Objects (though who lack SAP as their ERP platform) to perform proof of concepts as a potential replacement for Microsoft SSAS or Hyperion’s Essbase (which is now part of Oracle). It would not be surprising to see SAP tout substantial discounts at its larger accounts to sustain the marketing momentum and to enhance its conversion credentials.
Overall, it is a positive step forward for SAP customers, as they lacked options for large scale problems (complexity and/or data) and as with all ERP platforms, the technology stack is for practical reasons fairly closed. Though one can bolt onto SAP BW another vendor’s OLAP solution, it negates the value of modules like CO-PA, requiring them to procure another vended product.