Data management technology in today’s digital economy has become an essential component of successful enterprises. The ability to collect, connect, analyse and transform data into actionable insights from a single source of truth enables enterprises to compete strategically in today’s business environment by streamlining and accelerating business processes, making better, faster data-driven decisions and anticipating risks and resolving issues before competitors are even aware of them.
Enterprises that fail to implement a comprehensive and efficient data management solution may be rich in data but poor in information and insight on how to turn that data into business value.
Data Platforms for the Intelligent Enterprise
Intelligent enterprises use intelligent technologies to deliver better outcomes for their customers. Today, intelligent data management technology drives intelligent enterprises by enabling a new set of data management capabilities, including:
- Increased visibility to see across business silos and recognize unseen patterns.
- Improved focus to simulate the impact of business decisions and choose the best path forward.
- Greater agility to respond to market forces and pivot business processes toward the right outcomes.
Companies are now entering a new era of efficiency, automation, and expanding growth where an intelligent enterprise is defined by its ability to use data assets to achieve desired outcomes faster and with less risk. Such outcomes include:
- Improved customer experiences through personalised interactions and self-service tools that put customers in control.
- New heights of productivity through operational automation, real-time demand responsiveness, and the ability to predict what’s coming before it happens.
- Transformative workforce engagement through executive dashboards, automated employee approvals, and guided procurement that minimizes rogue buying.
Having identified the need for fast, flexible, and scalable data management technology, enterprises then need to make the all-important decision of which software to use, with a number of reputable names competing in the data management technology race.
SAP HANA, known for its superior processing speeds and recognised as a leader in *The Forrester Wave™: Data Management for Analytics based on its scores in the current offering, strategy and market presence categories, is arguably one of the best options on the market. Popular alternatives and competitors include Oracle Database, IBM Db2, Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), and Microsoft SQL, however, this article will show why SAP HANA is still the smartest choice for enterprises seeking full digital transformation.
*The Forrester Wave™: Data Management for Analytics, Q1 2020, Noel Yuhanna with Mike Gualtieri, Robert Perdoni, Madison Bakalar, 12 February 2020
"The Forrester Wave is copyrighted by Forrester Research, Inc. Forrester and Forrester Wave are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. The Forrester Wave is a graphical representation of Forrester's call on a market and is plotted using a detailed spreadsheet with exposed scores, weightings, and comments. Forrester does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in the Forrester”
What is SAP HANA?
SAP HANA is a high-performance in-memory database and software platform from SAP that speeds data-driven, real-time processes and analyses. As the data foundation of SAP’s Business Technology Platform, SAP S/4 HANA, it provides advanced analytics on multi-model data, on premise and in the cloud. “HANA” stands for "High Performance Analytic Appliance", which highlights the software’s ability to perform analyses at great speed.
Based on a relational database management system (RDBMS), SAP HANA organises and controls the data in a database (DB). In the simplest of terms, a database is made up of a large number of tables in which data or data records are stored in rows. SAP HANA’s database technology is unique from its competitors, however, as it uses this row-oriented database technology and the column-oriented approach that is common in in-memory databases. This allows the SAP HANA database management system to carry out analyses and transactions in parallel, making it possible to connect OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) and OLTP (Online Transaction Processing) landscapes from a single source in real time.
The advantage of an in-memory database is that data can be stored directly in the working memory without having to be temporarily copied from the hard disk to the working memory. The main memory therefore serves as data storage. This accelerates data processing speeds significantly and allows the SAP HANA platform to collect, store and process large amounts of data in real time without the need for extra hardware or IT operations; which brings us to the second advantage - cost and resource efficiency.
SAP HANA Capabilities
SAP HANA offers a robust set of capabilities, including database management, database administration, data security, multi-model processing, application development, and data virtualisation.
- Database management: SAP HANA’s unique enterprise-grade, in-memory database technology simplifies and accelerates your data processing with a single unified database solution on premise and in the cloud. By combining live transactional data with historical data in the moment, it also yields the deep insight needed to make the right decisions on the fly.
