In a Thought Lab post from July 2015, former Prowess writer Melody Murdock asked “Are You Ready for the Next Step in Business Computing?” Looking back at this post, I realize how quickly things change.
Although produced only a little more than a year ago, the video Melody’s post points to, “Next Steps in Business Computing with Intel and SAP HANA,” covers Intel processors that are now two versions old. Of course, the video is still a great summary of the evolution of business computing.
Most interesting for me is the follow-up post to the video by Rob Klopp that Melody’s post points to, “Trends in System Architecture and the HANA Platform.” In this post, also from July 2015, Klopp talks about SAP HANA “squeezing the fat out” of distributed landscapes to deliver significant performance benefits. He states, “You should expect SAP customers to rapidly move to HANA to take advantage of this tight, high-performance landscape.”
Ironically though, current numbers (though not very current) still show only about 6,400 customers worldwide using SAP HANA. Actual numbers are likely higher because the 6,400 number dates to June 2015.1 If the rise were significant though, I can’t help but think that SAP would be promoting newer, higher numbers. And compared to the total 320,000 customers SAP reports for all of its products worldwide, 6,400 leaves room for significant numbers of customers to take the step to SAP HANA.
A better question then might be “when will you take the next step in business computing?” The answer depends on who “you” are: many customers aren’t quite ready to migrate, whereas technology companies are very ready to take the next step and continuing to innovate.
Show Me the Money to Migrate to SAP HANA
The two major factors keeping many companies from migrating to SAP HANA are time and money. It’s not that the company, its IT team, and any user who can benefit from the potential business value of the real-time data insights with SAP HANA don’t want to migrate; it’s that migrating can take a lot of time and effort—like years. In addition, costs can be significant—even without the time and additional needed resources factored in.
For a 1 TB database, licensing costs can easily exceed the million-dollar barrier—and that doesn’t include the cost of hardware, deployment, support, or staff. It’s a cost that many companies aren’t ready to justify since they aren’t yet feeling a compelling competitive reason to migrate. Competitors that don’t have SAP HANA themselves aren’t yet a threat to these companies’ bottom lines or customer-retention efforts. Older data-mining strategies continue to work well enough, so the attitude is, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Or at least, “let’s not fix it just yet.”
What Is Possible with Intel Technologies and SAP HANA
Lower-than-expected customer numbers or not, innovation around SAP HANA by SAP itself, by Intel, and by other companies continues. And Intel and SAP are more than ready for the next step in business computing.
Intel and SAP work closely to ensure SAP HANA is optimized to run on Intel processor–powered hardware. The servers covered in the Next Steps in Business Computing with Intel and SAP HANA video were powered by the Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family. Intel has released two more generations since then, to the current Intel Xeon processor E7 v4 family. And Intel touts significant advantages for the new generation processors compared to the older generation, including:
- Four times more memory support on the same system for online analytical processing (OLAP), resulting in a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Up to 1.41 times better generational performance
- Up to 10 times more input/output operations per second (IOPS)5
- 3 times more transactions per minute
- Up to a 99-percent reduction in setup time through added automation and improved management
- Socket compatibility with the Intel Xeon processor E7 v2 family and the Intel Xeon processor E7 v3 family
Intel is also moving to support dynamic data tiers with SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering, which allows companies to offload warm and cold data to extended storage to reduce SAP HANA licensing costs. And Intel is poised to release products with its new 3D XPoint technology.
What Is to Come from Intel for SAP HANA
Intel is driving what is considered to be the first major memory innovation in more than two and a half decades with 3D XPoint technology, called Intel Optane technology. Intel says it will release the technology on solid-state drives (SSDs) and dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs) (for data centers) before the end of 2016. The goal of the technology is to load data from memory onto disks in seconds. So, much like with SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering, with 3D XPoint technology, SAP HANA could be run with extended disk storage without losing its in-memory speed and without the high price.
In a post from August 2015, SAP’s John Appleby blogged about “The impact of Intel 3D XPoint to SAP HANA.” He wrote, “For HANA, this is the most important hardware innovation since Intel Westmere. It’s almost as if Intel designed 3DXP [3D XPoint] for SAP HANA!”
These are just a few of the “next steps” that have come or will come since Melody’s original post “Are You Ready for the Next Step in Business Computing?” Whether these steps fuel added migration to SAP HANA or not remains to be seen.
 Business Insider. “SAP Just Shared Detailed Customer Figures for Its Most Important Product.” June 2015. http://www.businessinsider.com/sap-shares-hana-customer-numbers-2015-6.
 Intel. “Turn Real-Time Analytics into Real Business Advantage: Leadership Performance.” June 2016. intel.com/content/www/us/en/benchmarks/server/xeon-e7-v4/xeon-e7-v4-world-record.html. For more information, go to intel.com/performance/datacenter and http://global.sap.com/campaigns/benchmark/appbm_bwaml.epx.
 Up to 6x performance improvement for transactional workloads with new Intel® Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) claim based on SAP OLTP* internal insert and select tests measuring transactions per minute (TPM) on SUSE* LINUX* Enterprise Server 11 SP3. See intel.com for details.
 Dell. “PowerEdge R930 Rack Server.” July 2016. http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/poweredge-r930/pd. Dell. “Dell Introduces New Server Powerhouse to Accelerate Most Demanding Enterprise Applications.” http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/vn/press-releases/2015-04-28-dell-r930-server.