The HANA Deployment Question — SAP co-CEO Jim Snabe Responds

The marketing frenzy behind SAP’s HANA in-memory database
has engendered a counter-frenzy over the total number of HANA deployments to
date. With all the muscle that SAP has been putting behind its new
Oracle-killer, the question of whether customers are voting with their dollars
has become a key issue. Like many of my fellow analysts, I have been surprised
by some of the numbers that have been bandied about recently. In particular, the
common wisdom has anointed the number eighteen as the total number of HANA
deployments to date.

As eighteen seems low to many of us, including myself, I asked Jim
Snabe, co-CEO of SAP, if he could clarify this issue. The answer was simple:
sorry, wrong number.

While reluctant to give me a precise number, Snabe made it
clear that 18 was “last year’s number.” And he promised that by mid-year 2012
the total number of deployments would be measured in three digits, and by the
end of 2012 in four digits.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate on whether these
numbers are of the proper order of magnitude to justify SAP’s HANA push, but to
me it’s clear that these numbers are just one indication of a ton of momentum
towards HANA in the market. I recently attended a HANA partner event in Palo Alto,
and have been hearing on a regular basis from ISVs that want to stage their BI
and analytics capabilities on HANA. (One of the more interesting candidates is
Opera Solutions, which has a fascinating approach to big data and big analytics
that seems tailor made for HANA.) I also recently had a briefing with SAP’s
Business Analytics Services team about some of their unique HANA proofs of
concept and deployments, and it’s clear that the kind of acceleration in the
number of deployments that Snabe refers to is possible.

According to Snabe, HANA will have two key market impacts
for SAP’s customers. The first will be to replace Oracle in the SAP Business
Warehouse market, a relatively obvious volume market that SAP will start to nail
down later this year. The second will be the high-value, low volume opportunities,
represented by some of the POCs that SAP’s services teams have been working on.
And that’s before partners start stepping in. A company like Opera, which “packages”
big analytics across a variety of industries, can provide a hybrid high-value
market for HANA that could very easily turn into a high volume market as well.

All tech success is really measured in the execution – the
race is not always to the swiftest, and speeds and feeds don’t mean a thing if
you ain’t got that swing. HANA looks like it’s swinging pretty high right now,
and if Snabe’s numbers pan out, the HANA effect will be heard across the
enterprise software market.


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