- Database administration: SAP HANA simplifies data administration operations to monitor and optimise processes, help ensure data and application security, and achieve continuous availability. the SAP HANA in-memory database allows users to configure, tune, and monitor database performance, perform core administration tasks, and automate and orchestrate advanced operations with the administration tools available.
- Data security: SAP HANA’s advanced security features secure communications, data, and services with comprehensive identity, access management, and data anonymisation to preserve privacy and trust.
- Multi-model processing with advanced analytics: SAP HANA’s ability to store and process multiple data types in a single, scalable solution allows you to store and quickly perform complex processing of multiple data types, such as spatial, graph, and documents; augment transactions with advanced analytics, including machine learning and predictive modelling, and innovate with modern applications that combine transactional and analytical workloads on a single data set.
- Application development: SAP HANA’s built-in development and runtime capabilities, leveraging open standards and tools, help you create modern applications faster with a simplified application architecture.
- Data virtualisation: SAP HANA’s data federation and data integration and replication capabilities provide a real-time gateway to all of your data across applications, data storage and the cloud, with built-in data quality capabilities and services.
Business-wide benefits of SAP HANA
Running SAP solutions such as SAP S/4HANA, SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Ariba, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP Customer Experience on the SAP HANA platform has revolutionised the processing power, speed and simplicity these solutions offer intelligent enterprises.
In this section we’ll have a look at some of the ways these solutions have benefited from switching to the SAP HANA platform as a foundation.
SAP S/4HANA on SAP HANA: ERP Simplicity
SAP S/4HANA is often referred to as the next generation of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), giving organisations a greatly simplified software solution that enables them to cover and control their daily processes - from marketing and accounting, to logistics, human resources and procurement - with always-on access to business-critical data in real time.
SAP S/4HANA has been optimised for SAP HANA, which supports a data model that simplifies the business computing environment significantly. As mentioned above, because SAP HANA can support performing analytical calculations and transformations in parallel, this simplified data model and the speed of in-memory processing, organisations can perform analytics on all data (live and historical) in a single environment, on demand.
In terms of simplicity specifically, SAP S/4HANA’s optimisation for SAP HANA includes the dramatic reduction of database tables across a wide range of functions. For example, if we look at the finance and controlling data of an organisation, instead of structuring data in a number of subledgers (accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger, asset accounting, cost centre accounting, and so on), SAP HANA runs this data on a single universal journal, eliminating the reconciliation effort between finance-related postings and controlling-related postings. In one single source table, the integrity of financial data is guaranteed by design and ensures that the most current data is always available to everyone.
Removing the complexity of separate systems that require data replication means teams are aligned and more effective, forecasting is faster and more accurate, key performance indicators such as days sales outstanding (DSO) are available in real time on a granular level, and profit centre reporting, profitability analysis, and other real-time analytics performed on top of the universal journal become a reality.
With SAP HANA as its foundation, SAP S/4HANA serves as a digital core for the business – one that helps drive business agility, improve customer experiences, and increase business performance.
SAP Analytics Cloud solution on SAP HANA: Contextual decision-making
SAP HANA is also a driving force behind the power of the SAP Analytics Cloud solution – which brings together augmented business intelligence (BI) and enterprise planning on a single platform with predictive analytics and machine learning technology embedded to drive insight, improve decision-making, and enhance the user experience. Because SAP Analytics Cloud runs on SAP HANA, users can access real-time analytics on transactional data from virtually any source in almost any form (including spatial, graph, JSON documents, and text) - capabilities many competitors are unable to provide. With direct access to SAP HANA data, analytics is replication free so businesses have a single source for all data and all analytics. This saves a tremendous amount of data management time and energy and helps users to see the data instantly, understand the business impact, and react immediately.
Further to this, automated technology, enabled by SAP HANA, helps organisations avoid biased and agenda-driven decision-making by revealing the story of what drives the business. Users can run queries as the need arises – working with all of the data that exists in a given context for comprehensive insight.
