Over the course of the past year, a number of our VPS House teams set out to undertake the largest software transformation in the recent history of the company. The goal was to implement several SAP software products, including SAP HANA. Throughout this journey, we experienced the highs and lows that accompany any major undertaking, but that is a subject for another time. In this blog we would like to explain what SAP HANA is, as well as the challenges and opportunities that come with it.
What is SAP HANA?
Originally, HANA was the name given to the new database platform that was released by SAP SE. Compared to SAP’s earlier database MaxDB, or competitors like Microsoft SQL and Oracle DB, SAP HANA is an in-memory database management system that claims to be the fastest in the world for large data sizes. To emphasize this, SAP actually made it into the Guinness Book of records, currently holding the World Record for Largest Data Warehouse. Today, SAP HANA is much more than just a database platform – it has become a cornerstone of modern SAP. Most SAP products are able to run on the HANA database and some are even native HANA and named after the platform itself, like S/4 HANA, the successor to the famous SAP ECC system. In recent years, the database platform and added extra features like application services, processing services, and integration services, turning the platform in a powerful tool for any organization.
Does SAP HANA live up to its promise?
We have already learned a lot from our time with the HANA platform and if you ask us, the answer is definitely yes. We saw numerous applications where the capabilities of the HANA platform showed significant promise, with the main and most important one being great performance. Recently we migrated our SAP ECC system from dedicated servers to a cloud platform, and at the same time changed our database platform to HANA database. Since migrating, the response time of SAP ECC improved considerably, with the ECC system reacting twice as before the migration. Another advantage is that the SAP BI platform is now also benefiting from the HANA database, meaning that some data is being read directly from the ECC database, skipping the transformation to the SAP BW platform. This allows us to report in real time on productive data. Overall, HANA database has made a noticeable difference in the day-to-day operation of SAP ECC.
And what about SAP HANA being expensive?
While there are license costs you need to pay SAP for the use of the HANA database, the prices are client dependent, and comparable to the newest offerings of the competitors. Where things become slightly more complicated is with regard to the hardware investment you need to make in order to migrate to or build a HANA certified hardware platform. Since SAP HANA is an in-memory platform, it requires a completely different approach to looking at the hardware under the hood of your servers. Getting high performance from traditional database platforms mostly relies on a fast storage platform and processing power, but with SAP HANA memory is the critical resource. Memory itself is expensive, especially if you are implementing large RAM-memory banks, and you will need a server that supports all this memory. To keep costs down, there are servers that support 48 and even up to 96 memory slots, but even with these, building a solid performing HANA machine will require some investment. That said, with new options becoming available, like NVMe storage, in the future the HANA platform should become both more affordable and faster. The other option would be to go into the cloud at SAP since they do offer a great product. But that too would come at a price. SAP sells HANA on a hosting model based on per GB use. So if you have a large database, HANA can quickly become quite expensive.
Running HANA at VPS House
For companies that don’t want to sit and wait for newer storage techniques to come, or to move into the SAP Cloud, there are alternatives. Currently, multiple SAP partners are hosting their HANA platform with us at VPS House, including ones that offer managed services. This means that if you are a smaller or midsize company, you could migrate to one of the SAP Partners at VPS House and avoid the headache and cost of a large investment and the technical maintenance of your SAP platform. While for larger companies that want to work with a reliable partner, our experience allows us to provide the guidance and advice needed to find the HANA hosting solution that fits your needs at competitive prices.