SAP looking to create 'distinguished engineers' for its HANA database

There are already about 1,800 consultants trained on the platform

SAP is creating a new program that seeks to anoint consultants as "distinguished engineers" working with its HANA in-memory database platform, the company announced Monday.

About 1,800 consultants have already received HANA training since its general release one year ago. But the new program will provide a deeper level of engagement with SAP, according to an official blog post.

"SAP will support this organization by providing HANA briefings, development and roadmap updates, access to resources, and joint coordination of activities at conferences and other virtual and in-person technical events," the blog states. In addition, SAP will solicit experts' input "regarding real-world HANA implementation experiences to use as input to guide development and product management for future patches and releases."

The program is also meant to help top HANA experts share their knowledge and experiences, according to the blog. Criteria for membership in the Distinguished Engineer Program will be released soon, it adds.

"I think SAP wants to create a culture of excellence around HANA and they're aware without skilled individuals around these projects, they'll face the same backlash they have historically on ERP [software implementations] and still do to some extent," said Jon Reed, an analyst who tracks SAP skills trends and is a close watcher of HANA's progress. Reed will serve as one of the leaders of the new program.

"When you look at the people who are going to add the most value to a HANA project now, it's people who have been through a proof-of-concept or a go live," and that remains a fairly small group, Reed said. Those who have merely gotten certified on HANA "can't be the quarterback" on a project," he added.

So far, SAP has had a mixed track record on HANA education, such as the "severely lacking" product documentation available at the time of its general availability launch last year, Reed said. "I've never heard anyone describe the documentation SAP has provided as a strength of the product."

But SAP has succeeded in piquing the interest of its community, Reed added. "Most SAP professionals who are serious about SAP are interested in HANA and trying to understand it," he said. "They're trying to make sure they don't let the community down. But like everything else the report card comes in the follow-through."

This is just the latest bid by SAP to lure developers to HANA, preceded by its announcement of free developer instances of the database on Amazon Web Services. More than 200 HANA instances have been created there since SAP's mid-May announcement, company technology chief and executive board member Vishal Sikka said during a webcast event held Monday to mark the anniversary.

HANA is the brainchild of Sikka and company co-founder Hasso Plattner, and has held center stage in SAP's marketing efforts since its initial announcement in May 2010.

Sikka spent an hour extolling HANA's initial success in the market during the webcast, and alluded to a number of pending announcements.

HANA now has 358 customers, 159 implementations and 65,000 end users, Sikka said.

Among those customers, 16 have joined the "10,000-plus club," meaning they "have seen something run more than 10,000 times faster than something they run productively today," he said.

While SAP has experienced a number of difficult implementations at customer sites, some have gone live in as little as 10 business days and none have failed to be completed, Sikka said. It's also possible to get a HANA instance up and running on AWS in about 10 minutes, he said.

HANA places information into RAM, instead of pulling it off of disks, providing what SAP has called a dramatic increase in performance. The software is sold in appliance form on hardware from a number of vendors, including IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

On Monday, Sikka briefly alluded to an upcoming announcement of a HANA product called Open Extreme System, but didn't provide further details.

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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