SAP Ariba on SAP HANA: Speed
SAP Ariba solutions, running on the SAP HANA platform, increases supply chain speed and agility, bringing buyers and sellers together in the cloud faster than ever before. Organisations can quickly find new supply chain partners and manage the end-to-end procurement process with greater speed and better customer experience.
Due to the speed of the SAP HANA in-memory database, pages in SAP Ariba render faster, search performance is improved, data uploads and large batch processes move much faster, and time-outs are virtually eliminated.
With speed and performance at the root of almost everything in the digital economy, these aspects have a sizable impact on customer experience. In light of this, the SAP Ariba development team implemented “cloud health monitoring” to measure customer frustration. Thanks to the speed and performance improvements provided by the SAP HANA platform, SAP Ariba’s overall cloud health has improved significantly.
Further improvements in SAP Ariba’s processing power as a result of operating on SAP HANA include:
- Faster throughput: SAP HANA has ensured that queries take less time.
- More efficient innovation: The time it takes for product upgrades has been reduced by 75%. SAP HANA can manage more than twice as many connections from application servers compared to the legacy database.
- Greater flexibility: With smart data integration and a multitenant architecture, it is now easier to move customer sites from one database to another.
- Single source of truth: SAP HANA brings real-time transactional and analytical data together on a universal repository accessible across all other SAP applications, thus minimizing data silos.
SAP SuccessFactors on SAP HANA: Visibility
SAP SuccessFactors is a cloud-based solution to manage various HR functions such as business alignment, people performance, recruitment, and learning activities for all sizes of organisations in more than 60 industries. The SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite covers critical HCM (Human Capital Management) areas, including:
- Core HR and payroll
- Time and attendance management
- Learning and development
- Performance and compensation
- Recruiting and onboarding
- Workforce management and HR analytics
The simplified data model of SAP HANA provides a single version of the truth across the SAP SuccessFactors suite. This helps improve visibility and accelerates the development of new features and innovations.
With SAP HANA, customers of SAP SuccessFactors can do direct reporting off of the source database with a simplified data model that eliminates data replication to an OLAP environment and makes information immediately available across the HCM suite. With no latency, query performance is dramatically improved, even for data-intensive scenarios where scalability on demand is required. These same features of SAP HANA also allow customers to run analytics in real time, with delays associated with separate business analytics environments a thing of the past. With machine learning embedded in SAP HANA, users are also enabled to identify process patterns and analyse employee data to yield insights for continuous improvements.
SAP Customer Experience on SAP HANA: Scalability
At the heart of all SAP solutions is customer experience, and SAP Customer Experience solutions running on SAP HANA, allows customers to achieve real-time, end-to-end situational awareness of their businesses. Combining data, machine learning, and microservices, SAP Customer Experience solutions power real-time customer engagements across sales, service, marketing, and commerce.
With SAP HANA, partitions and indexes are no longer needed. The result is improved performance and simplified IT management. According to the SAP Customer Experience team, SAP HANA processes sales transactions 14% faster, and also accelerates critical import processes three times faster compared to the legacy database.
SAP HANA simplifies management through a multitenant database, which allows organisations to house multiple logical databases on one physical database. This means that scalable growth is supported with greater ease and efficiency - a huge advantage for growing businesses.
We can safely say that SAP HANA is the digital core of the intelligent enterprise, offering the following benefits over their competitors:
- Moving to the SAP HANA database eliminates third-party licenses and maintenance when used for other SAP solutions, thus generating substantial cost savings that can be passed on to customers and stakeholders alike.
- SAP HANA drives dramatic performance improvements for SAP’s growing portfolio of cloud solutions.
- With a simplified data model that integrates solutions and standardises the technology stack across SAP S/4HANA, SAP Ariba solutions, SAP SuccessFactors solutions, and SAP Customer Experience solutions, customers can now manage transactions and analytics on diverse data in a single environment.