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Bringing consumer experiences to the enterprise SAP AG general manager, business analytics, Steve Lucas, visited Australia recently to help kick-start the company’s go-to-market efforts for the High Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA). He spoke with Freya Purnell about the potential of in-memory computing, how mobility is changing the game, and the future for SAP’s analytic solutions. FP: Why is in-memory technology considered a game-changer? SL: We are in a day and age where people have a fantastic experience at home, where you surf the web using Google. You are the master and commander of your universe – you can query the world’s largest database and do it in real time, and it only takes half a millisecond, and it’s free. Then you go to work on Monday, and you have no idea how to get information, it takes weeks and it’s not free. That is the core issue – why is it that in the consumer world, it’s free and the experience is amazing, and in the corporate world, it costs money and it’s not amazing? What we’ve done internally at SAP with our HANA system is take literally all of our CRM information, our entire forecast – every customer, every record, every opportunity, every interaction – and put it in one system. I can open up my iPad and answer any question I have – by product, by quarter – it’s right there instantly available. Even over a poky 3G connection, I can still get this information in real time. That empowerment is what endears people to Google, and I think it is what endears people to HANA – you are empowered, you have all the information and the tools you need and it’s in real time, and that is very transformational.

FP: How will overcoming the current gap in the user experience translate to value for the enterprise? SL: The scenarios with HANA are really limitless, but I’ll tell you what I see happening right now. One is real-time fraud analytics, from the point of the swipe of the credit card. That information whizzes through the line and ultimately gets dropped into an SAP ERP system. The problem is that the analysis on whether that was a legitimate transaction doesn’t happen until weeks later, because there is so much information and it has to be dumped into a data warehouse. We want to literally make that instantaneous, where we can identify fraud at the point of sale. This is a huge opportunity – not just for banks, but for retailers.

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The question is, how does HANA do that? We take computing that normally happens on big, slow, spinning disks and big relational databases, and we compress it down to happen inside a computer’s physical memory. It’s like the difference between writing the equation 2+2 = 4 and thinking about the answer. Calculations, data storage, complex analysis is all 100 per cent in-memory, and that makes it unique in the market. It’s having these kinds of results – for the ability to do anything that has big data and the need to apply complex analysis to it, HANA is just a killer app.

FP: What type of market do you think there is in Australia for HANA? SL: HANA is a database – a very unique database – and we want to win in the database market. So we are bringing a new and unique database technology to the Australian market, and it is cutting edge and next generation, but the beauty is you can discard a lot of your perceptions over the last 20 years about how databases work and how they have to be architected, and move to something new. A lot of areas in the Australian market – such as retail, financial services and agriculture – gain huge benefits from the analytics scenario in general, but I think any application that you have that uses a database today will perform better and benefit dramatically by having HANA as that database.

FP: How do you see it working in the agriculture industry? SL: I’ll give you an example of a company we are talking to right now. The current process is that company will sell a fertiliser that has some kind of insect repellent property plus obviously nutrient properties for plants. A good chunk of the time either the fertiliser or the repellent does not perform as advertised. The farmer will say, “Come and look at my plants”, so the organisation who sold him the fertiliser will visit and write an assessment. There’s a tremendous amount of information that is collected, and they’ll record it on a

Inside SAP Winter 2011  

All the latest on SAP in Australia and New Zealand.