SAP CIO predicts in-memory HANA will replace relational databases

By Derek du Preez
23 Nov 2011 View Comments

Software giant SAP is likely to move away from relational databases in the future and focus on its in-memory offering, HANA, according to SAP's CIO, Oliver Bussmann, who spoke to Computing at the SAP User Group Conference this week in Birmingham.

Further reading

HANA uses in-memory software to analyse huge volumes of data in real time.

"My prediction is that in the next five to ten years relational databases will disappear and all SAP products will be using HANA," said Bussmann.

"In-memory allows companies to improve the speed of their data analytics by a factor of 100,000 [compared with relational databases]. This means that analytics that took hours can now take a second."

SAP began looking at in-memory capabilities three years ago and started developing the technology in early 2010.

Bussmann's team conducted a proof of concept in October of 2010, which saw SAP's data analytics improve by a factor of 14,000: a request now takes one second where it previously took five hours.

SAP then delivered a roadmap for companies to utilise HANA, and 100 of its customers have now implemented the technology.

"The first step is for companies to put the HANA appliance alongside an ERP system. Then you should extract as much data as possible, put it inside the HANA appliance, and run analytics on top of that in real time," said Bussmann.

"Companies should build applications that are 100 per cent optimised on the HANA software. There are many examples of this already, and these include liquidity and risk-planning for banks."

Bussmann argues that many more companies are now looking at in-memory data analytics because the technology has become cheaper in recent years.

"We realised that memory has become very inexpensive. You can get a 2 terabyte machine for £85,000, with 64 processers, so it is now pretty cheap to own the hardware," he said.

"However, you need software to optimise the hardware, which HANA does. If you move data into the main memory, you will have a factor-of-ten performance improvement. But if you leverage multiple core processors and get the software to spread the work efficiently, you see more drastic improvements in speed."

Despite the optimism and the fact that SAP now has more than 100 customers using HANA, Bussmann still believes that there is room for improvement with the product.

"We need to improve the modelling of the data – we need to make this more stable," said Bussmann.

"We also need to scale up our development for new applications and allow the ecosystem to establish itself. These things take time."

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