I’m just back from the final SAP TechEd conference of the year in Barcelona, Spain and after an amazing week with lots of information and news from SAP wanted to share a couple of key stories relating to HANA...
This year’s conference schedule has seen a few clashes between SAP’s earlier TechEd events and some other industry events, and as a result there were high expectations for big news to come out of Barcelona that SAP may have been holding back – I caught up with a few key industry analysts at the event who were keen to understand SAP’s latest strategy updates.
On the one hand SAP didn’t disappoint, as during his keynote Bernd Leukert made the grand announcement of SAP HANA 2. At the same time, details and information on what this actually is and what it brings were initially thin on the ground, with SAP proclaiming a further massive advancement of database technology and a milestone in the industry, whilst others I spoke to during the week suggested that SAP HANA 2 is actually just the next SPS of HANA to come out of SAP’s normal release cycle.
Scratching a bit below the surface suggests that the truth is somewhere between those two extremes. HANA has now moved way past its early stages of maturity with many established customers, so SAP are looking to push it forward further and indeed potentially faster than before, whilst still also supporting the large installed base from a stable maintenance perspective. SAP have clearly been considering how best to balance innovation with stability and SAP HANA 2 appears to be their answer.
Probably the first question many will be asking is what does HANA 2 give me that HANA doesn’t?
The very simple answer is innovation. With HANA 2, SAP aren’t releasing ground-breaking technology but instead changing how they release updates to the HANA platform. Yes, HANA 2 will include some new capabilities (enhancements in the areas of system management, data-tiering, predictive capabilities and bring your own language to name a few) but these are essentially HANA SPS 13 capabilities.
What is really changing is SAP enabling customers to choose how they manage their update cycles. Currently, SAP releases a new SPS pack for HANA every 6 months and expect customers to be within 2 SPS levels as part of the terms of their maintenance contract. For some organisations this rate of change is just too much but something they have to manage to retain support, meaning those organisations often have to live with the constant change – this constant change of their core landscape can often kill innovation.
Whilst SAP will continue to make new SPS packs available on a regular basis for HANA 2, they are also extending the maintenance period for HANA until May 2019. This enables customers who don’t want/need, or simply cannot stomach the rate of change of 2 SPS packs per year, to stick with their current HANA platform for longer, without worrying about keeping up with SPS releases.
Essentially, SAP are offering two routes to HANA, hoping that stable customers will welcome the reprieve from a support perspective with HANA, whilst innovators will welcome the ability to take advantage of new features as they are released via HANA 2. It is worth noting that SAP are still recommending customers move their stable HANA platforms to SPS 12 prior to “slowing” the update cycle.
This approach benefits SAP as it continues to ensure customers are on a relatively recent SPS level, which aids SAP’s support functions, whilst at the same time allowing them to deliver innovation and advancement to their database platform. I see many customers taking advantage of this dual model to achieve a bi-modal landscape for their database platforms. They can use HANA to support the stable core and roll out up to date HANA 2 instances as and when needed as the agile layer. I do wonder though whether customers will simply look to HANA Cloud Platform to act as the agile layer, taking advantage of an up to date and low impact route to HANA there. Either way, this added flexibility will be a massive advantage for many customers keen to explore more advanced and innovate capabilities without the worry of impacting their BAU landscape. The easing of maintenance efforts in the BAU landscape should also free up resources to be invested into innovative initiatives.
If you are on a pretty recent release of HANA (i.e. SPS 10 or above) it should be a simple upgrade to get to HANA 2. If you are on an older release SAP recommend migrating to SPS 12 first, then completing the upgrade to HANA 2. Key here is that SAP state it is an upgrade to HANA 2, and not a full on migration, so it should be comparatively straight forward to take advantage of HANA 2.
Along with the news of HANA 2, there was also a lot of coverage of the new HANA Express Edition (HXE for short) that SAP have very recently made available. In short, SAP has listened to its developer community and delivered HXE as a free (yes, free) HANA platform that can be used for productive solutions up to 32Gb and then with small licensing terms to expand the size. (There are some restrictions in terms of features but generally, you get access to a pretty fully featured HANA instance.) HXE is targeted at two key areas – SAP developers who want an easy way to access HANA (it can run on relatively low spec systems, requiring a minimum of 16Gb system memory) and non-SAP developers who might have an innovative idea that needs the power of HANA to deliver. SAP hope that ISV’s and independent developers will start their new product journey on HXE as the barriers to entry are very low, and then as their solution grows, they can migrate to a bigger HANA platform or HANA Cloud Platform instance. This is a great step forward from SAP and offers a very easy route into the power of HANA.
It feels SAP are accelerating their drive for more HANA adoption and aren’t just focusing on big enterprises. With a range of core HANA options from HXE, thru HANA and to HANA 2, customers & developers and more importantly potential customers & developers, have a better choice to pick the right HANA solution for their own needs.