Unlocking the potential of HANA

ACN speaks to Vishal Sikka, SAP’s head of technology and innovation, and the man who led development of SAP’s HANA in-memory computing, about why HANA was created, how the company is bringing HANA to market, and harnessing startup attitudes to discover the technology’s full potential.

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Unlocking the potential of HANA Dr Vishal Sikka, executive board member, head of technology and innovation, SAP.
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 20, 2013

ACN speaks to Vishal Sikka, SAP’s head of technology and innovation, and the man who led development of SAP’s HANA in-memory computing, about why HANA was created, how the company is bringing HANA to market, and harnessing startup attitudes to discover the technology’s full potential.

In terms of potential impact on enterprise applications, there is not much to match SAP’s HANA in-memory computing technology. Launched at the end of 2010, the in-memory technology has been delivering hundred-fold improvements in processing speeds for applications. The speed with which HANA can handle transactions is opening up a whole realm of possibilities in how data can be utilised, and leaving the company’s competitors playing catch up.

Recognised as the leader of SAP’s HANA efforts, Dr Vishal Sikka, executive board member and head of technology and innovation for SAP, says that the uptake of HANA has been striking.

“HANA is the fastest growing product in our history by far — I refer to HANA as my little girl; I have two boys and a little girl! We just crossed a cumulative billion dollars in revenue [in August]. We have 27 customers in what we call the ‘10,000 Club’, where they run something in HANA at least 10,000 times faster than they did in their production systems — it is incredible.”

As of June this year, Sikka’s role in SAP was expanded from being in charge of development of the company’s technology products — database, middleware, platforms, mobility, analytics, cloud technology — to include innovation across all applications and development, for the whole of SAP. Sikka is also responsible for leading the design and end-user experience for SAP, and is responsible for driving all innovation globally.

The expansion of Sikka’s responsibilities reflects the importance that SAP is placing on the HANA technology, he says, and its potential impact across the whole spectrum of solutions.

“The reason for consolidating SAP’s development in one board area — that is my area — was that we see a complete transformation of SAP’s products around HANA, around the power of this in-memory, just-in-time platform, and also around mobile, cloud technology and the more intelligent M2M systems, augmented with great design. This is the basis for how we are going forward - we believe that there is a tremendous need for human technologies, for automation and intelligence, but also for very human economies, amplifying the reach of people, and empowering people to do more with technology.”

Sikka’s involvement in HANA nearly didn’t happen. After joining SAP in 2002, having launched two startups and spent some time in a role with enterprise software company Peregrine Systems, Sikka became SAP’s first chief technology officer in 2007. By 2008, however, he was not convinced the company’s technology was going in the right direction, and was considering leaving. Company founder and chairman of the advisory board, Hasso Plattner, convinced him to stay over dinner, challenging him to reinvigorate the company’s technology. Alongside user experience, and the ‘timeless software’ concept, Sikka’s focus became the database — and how traditional database I/O performance was slowing down business applications.

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