With HANA, SAP says commitment to cloud is "stronger than ever"

There were some pretty big statements being laid down during Rob Enslin’s keynote speech at the SAP UK and Ireland Forum today, with the enterprise giant’s global customer operations president making plenty of noise about HANA, the company’s big cloud bet and a shift to the database sector.

The big push this year, of course, is HANA's Enterprise Cloud, which is in the words of SAP, “the power of real-time business and simplicity of the cloud". It's enterprise class with cloud’s flexibility, alongside in-memory capability. The company seems pretty pleased with its technology, especially if this morning’s activity was anything to go by.

“HANA is the biggest innovation in the business software industry in the last 20 years.”

“We are the innovation leader – we have to be.”

“We have to understand that change is happening; for you to be able to survive that change, you’re going to need companies like SAP.”

All impressive, and all to be expected at a business forum. Yet there were figures to back the talk up. 1350 firms have signed up to HANA to date. 450 startups have HANA as a platform. In describing SAP as a ‘cloud leader’ – of which surely there is little doubt – Enslin noted that there were over 50m users in SAP’s public clouds, with a $1bn run rate in the cloud.

Indeed, one case study, from sugar manufacturer Florida Crystals, was logistical proof in itself. Florida Crystals’ entire ERP instance, based of 2200 users, migrated over to SAP on the Friday, went live on the Sunday, and was ‘business as usual’ on the Monday. Now that’s impressive.

Yet it’s not completely criticism-free. Oracle chief Larry Ellison, perhaps unsurprisingly, was mouthing off at SAP in a conference call last month before the release of its own 12c database, saying HANA’s numbers “simply don’t add up”.

Ellison may have had a point given SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott called HANA “the fastest growing software product in the history of the world”, yet it’s again unsurprising SAP retaliated by decrying the outburst as “a weak attempt to distract from the ongoing lack of growth.”

Expect more from that spat in the near future, but as for HANA's long term potential, the underlying facet of the morning’s discussion was a theme CloudTech has examined in detail before: filtering the noise of the data and getting tangible, incredible results.

Another case study from Enslin revealed how, in Tokyo, HANA was being used by MKI to provide better healthcare analysis to the tune of a 410,000-fold improvement in speed. “Big data can help save lives to drive a whole new paradigm,” Enslin roared.

Sound familiar? You bet. IBM is doing a similar thing with Watson, in this case studying patient symptoms with a huge amount of historical case studies, with the supercomputer being trusted by medical professionals in approximately nine out of 10 scenarios.

Similarly, when Deloitte’s John Kerr – a partner of SAP – explained his company’s five-pronged future gazing theory of social, cloud, mobile, analytics and cyber, one couldn’t help thinking back to Gartner’s Nexus of Forces; social, cloud, mobile and information.

Enslin closed his keynote by emphasising SAP’s all-round capabilities, saying: “I’m often asked ‘what is SAP today? Are you an ERP company, a cloud company, a big data company, a mobile app company?’ And the answer is yes.”

Some things weren’t mentioned in the keynote; there’s slight worry from the analysts that the cover-all nature of the term HANA may lead to consumer confusion, time will tell to see the long term effect of the Oracle-Salesforce.com collaboration announced last week and where SAP stands on that.

Regardless, SAP is making a very big bet with HANA, particularly integrating it more closely with the enterprise, and from the executives’ perspective today, there seemed no doubt it was the right long-term call, both for the company and its customers.

What's your opinion on HANA?

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