And so the opening skirmishes of the Database Wars Part Two have truly started with a raft of new product announcements from SAP. There is nothing in the announcements that hasn’t been reasonably well telegraphed by the company already, of course, but the key story is that this collection of HANA-related developments are now all here and ready to go.
HANA, for those that don’t know, is SAP’s new in-memory database technology, which is promising users dramatic improvements in performance, claimed at up to 100,000 times faster than before. This is one of three main contenders so far declared in this looming battle for the databases that handle `Big Data’, which could be one of the biggest market sectors has seen for a while.
The others are Oracle, with Exalogic and Exalytics, and Actian with its Vectorwise offering. Those with memories that stretch back to the first database wars will, of course, know the part Oracle played, not least because it was the winner. Its rivals then were Informix, Ingres, and Sybase.
These are names that give the looming Part Two of the wars added piquancy, for Ingres was acquired at least twice, only to buy itself out of Computer Associates ownership so it could resurrect itself as Actian. Sybase was also acquired, by SAP. Now it finds itself as the analytics lynch-pin in much of the SAP offering. Informix is now part of IBM, but given that company’s growing prominence as a cloud service and platform provider, the database’s track record in analytics and data warehousing, and IBM’s Hadoop-based InfoSphere BigInsights offering, the name of Informix may yet have a part to play.
`Big Data’ is, of course, one of those marketing terms that is largely meaningless, as SAP’s Chief Technology Officer, Adrian Simpson, readily admits. “The problem with big data is that it means different things to different people. There is no a single definition of BD and there never will be.”
What Big Data is about, however, is going to be important to many businesses, and that is where Simpson is focussed. “What we’re interested in is the value the technology can bring to the problems the customers have. Some of those may be Big Data and some may just be large amounts of data. But it is really about what is of value to the customer.
SAP’s opening salvo is a pretty substantial broadside, with the intended aim of providing one logical, real-time platform for all transaction and analytics workloads. It also aims to allow users to add-in this real-time capability without the need to upgrade or re-engineer their existing applications. The goal is database market leadership by 2015.
The roadmap to this goal is largely built on the HANAin-memory platform, which is now ready for release. This is the core of SAP’s real-time data platform, working closely with a collection of Sybase database and analytics tools.
Sybase ASE is set to be the main supported option for SAP Business Suite applications. Here, while HANA will augment the extreme transactions of SAP Sybase ASE with real-time reporting capabilities. Using HANA will involve users in a `rip and replace’ of the existing database but their existing applications will work without modification and get the performance advantages.
“This is a non-disruptive change to the user, though it is a disruptive change for the database vendor,” Simpson said. “But for the user it just goes a darned sight faster, hopefully costs less and will be more flexible for the future. And the availability of Sybase ASE means there is now a low cost option of what database users run their applications on.”
Sybase IQ is the “big data” analytics tool, providing progressive integration with HANA for working with aged or cold data. SAP sees it sharing common capabilities and life-cycle management with the HANA platform.
Sybase SQL Anywhereis already widely deployed, and is now seen as the front-end database for HANA, extending its reach to mobile and embedded applications in real time.
“The key here is how we integrate with Sybase ASE, Sybase IQ and how HANA fits into that mix,” he said. “We are really interested how we get those three to work together, what is the best mix, the best fit of those technologies. And the key thing here is that we now have the integration technology in place to allow customers to have a mix that suits their particular use case.”
The existing Sybase PowerDesigner data modeling, architecting and service orchestration tool set is now set to become the primary modeling solution for SAP’s real-time data platform, while a combination of Sybase’s Event Stream Processor and Replication Server, together with SAP’s solutions for EIM will provide data assessment and integration of batch, real-time change data capture and streaming data into the real-time data platform.
HANA and Sybase IQ are also planned to extend support for accessing “big data” sources such as Hadoop, offering a pre-processing infrastructure.
Having first seen the light of day back in November last year the HANA implementation of SAP’s NetWeaver Business Warehouse has now been made generally available as part of the HANA-related product onslaught. This month also sees general availability for SAP’s Business Suite on Sybase ASE. SAP plans to offer optimal integration with a commitment to provide new and existing customers with end-to-end application and database solutions, along with integrated maintenance and synchronized releases.
The HANA Business Suite ramp up will really get going towards the end of this year, which will require a replacement of the existing business suite. But SAP is also developing applications that sit alongside the existing applications and exploit what HANA offers. Simpson calls this the `sidecar’ model, where the existing infrastructure is not changed and HANA is run alongside it.
SAP is also pitching the performance potential of HANA at the developer community. It is intended to be an open database and the data structure tools that come with it allow developers to design their own applications. So it is open to other vendors, and according to Simpson SAP has already had interest from customers looking to expose other data sources into HANA.
“Some of the reporting that comes out Cloud solutions does not always give all the reporting structures users need, and the ability to put that into a real-time database engine can add real value. Users are starting work on application ideas that have not been possible before. This is the art of the new possible,” he observed.
One of the new possibilities SAP is already targeting is the monitoring and management of Cloud services. “We have coming out Netweaver Landscape Virtualisation Manager, which is our approach to how customers can monitor their cloud environment such as resource provisioning, monitoring and managing loads, security and Governance. From what we have seen of the scale and need so far, however, there is no sign that this needs HANA yet,” he said.