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SAP throws down in-memory gauntlet to Oracle

15 Jan 2013
SAP building

Last week SAP dropped a bombshell on its competitors with news that it would be combining its Business Suite platform with its HANA in-memory database - a full year ahead of schedule.

While it was long expected that SAP would bring its in-memory technology to its business applications, as part of its big data analytics plans, the industry has been abuzz with speculation over the response from database titan Oracle, and whether it had been caught off guard.

Business Suite is SAP's flagship business application software, and its move to run on HANA, which the firm only made generally available in June last year, has come sooner than expected.

SAP said in November 2011 that it would be two years before its entire business application portfolio would run on HANA, and last week's Business Suite announcement was a big step in this roadmap only just over a year in.

Business Suite encompasses a mix of SAP's business software for the firm's larger companies, including enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management.

Moving this suite of apps to HANA will accelerate data processing and reporting speeds, and will allow customers to analyse data while such functions are occurring.

SAP openly used the announcement to take a shot at rival Oracle.

"Put yourself in the shoes of the CEO of Oracle," said SAP founder Hasso Plattner. "When you see this freight train HANA coming you have to do something, and they will do something."

Business Suite customers who are currently running their applications on Oracle databases may be encouraged to swap to HANA. However, this is not the only way Oracle could lose out from the Business Suite/HANA combination.

According to Mike Davis, principal analyst at MSMD Advisors, Oracle still has a long way before creating a credible alternative to the SAP offering.

"SAP putting in-memory computing underneath a core business platform may be the logical thing to do but it's a real game changer," Davis told V3.

"Oracle has its [in-memory business intelligence] Exalytics products and recently acquired Endeca [a firm that allows enterprises to correlate and analyse unstructured data], and they have wanted to put this all together with an in-memory database."

"They have set up a roadmap and said they would build big data capabilities into in Enterprise Business Suite as soon as they can but it's a long term programme."

Davis said that because of the SAP announcement, he expects it will not be too long now before Oracle announces the planned Enterprise Business Suite big data capabilities.

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