SAP is not a hardware company. That fact is helping fuel a rush of new server hardware platforms and features from IBM, Cisco and HP that are designed to leverage SAP's HANA, the in-memory database software technology which the software giant expects to yield $386 million in revenues this year.
SAP HANA runs on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and is a core component of SAP's overall application delivery approach. It's an approach that the big server vendors want to enhance with their own respective hardware offerings.
Ben Eiref, senior manager, marketing and product management at Cisco, told InternetNews he sees HANA typically used for analytics workloads as well as CRM and ERP.
"If you think about a typical SAP data center, there are dozens if not hundreds of servers all running SAP applications," Eiref said. "With HANA, we now have the ability to compress that down."
The database is running in the same system that houses the application, which means latency can be improved to deliver near real-time analytics capabilities, Eiref explained. "With HANA you can take the database tier, the infrastructure and the applications and combine them in a fairly tight package, so it's easier to consume for customers."
For Cisco, that package is delivered on the company's UCS rack mount and blade server platforms. Cisco's UCS HANA solution can handle up to 8 TB of data with the largest b-series UCS offering.
"Customers will choose the system that most meets their requirements based on the amount of data they want to process," Eiref said.
Eiref said Cisco is not the only server vendor working on HANA hardware, though he believes the scale that UCS can provide and the management capabilities the system offers help differentiate it from competitors.
HP has also recently been talking about its HANA hardware. With HP, the differentiation is based around the idea of disaster tolerance and the high availability offered by HP AppSystems, which are preconfigured bundles of hardware and software. According to HP, deploying a pair of AppSystems that can failover to one another in the event of a disaster creates a disaster tolerant architecture for HANA.
IBM is also pushing new server hardware for HANA in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive.
Linux vs. UNIX
While multiple vendors are now chasing the SAP HANA hardware opportunity, it's important to note that HANA represents a shift in architecture for some SAP users. From a Cisco perspective, a key benefit of the SAP HANA approach is that it leverage x86 and Linux as opposed to Unix.
"We have a fresh architecture and we don't have to deal with the baggage of Unix," Eiref said.
As well, Eiref noted that customers can't deploy HANA on older Unix architectures. Instead, they must move to Intel x86. "When customers make that transition to x86, they typically look around to see who has the best architecture around Intel x86 and Linux," he said.