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SAP SCN Podcasts

Starting in December of 2007, Jon began a multi-year series of podcasts with the SAP SCN Community team. You can find them all on this page for easy downloading and text highlights.
SCN Podcast: SAP HANA in Action - HANA Customer Stories with SAP's Thomas Torf Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gifPodcast: Listen Now!
Vendor Podcast - An Interview with Thomas Torf of SAP about the lessons learned from HANA customer projects to date
An SAP SCN Community Podcast
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: August 17, 2011

SAP HANA stole most of the thunder at SAPPHIRE Now 2011 and since then, we've all done our best to understand what the impact of HANA can be for SAP customers. With SAP TechEd season upon us, now is an excellent time to get an inside view of HANA projects and what the impact has been to date. For this SAP Community Network podcast, Jon Reed of talks to Thomas Torf, Vice President, Customer Engagements & Business Development at SAP Labs about his work with SAP HANA customers around the globe. The focus of the podcast is on current HANA customer projects and use cases. During the twenty minute podcast, Torf also shares his team's plans to participate in SAP TechEd Las Vegas. Christopher Kim of SAP also joins the podcast, talking with Torf about HANA and mobility and sharing the latest on in-memory on SCN.

Editor's note: this podcast references the SAP HANA and In-Memory Home Page on SCN at Also check out the In-Memory blog category on SCN and the In-Memory discussion forum. You can check out the 28 TechEd Las Vegas sessions that relate to HANA in the SAP TechEd session directory.

Podcast Highlights

1:10 Thomas' role at SAP and how he is engaging with SAP customers on HANA. Thomas: I have an awesome team. We have engaged with HANA since May of last year. We worked very closely with the engineering team and got a lot of feedback from early Alpha customers. I have a team in Palo Alto, a team in Germany, and we're adding a team in China and India. Our main role is to prove to customers they can do exciting things with HANA today, and sometimes that can be outside the normal implementation scenarios. My team resides in Vishal's organization in SAP Labs. Our role in the DNA team (design and new applications) is bringing new applications on top of HANA. We are seeing incredible performance improvements with customers compared to what they are getting out of their existing systems.

2:50 Why does HANA and in-memory change the game for SAP customers? Thomas: What we explained to customers is that today, most of the time you have only a subset of information available that you can do BI on. With HANA, the change is that you can have one year, two years, five years of information in-memory and you can slice and dice the data back and forwards in ways not seen before. For example, in traditional CO-PA, very large fortune 500 customers have a data set that can reside on their ECC system for three months. A midsize company might be able to hold onto a couple years data. What we do with HANA is we give the opportunity not to work on aggregated tables but to go straight through to the source, and you can have the data at the fingertips and that's the fundamental differences - speed and information richness you cannot achieve otherwise.

4:25 Let's get into some customer examples. How does your typical process of engaging with a customer around HANA work? Thomas: we have mapped out a typical implementation with starts with the setup of the machine and software which is part of the component with HANA. We are part of the design services organization, so our approach is to help customers identify pain points they have today that most of the time aren't even fixable for them. We helped one customer deal with complex information on the customer and product side they couldn't analyze on ECC, but in HANA we could bring them together and combine the data. We did this and went a step further: when we did the demo, we used the sheer speed of the system with an iPad as the front end. That's our typical approach: first we tackle the design problem, set up in the system, model the environment, do a few iterations and get an end result. In that case it took 3-4 weeks from first date to end date, and we did this on 280 million records with a performance of 4.6 seconds.

6:20 One underreported aspect of HANA is the connection to SAP BI 4.0. Can you tell us more about how the two products are linked and how customers are taking advantage of that? Thomas: there are a lot of benefits you get with BI 4.0. I see two major benefits with HANA: one is Data Services, the other is you can model inside HANA and you just pass it through to the Business Objects stack, which gives you an incredible performance while you model close to the engine. In the past, in 3.x environments, you model outside of the data source. In HANA you can create your model inside your system, then you run close to the engine which gives you an incredible speed, and you pass that through the engine and the mobile device. To give you an example, we worked with a CPG company where the company had delta loads, which means you have a large data set and increments during the day you have to load, and we achieved that in record speed. Aggregation took us couple of minutes on the ECC system, load into system took us 2.6 seconds, and any load can be done in 1 minute or 10 minute increments, but you have no load or impact on he system, and that's what you can achieve with the BI 4.0 stack that is optimized for HANA.

8:30 Is there an SAP customer that is the best fit for HANA right now, or is it that all SAP customers have some processes that are ideal for HANA? How should SAP customers go about evaluating HANA as a fit for their own use cases? Thomas: We have a lot of pilots and implementations with multiple customers and there isn't really one key similarity between them. One example is that we had a customer who had to run a very complex process at the end of their work cycle. When they hit the return on the keyboard it took 47 minutes on process. Now its 2 seconds- that makes the previous process obsolete. That's outside the delta load scenarios. If you have very large data amounts you have to work through we can optimize those. Another example: a customer wanted to bring BW data from the warehouse and combine with point of sales database and it was a totally different database. Without HANA, it's not possible, but we did it in two days and now they can see their point of sales data and BW sales data together in HANA. That's the sheer power of the system, it's very flexible and gives you the opportunity to bring multiple data sources together, then you use our BI tools on top of it, which gives you the analytics and access to the data you want to get at.

10:30 What is the process like moving from HANA proof of concept to business case to production? Thomas: In HANA, the speed is so incredible you see good and bad data at the same time, so you can optimize your system way quicker and adjust your designs on the fly. For most of the implementations we have done, customers have been so excited they have been eager to move to production. What we are working on now with customers is to treat the POC more like a pilot and then move on to the next phase.

12:30 Is there one misconception about HANA you'd like to clear up for our listeners? Thomas: The sheer information you can analyze from multiple data sources is critical in a HANA system. It's not just a database, it's a business intelligence analytics engine, and you have an ETL tool and BI tools. You bring it to together with your ECC system and you can do analytics on the fly when you set up the system a certain way.

14:00 What are you looking ahead to in future releases? Thomas: Across the globe with our development teams, more simplicity nad ease of use is the main mantra. The founder is behind the system and the CTO is pushing us to make it better, and the performance ratios are ahead of the competition. 

15:15 What kinds of HANA-based activities can we expect to see at TechEd? Thomas: My team is excited. We'll be at TechEd and participating in a three day HANA session. My team is doing "the screwdriver session," the nuts and bolts, tips and tricks. My team is on the ground in Vegas and I hope a lot of people will join us so we can tell you what we've been through and how we can help.

16:35 Chris to Thomas: You've mentioned mobile devices a couple of times and iPad - how often does mobility come up in HANA engagements? Thomas: 100 percent of the time. When the customers realize what you can do with the data and the sheer speed we can give them, then the next question is "why do I have to use the desktop when I can get the info in 4 to 8 seconds?" We have done the first run ups on Androids, and we have tested it on tablets here. When you see the performance on explorer on the iPad, it's amazing. When we did the first implementation for Bill McDermott's presentation, he never gave back the iPad.

18:20 Chris on HANA at SCN: we do have a dedicated HANA community on SCN in SDN under technology innovation, and that's where you'll find the latest and greatest in forums, blogs, and tech documentation, there's tons of information and all the tech ed content will go there too. For those who are just getting started, I think those blogs and thought leadership pieces are a great way to get started, there are so many good smart people talking about this from all different angles. If you go to our page, you can see all the recent blogs featured. Also check out the forums where SAP leaders and others respond. Expect more e-learning in the future as well.


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