Cloud

SAP HANA: The smart person's guide

Have you been considering a database migration to SAP's HANA database management system? Here's everything you need to know about it.

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Image: SAP

In this age of data everywhere it's essential to have databases that are quick, well organized, and that can pull all the info you need when you need it. Database management systems are many, and choosing one can be tough: End up with the wrong one and it may not work as well as it needs to.

German enterprise software company SAP is responsible for one such platform, which it calls HANA (High-performance ANalytics Appliance). HANA has many features that make it a snappy and well-respected platform. If you've been considering it as your database manager read on.

TechRepublic's smart person's guide about SAP HANA is a quick introduction to this database management tool, as well as a "living" guide that will be updated periodically as the platform evolves.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides.

Executive summary

  • What is SAP HANA? HANA is a database management system that uses in-memory, column-oriented, and relational technology to speed data retrieval. It acts as an intermediary between software requesting data and the databases themselves.
  • Why does SAP HANA matter? SAP claims that HANA is unique among database engines because it is able to handle both transactional and analytical workloads. That means no extracting, transforming, or workload splitting.
  • Who does SAP HANA affect? HANA's hybrid structure is designed to minimize the time needed to process data and send it to requesting apps, making it an ideal solution for real-time analytics and applications.
  • When is SAP HANA happening? SAP HANA has been on the market since 2010. In the past seven years SAP has created multiple versions of HANA, including a cloud-hosted PaaS version.
  • How do I start using SAP HANA? Licenses for local installs can be purchased from SAP, who also offers PaaS hosting in the cloud. It is also available as a service from AWS, Azure, and other cloud providers.

What is SAP HANA?

SAP's HANA (High-performance ANalytics Appliance) is a database management system. It uses in-memory processing to get around limitations in disc read speeds and sorts data in a column-oriented relational manner.

HANA is designed to do its job with little need for setup and tinkering because it uses a hybrid model that allows transactional and analytical calculations at the same time. It does all of that work in-memory, allowing for real-time reporting at supposed near-instant speeds.

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Why does SAP HANA matter?

While HANA's basic in-memory, column-oriented, and relational features may not be unique SAP claims its hybrid model is. If true that means HANA is one of the fastest, most streamlined database managers in the world.

Traditional database analytics requires several intermediary steps between transactional and analytic stages. Data has to be run in one form, extracted, translated, and then re-run in the other form.

SAP says HANA is able to do all of its work without data prep, pre-aggregation, or tuning: Just get the data in and start crunching it. For companies processing a lot of data that can be a lifesaver.

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Who does SAP HANA affect?

HANA was designed with real-time processing in mind, making it perfect for any organization that needs immediate feedback from their data.

SAP breaks HANA's applications down into two categories: real-time analytics and real-time applications. Its analytics specialities are operational reporting, data warehousing, and predictive/text analysis of big data. For applications HANA is suited to core process acceleration, planning and optimization applications, and sense and response reporting.

In short, HANA has the potential to affect anyone who works with data in any form, be it social media, finance, IT, or even project management.

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When is SAP HANA happening?

SAP released HANA in 2010 as a locally installed database management platform. In 2012 it added HANA Cloud Platform and Hana One (a less memory-intensive version for smaller operations).

In 2013 SAP added HANA capabilities to its Business Suite, as well as rolling out HANA Enterprise Cloud, a managed private cloud option.

In 2015 SAP released a major overhaul of its Business Suite called S/4HANA. Unlike previous versions of Business Suite, which could operate on top of databases from companies like Oracle, S/4HANA is a complete package that only operates with HANA databases, putting SAP into direct competition with other database providers.

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Competitive products

HANA was alone in its field until 2013, when Oracle announced Database In-Memory for its 12C, which uses much of the same technology as HANA. Debate rages as to which one is faster and which product is superior—much of it seems to come down to platform preference.

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How can I start using SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is built into several cloud hosting platforms: AWS offers it, as does Microsoft Azure, IBM Softlayer, Huawei FusionSphere, and HP Helion. SAP also offers its own cloud-hosted HANA solutions.

Licenses can be purchased from SAP directly ff installing and operating HANA locally sounds like a better idea. It isn't cheap, though: Pricing is hard to find and varies a lot based on desired setup, but an SAP blog from 2014 does give some idea of the ballpark.

A higher end HANA box cost around $50,000 in 2014, though lower end options are available. The same blog also cites IaaS prices at $3,595/month for a 40-core, 512GB box and $6,495 a month for an 80-core, 1TB box.

If you're interested in moving to SAP HANA make sure to weigh your options fully before deciding.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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