SAP launching in-memory computing cloud

Partners will build applications that use SAP's HANA in-memory compute engine

SAP is opening up a cloud-based platform for its HANA (High-Performance Analytic Appliance) in-memory computing technology, enabling partners to develop applications that take advantage of its capabilities, the company announced Wednesday.

"We believe the future of the cloud is in fact an in-memory cloud," said CTO and executive board member Vishal Sikka, during a keynote address. The HANA application cloud is now in "pre-beta," he added. Other details, including a general availability date, weren't immediately available.

In-memory computing holds data in RAM instead of being read from disks, providing a performance boost. HANA, which SAP launched last year, can tap data from both SAP and other sources, and the company has also started rolling out a series of specialized applications aimed at specific business problems.

HANA is now available in appliance form. Hardware from Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM, among others, has been certified to run HANA, Sikka said.

While SAP intends HANA boxes to be attached to its own ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) software, pulling in information for analysis, customers are already using it to traverse the "open waters of non-SAP data," Sikka said.

The upcoming cloud platform could also help spur more interest in HANA, if it gives partners and customers a way to test-drive the software and perhaps build some prototype applications on it, without making a long-term investment.

Medidata, which makes a SaaS (software as a service) application to help run clinical trials, is the first partner to begin building on the HANA cloud, said president Glen de Vries, who appeared on stage with Sikka.

HANA will give Medidata the ability to provide its customers with analytics on large volumes of clinical trials data in seconds, he said.

SAP, for one, is poised to adopt HANA in the broadest possible fashion.

"You will see us revolutionize the entire product portfolio based on this," Sikka said.

While SAP has made much of HANA's performance, real-life use cases may help drive sales more effectively than solely talk of speeds and feeds.

To that end, SAP also announced a number of early customers using HANA, including Bosch and Siemens Home Appliance Group and Lenovo.

HANA is giving Bosch and Siemens real-time information about product sales, allowed them to "quickly adjust manufacturing and distribution strategies, giving [it] an advantage against competitors," the company said in a statement.

Lenovo is running HANA alongside SAP's CRM (customer relationship management) software, giving it the ability to "analyze orders by customer, region or product," improving its ability to forecast sales and helping it roll out new products faster, the company said.

CAD software maker Bentley Systems is interested in using HANA, but not necessarily for analytics, said Tim Birnley, director of enterprise applications, in an interview. "We don't make minute-by-minute decisions," he said.

The real value to Bentley, which runs a wide variety of SAP software, is the potential performance gains to be had once SAP ports its applications to HANA, Birnley said.

Also Wednesday, SAP launched NetWeaver Gateway, an integration framework for building applications that securely tap data held in SAP systems.

Companies can attach Gateway to their legacy system and "make it talk to the world outside," Sikka said in his keynote.

Gateway underpins the Duet Enterprise collaboration software co-developed by Microsoft and SAP, and will also be used in the Sybase Unwired mobile development platform, according to a statement.

SAP, Capgemini, Software AG, CompriseIT and intelligence are members of a new council meant to spur interest among channel partners to build on Gateway.

In a related note, Adobe announced Wednesday that it plans to integrate its Flash Builder toolkit with Gateway, giving customers an option for application development.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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