SAP tries to
ORLANDO—After SAP AG announced HANA, its high-performance in-memory technology, in 2010, there has not been an abundance of customers ready to trumpet a deployment, but Lenovo Inc. is one customer who, at SapphireNow 2011, spoke about undergoing a proof-of-concept for part of its customer relationship management (CRM) data.

Leo Liang, executive director for global application development with the Chinese device maker, said the in-memory technology is being used to perform analytics on prospect data in its SAP CRM with the goal of identifying leads faster toward potential contract wins.

“If you make that decision late, even as an hour late, we’ll lose the deal,” said Liang to a small group of reporters at the user conference.

Lenovo is the Germany-based software company’s first customer of HANA in China. Liang said Lenovo’s current data warehouse is such that running analytics is a lengthy data aggregation process, whereas “for HANA, it’s a few seconds.”

But it’s still early days for Lenovo, who has yet to even get to the business case stage with HANA. Liang said the company hasn’t discussed where HANA might be applied in real operations.

Already, Liang’s feedback to SAP is that HANA works best with simple queries but not so well with complex ones. He hopes to see that improve in the future. But, as it’s still proof-of-concept, Liang said he hasn’t given thought to whether the difficulty with complex queries will limit broader use of HANA within Lenovo.

If all goes well at the proof-of-concept stage, HANA won’t entirely replace Lenovo’s need for a data warehouse because the various business units have different requirements as well as regular fixed reports, said Liang.

Mark Aboud, managing director for SAP Canada, told ComputerWorld Canada that the newness of in-memory has meant a lot of effort toward convincing potential customers of the advantages for their business. “No one has talked about how to use HANA before because there wasn’t anything like HANA before … It’s just acclimatizing companies to what the opportunity is,” said Aboud.

The industry perception of SAP has a “business process company” that primarily sells ERP, as opposed to a “technology company” now offering a “transformative” technology like HANA, has also contributed to the challenge of acclimatizing potential customers, said Aboud.

The go-to-market strategy with HANA has been notably different from how SAP usually introduces products, where, unlike the usual business app, HANA has not experienced ample customer case studies.

Yet, Aboud believes that once SAP manages to change its image to a vendor that offers other things such as mobility and analytics, that will lead to a boost in adoption of HANA.

One customer of SAP’s Business Objects suite is attending the Sapphire conference to find out more about HANA. Kenn Hierman, manager of finance with Lake Buena Vista, Flo.-based Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said there are already 22,000 end users running financial and operational analytics for the theme parks and resorts division who must sometimes endure a lengthy wait for reports to be available. HANA, said Hierman, is of interest to him but there is still that business case that must be built.

“I’ll be going to a meeting later about HANA. Do we look at it? How do we look at it? What do we do with it? Is it too early for us? Are we getting there? We don’t know yet. So we’re trying to figure that out as a company,” said Hierman.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau 

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