What is SAP HANA?

SAP HANA is an in-memory database that is both a software solution and a hardware solution. Compared to traditional databases, HANA stands out because its data is stored in random access memory (RAM). The data is not simply cached based on frequent utilization, but it is literally stored, indexed, compressed and accessed in memory. In addition, it uses a columnar based storage mechanism that results in faster access to big data tables compared to traditional row based tables. However, unlike some appliances, HANA also offers an optimized row store table type.  Hardware is a big piece of the solution as well. SAP has worked with several vendors to certify hardware solutions that make HANA a possibility for “Big Data” storage in-memory.

What happens when it loses power?

What happens when the server loses power? We all know that RAM is volatile. HANA solves this problem by writing to two persistent storage types and RAM. It incorporates a PCIx I/O NAND flash accelerator card to manage the log files and traditional magnetic RAID storage array to house the permanent data. The NAND flash card provides 150,000 – 250,000 IOPS and nanosecond seek times to help manage data changes at near RAM speeds. Check out for more details. This card is persistent, so it does not need power to store the data. Once the data is committed, it is stored in RAM and on persistent storage; however, when the data is accessed within HANA, it is accessing the information stored on RAM.   With these three storage mediums combined, HANA is able to manage data in both memory (RAM) and persistent storage at the same time. SAP HANA is fully ACID compliant.

What can I do with HANA?

In its current release, HANA can be utilized to host the SAP BW system, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Info Spaces, data marts, manage COPA and a few other items as well. Visit the SAP site for more details. Obviously, hosting applications and data on HANA will fundamentally change their performance, capabilities, and scalability. BW will now be able to provide substantially faster responses in environments that are hosting hundreds or thousands of gigabytes of data. Explorer will be able to speed through several one hundred million row result sets with minimal effort. Existing data marts can be hosted on HANA to supercharge sluggish BI queries. The sky truly is the limit in terms  to how HANA will fundamentally change the capabilities of processing data. SAP has also suggested that by the end of this year, HANA will be ready to support OLTP sources as well.

HANA will allow developers to define OLAP style views directly on the column table that are stored in memory. Because the data can be accessed with little I/O overhead, these views are truly just metadata. Traditional OLAP solutions require the raw database data be reprocessed and stored in a proprietary storage mechanism typically referred to as a MOLAP cube. Because HANA stores the data in memory, using highly indexed columnar storage, there is no need to store the data in a format that is different than how the RDMS stores it. However, these views are not required as some BI Applications will be able to access the base tables like they would with any traditional database.

What is the HANA Studio?

HANA studio is a client tool that allows both administrators and developers to manage content within the HANA DBMS. There are administration tools that allow you to create users, manage schemas, manage security, view memory utilization, view disk utilization, and view CPU utilization and several other administration tasks. It contains the modeling tools that create attribute views, analysis views and calculation views. These views are the basis to the OLAP style engines that are built into HANA. It also contains tools to help you manage replicated content. Replicated content is the basis for real-time analytics within HANA.

Do I need a special driver to access data within HANA?

HANA provides both a 32-bit and 64-bit ODBC and JDBC drivers. SAP BusinessObjects 4.0, Data Services 4.0 and many other SAP based tools have built in support for these drivers to help support all the features  HANA has to offer.

Is HANA practical for small and medium businesses (SMB)?

HANA can be licensed in increments of 64 GB in-memory storage. Many of the hardware vendors also provide server configurations that start with around 128 GB of RAM. Given that HANA can be sized for small datasets, small and medium business can incorporate HANA into their BI landscape even if “Big Data” is not their issue. SAP also recently announced a new offering specifically targeting SMB customers named SAP HANA EDGE. This package will be offered at a lower cost and include SAP BusinessObjects EDGE, Data Integrator, LE Replication and a 64GB version of SAP HANA.

How can I load data into HANA?

There are several options available to get data into HANA. SAP provides a real-time replication server called SLT Replication. With this server you can replicate data from a SAP system or non-SAP RDMS systems into HANA. The data is copied in its native format and will then need to be de-normalized on HANA using information views ( attribute views, analytic views and calculation views). According to the documentation, you can also leverage the Sybase Replication Server for log based replication. In addition, Data Services 4.0 can be used to move data into HANA and can update data at near real time if needed.  Data Services 4.0 can also de-normalize the data given its abundance of data transforms and provide data quality and cleansing transforms that will help clean the data before it is loaded into HANA.

How can I access data stored in HANA?

There are several ways to access the data within HANA. The ideal way to access data is through SAP BusinessObjects 4.0. There are multiple tools within the BusinessObjects 4.0 platform for accessing HANA data. You can utilize Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Explorer, “Analysis Edition for Microsoft Office”, Mobile and Dashboard (Xcelsius). In short, any tool in the platform that supports ODBC or a Universe can be utilized to access data within HANA. These options work for SAP BW (powered by HANA) or for HANA (Standalone). If you have SAP BW powered by HANA, you can utilize any of the traditional query tools. For those that like viewing raw data results, you can utilize HANA Studios to execute SQL statements and view the results.

Does SAP HANA only work for companies that have SAP ERP and SAP  BW?

HANA has no dependencies on SAP BW or SAP ERP software. HANA is a separate product that can work both  independently of SAP BW or work as the engine for SAP BW. Because SAP has made several integration enhancements within the SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 and SAP DataServices 4.0 products, companies can load and query data from HANA even if they have never used SAP BW.

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