SAP Outlines In-Memory Business App Roadmap

SAP in 2011 will launch almost a dozen new in-memory business applications that will run on its HANA systems.

BOSTON-SAP is promising an aggressive 2011 roadmap for new applications that leverage its in-memory technology as well as a new release of its HANA system that company officials say enterprises could use instead of traditional databases from rivals such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.

At a daylong event here March 9, SAP executives outlined 10 new in-memory applications that will be released in the third and fourth quarters of this year and that will run on the company's HANA (high-performance analytical appliance). The combination of the software and hardware will enable enterprises and SMBs (small and midsize businesses) to ask any question about their business data, and in real time get the answers, Vishal Sikka, SAP CTO and a member of the company's executive board, said during a keynote at the event.

SAP's analytics and BI (business intelligence) software lets customers significantly reduce data-crunching tasks "from days to seconds. It's a profound impact on a company," Sikka said.

He said the new applications, the in-memory computing technology and HANA were part of a larger vision that SAP's executive board laid out when it began driving the company's strategy 13 months ago, with the goal of giving businesses the software tools to run faster, smarter and more efficiently. SAP last year first ran out its in-memory technology, which essentially moves data out of the traditional storage devices and into RAM, a move designed to speed up a business' ability to access and use that data.

"The HANA roadmap is alive and well," Sikka said.

HANA, which was launched in December 2010, is a system based on the in-memory computing technology, offering what Sikka called "breakthrough analytics" to enable businesses to "explore and act on big data." In-memory computing will at the same time let businesses simplify their IT infrastructures by reducing the need for data caches and similar technologies.

It's also one of the foundations of its overall strategy, which also includes cloud and mobile computing.

SAP already has launched Strategic Workforce Planning and ByDesign 2.6, both of which will run on HANA. In the third quarter, the company will release two more in-memory applications, Sales and Operations Planning and Cash and Liquidity Management. Eight more applications will come out in the fourth quarter-Trade Promotion Management, Intelligent Payment Broker, Smart Metering Analysis, Profitability Engine, Customer Revenue Performance Management, Merchandising and Assortment Planning, Energy Management for Utility Customers, and Customer-Specific Pricing.

The applications will be available either on-premise or via the cloud. SAP officials demonstrated a few of the applications during the event, showing as the HANA-powered software quickly returned answers to various queries.

In 2012, SAP will unveil Business Suite, Business ByDesign 3.0, Business All-in-One and BusinessOne, for smaller companies. In addition, SAP also is working on existing applications to ensure they can run on HANA.

Also later in 2011, SAP will unveil the next version of HANA. A key to this, Sikka said, will be SAP also reworking its Business Warehouse software to take advantage of HANA's capabilities to run various business warehousing tasks. Such a move will eliminate the need for traditional database technology from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and others, he said. However, customers will still be able to use those database products if they wished.

Analyst Joshua Greenbaum said such a hardware-software combination-especially one that reduces the need for a traditional database-could be difficult on SAP competitors, particularly Oracle and its Exadata offering, which combines Oracle software with hardware acquired via the Sun Microsystems purchase.

In a posting on his Enterprise Matters blog, Greenbaum said what he heard from SAP was encouraging.

"In the end, while the details were sparse, there was enough meat on the bone to make it clear that Hana's future will be targeting the LOB [line of business] and CEO as much as the IT department: the prospect of advanced, in-memory analytics was always a great idea in search of a critical mass of proof points," he wrote. "By this time next year I expect those proof points to be well ensconced in a new market that SAP is hoping to dominate. The onus is now on SAP's competition to provide some meaningful competition."