In-memory databases are a hot technology these days, with Microsoft and Oracle adding in-memory options to their databases this year, joining IBM’s  BLU Acceleration for DB2, Teradata’s Intelligent Memory feature and challengers from NoSQL makers like Aerospike, MemSQL, VoltDB and DataStax.

All are going up against the big-name, SAP HANA. To give it some elbow room, SAP last week said it has relaxed its hardware requirements for HANA, but only for non-production usage, such as development and testing.

“It will further alleviate budget constraints faced by all enterprise customers today by enabling majority of commodity infrastructure components available for SAP HANA non-production usage, either in a virtualized or bare metal environment, without certification,” wrote company staffer Bill Zhang.  “It will help SAP HANA customers to radically accelerate rate of innovation.”

Intel’s Ivy Bridge v2 CPU and related chip sets are certified for HANA in production. But now earlier generations of processors in Intel E7 family with substantially lower cost, such as Westmere EX (E7-x8xx) or Ivy Bridge EX (E7-x8xx V2), are now also available for non-production usage.

In production, SAP recommends the ratio between main memory and CPU needs to be 256GB per CPU.   But for dev/test customers can use as much main memory as possible in a host machine

Any local or shared storage with standard disks, even with RAID 0 is supported for dev/test.  Minimum storage to memory ratio requirement is also relaxed from 5x for production to 2x or even less for non-production usage.  Also, any proven file system, such as XFS, NFS and GPFS (IBM only), can be used for log and data volumes in a non-production environment.

SAP says that in a typical production environment, 10 Gbps or even more powerful connections is required for performance optimization.  But for a test/dev environment, any commodity networking components can be used.

An industryanalyst quoted by InfoWorld says the announcement suggests increased competition is making SAP feel it has to respond to make the technology cost-competetitve. If so, it’s an interesting way because what the company didn’t do is lower the price.

There’s little doubt that for some use cases an in-memory database has advantages. SAP’s move here shows it wants to make sure it is top of mind for those enterprises.