The Practical Truth About SAP HANA and Its Impact on Your Business

The Practical Truth About SAP HANA and Its Impact on Your Business
7 min read

You've likely heard the buzz around SAP HANA and its claims of blazing-fast analytics. But with all the hype, it can be hard to know what's real and what's just marketing. As a business leader, you need concrete information to make intelligent decisions about your technology strategy. 

With proper planning scaled to your organization’s objectives, risks can be mitigated while maximizing HANA's benefits to power evidence-driven decisions, new growth avenues, and competitive advantages. 

To help you decide if and how SAP HANA might help your business, I will cut through the hype and present the hard facts about the technology in this post. 

Raw Performance is Legit 

What is SAP HANA’s performance like? The raw performance claims about SAP HANA are accurate. Testing confirms its processing power. Here are some key points about HANA's unmatched speeds:

  • HANA can execute SQL queries thousands of times faster than traditional databases. For large queries and calculations, the difference is measured in seconds versus hours or days.
  • Real-world implementations show HANA analyzing terabytes of operational and unstructured data instantly. Customers have tested it, completing in milliseconds what took distributed databases 15 minutes previously.
  • Data compression is up to 100x better with HANA's columnar in-memory technology. This massive storage efficiency allows huge datasets to reside completely in RAM.
  • Columnar storage aligned with today's wide, single-table datasets enables orders of magnitude greater sequential scan throughput than row stores.
  • With data stored in columns instead of rows, HANA only needs to touch relevant column segments for most queries rather than entire rows.
  • Its massively parallel processing distributes operations across all available CPU cores and partitions. This ensures maximum resource utilization for linear speedups as the hardware expands.
  • Built-in analytical functions for geospatial, predictive, and text mining operate directly against compressed data without decompression delays.
  • Benchmark results show HANA outperforming even purpose-built analytic appliances from competitors in various testing scenarios.
  • Real-world speed increases have translated to new analytical applications simply not possible on other platforms due to latency constraints.

Raw speed like this changes the game for complex, data-intensive workloads in both transactional systems and advanced analytics. Performance is never again a limitation with SAP HANA.

Simplified Data Management 

What is SAP HANA’s role in data management? HANA takes a novel approach to converging transactional and analytical processing into one database. This unified model removes ETL bottlenecks and complexity. Data is stored, processed, and analyzed in columnar format for extreme compression and rapid queries. Refreshing data is as easy as pointing to its source rather than moving it around.

Built for Analytics 

While it can replace traditional databases, HANA truly shines for advanced analytics. Functions like predictive, geospatial, and text analysis are deeply embedded rather than requiring separate tools. 

Massively parallel processing distributes analytics across all CPU cores. The integrated development environment further streamlines the building of reports and dashboards. HANA accelerates both routine and exploratory analysis.

Applications are Enabling 

Beyond raw performance, SAP HANA gives new capabilities to core SAP applications. Finance and control processes are significantly faster. 

Supply chain functions gain real-time visibility. CRM becomes more predictive. And HANA has empowered entirely new cloud-based applications from SAP and partners that simply weren't possible before.

Data Growth is a Non-Issue 

Exactly what is SAP HANA’s data growth like? Many feared databases wouldn't scale as data swelled, but HANA was engineered for this new age of big data from day one. Its columnar compression is highly efficient, no matter how much information resides in the system. 

The distributed parallel architecture automatically adapts to utilize all available resources. HANA handles terabytes or petabytes of structured and unstructured data with equal ease.

Costs Require Deep Evaluation 

Upfront hardware and licensing for HANA require significant investment. However, its ability to consolidate multiple legacy databases and data warehouses can offset these expenses over the long run. 

Eliminating expensive third-party tools for ETL, analytics, and reporting cuts ongoing operational costs. Additionally, performance increases facilitate more self-service business user access versus relying on IT.

Suitability Depends on Workloads 

While SAP HANA delivers vast improvements for analytical workloads, its capabilities are overkill for many operational transaction systems. 

Carefully evaluate whether workload I/O and CPU needs align with HANA's strengths before migrating core business systems. However, even if only suitable for analytics initially, HANA's consolidation of data sources simplifies usage across both transactional and reporting/planning domains over time.

Staff Skills Need Boosting 

Although HANA tries to abstract away technical complexities, its distributed parallel processing model, SQL scripting, and data modeling require sharper skills than traditional databases. Ensure your team can architect deeper analytics or outsource experienced HANA expertise initially. Supplement existing skills through SAP's massive open online courses and training programs.

A Cloud is a Cloud, Not a Panacea 

What is SAP HANA’s benefit when it comes to the cloud? HANA's availability as a cloud service from hyperscalers is undeniably attractive versus on-premise infrastructure management. However, cloud economics still favors larger workloads processed infrequently. 

Understand cloud penalties for intense usage, data gravity issues for widespread deployments, and limitations versus full system control of private hardware. Determine the total costs realistically based on your unique needs.

Data Security Needs Policy 

With data consolidated and accessible in one powerful system, security is an increased concern. Evaluate both technical and policy measures necessary to protect sensitive corporate intelligence and personal information residing in HANA. 

Establish clear guidelines for logical access controls, encryption at rest and in transit, and auditing of queries against production databases. Cloud deployments inherit the provider's compliance posture, so vet these policies closely.

Testing is Critical

Given HANA's complexity and radical departure from conventional databases, thorough testing of applications, migrations, disaster recovery processes, and more is non-negotiable. 

Pilot real-world extracts of mission-critical systems on HANA prior to full replacement. Measure the actual workload performance against expectations. Identify required tuning to solidify plans and budgets before larger initiatives.

Timelines Require Flexibility 

Transitioning major systems and transforming business processes around HANA takes time for any organization. Establish milestones, but acknowledge that goals may evolve as real-world usage uncovers additional opportunities or challenges. 

Especially in the cloud, adjust deployments based on variable consumption rather than fixed roadmaps. Beating unrealistic deadlines will compromise quality implementation that delivers true value for your business.

In Closing

SAP HANA provides immense potential to revolutionize how your business collects, processes, and analyzes information. But its adoption demands a pragmatic evaluation of both technical and business factors unique to your enterprise. While the performance advantages are bona fide, suitability varies greatly depending on existing workloads, available skills, and strategic visions. Approach transformation thoughtfully yet ambitiously in collaboration with SAP experts.

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John Smith 29
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