SAP HANA: Using Data to Disrupt the Competition

By: Kent Ledgerwood, Director of Consulting Services at Navigator

SAP’s Journey: A New WAZE and Means.

Since 1972, SAP has been at the intersection of business and technology. Forty-four years ago, with just one customer, SAP set in motion their simple vision to improve the way companies do business and change the landscape of how information technology helps those same companies achieve their goals.

Fast forward to 2016. There’s a new super highway creating on-ramps to this intersection. Today, big data and volumes of information are clogging up the internet highways. Without a way to navigate this new traffic pattern with speed, confidence and accuracy, businesses that were strong in 1972 are facing challenges and competition they could not have imagined. 

SAP is, again, rising to the challenge of leading business success stories by integrating operations, technology and making the most of data. Today, SAP is creating on-ramps back to the information highways such that companies, in real time, have the information and are ready, willing and able to pass the competition with disruptive strategies and tactical plans to reach their goals.

Overwhelming Data:

It’s posted everywhere: billboards, websites, Facebook, Twitter. Everywhere we turn: BIG DATA. But to put that in context, think about this statistic: As of 2013, 90% of the data in the world had been created in the past two years. (Science Daily). Putting that into context of our own daily lifestyle, consider the number of emails we send, the attachments we create, the posts to social media we link, share or hide; even this article is yet one more bit of data created that now exists on the internet highway that did not exist yesterday. For sobering reality (and maybe just fun water cooler trivia), see the infographic created by DOMO in 2014 (Josh James; Domo, Inc.). Yes, those are real statistics for the well-known apps every minute of every day. 

So that begs the simple question: if this amount of public data is being created by individuals: how much data is created from the mail room to the board room inside of companies that we don’t have access to? And even more: if the data was worth creating, how do companies harness the power of that information to 1) make sense of it and 2) use it for their competitive advantage? 

In 1972, that question would have been mind-boggling. 

In 2016, there is SAP HANA.

SAP HANA: Debate the Pronunciation, But Not the Power.

While it would be fitting to label HANA as Hasso’s New Architecture after the founder of SAP, Hasso Plattner, HANA really stands for:  High-performance ANalytical Appliance. In its simplest form, HANA is an application that allows companies to do ad hoc queries on large amounts of data in real time. In more technical jargon, HANA is an in-memory analytic appliance that forgoes the need to rely on data recovery from stored hard drive information and, instead, puts data into RAM so that the CPU can analyze and create usable data fields in instantaneously. 

To put HANA in the context of SAP's story of the company from 1972 versus 2016, think about a fictitious department store. In 1972, if this store wanted to create loyalty with its customers, it might create a Sunday paper ad about specials, or it might stamp and mail coupons in the hope that they hit their target market and bring customers back to the store. In 2016, with HANA, that same store’s computer system can, in real time, bring up a full shopping history and provide discounts on-demand, before the customer pays—or even recommend products that might have been forgotten and ship them to the customer’s house before they get home. In the latter example, this retailer is most likely to inspire loyalty from its customers as a result of the way it uses real-time data. That is a simplistic example, but one that demonstrates the power of HANA and what it can do to disrupt the competition.

The Core of HANA: Solid, Scalable and Evolutionary.

As described, in essence, HANA leverages in-memory architecture to make queries, analytics and data use blistering fast. Ultimately, from an infrastructure perspective, because the data is “in-memory,” it differs significantly from the standard database querying and analytics tools. With HANA, the data is compressed and stored within a system/cluster’s memory. Once this happens, it is easy to understand how HANA moved actionable data to real-time use, as with the fictitious department store above. Just removing the latency bottleneck of query data to action creates enormous gains in speed for a company to leverage. Depending on the current environment and system configuration as companies consider HANA they are also looking the I/O and enhanced memory to gain the evolutionary step change that unleashes HANA to its fullest potential.

In-memory by itself is not unique and virtually all of SAP’s competitors are going after development in this in-memory space because the world, business models and the use of data has all changed. That said, SAP is themarket leader in this space (See figure below). In fact, according to Forrester “SAP Hana [sic] continues to have the highest adoption, largely because of its distributed and integrated solutions with SAP applications” (Yuhanna).

Because of SAP’s transformation across the years to the changing business and technology landscape, below are a few interesting strategies SAP is taking with HANA that will prove beneficial to its customers (Charles King):
  • SAP can support a wide variety of data resources and processes 
  • SAP is migrating its entire product portfolio to SAP HANA, providing customers greater value from their SAP applications
  • SAP is using HANA as the foundation for a variety of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings delivered across its own and other cloud infrastructures
  • SAP, unlike its competitors, who use proprietary hardware to create in-memory applications, HANA is designed to work on virtually any hardware platform

Road to Success: Navigator as a Co-Pilot.

While every business is on its own unique path to success, it is clear that the roads to get there are changing at a phenomenal pace. Each customer must choose their own starting postion, understand their risk tolerance and abilities to meet the challenges they are facing when setting the course to achieve the winning strategy. When it comes to understanding operating models and the integration of technology as a differentiating strategy, Navigator’s SAP solution team is well equipped to help our clients realize their goals. We operate as a partner with our clients to bring the right delivery at the right time, so our clients create a disruptive force to the market for their success. Whether our clients are bleeding edge or just reading the signs of what SAP and HANA can do, we are passionate about bringing one thing to market: Exceptional Consultants delivering Sustainable Results.


Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. "IBM: Empowering SAP HANA Customers and Use Cases." 1 2015 January. <>.

Josh James; Domo, Inc. "Data Never Sleeps 2.0." 23 April 2014. Domosphere. <>.

Science Daily. ""Big Data, for better or worse: 90% of world's data generated over last two years"." 22 May 2013. ScienceDaily . <>.

Yuhanna, Noel. "The Forrester Wave™: In-Memory Database Platforms, Q3 2015.pdf." 3 August 2015. <>.