SAP grows flagship software

German software giant SAP is celebrating a bold offensive move against Oracle after announcing it has expanded its fastest and most advanced business software, potentially to tens of thousands of businesses.

At a global press conference Thursday at the company’s Palo Alto offices, executives said that all SAP products, notably its popular Business Suite, will run on HANA.

The company introduced HANA in 2010, a product it hoped would smack down competition and make SAP a leader in the era of mobile and cloud. HANA collects and analyze data in real time, working at mind-boggling speeds.

Three years later, HANA is the flagship of SAP products.

SAP says the expansion of HANA, which may be the only product of its kind on the market, will revolutionize business practices — companies will get more data more quickly than ever before. But it may also signal the rumblings of a revolution within SAP. Despite its old-world European roots, SAP wants to play ball with the quick and nimble Silicon Valley startups. And it knows that the only way to scatter the competition is to be fastest.

At a recent interview at the SAP headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, Bernd Leukert, executive vice president for applications, said: “It’s easier to win from a leading position than if you are in a catch-up position.”

HANA is nothing if not fast. The company says HANA can process huge volumes of data 1,000 times faster than any of its other products, and performance reports that used to take six hours can be done in just a few seconds.  A retailer starting a new promotion on Monday won’t have to wait until Tuesday to get feedback on sales.

HANA is still relatively small — more than 600 of SAP’s 197,000 customers use it — but the company is pushing all kinds of sales pitches.  Plattner said the 40,000 or so SAP customers that also use Microsoft and Oracle databases can attach HANA to those systems, and customers can make the transition to HANA without any interruption to their existing SAP services. The company has also trained about 5,000 consultants to help businesses make the leap to HANA. Customers can forgo HANA stick with the applications they have — but the company is going to be aggressively selling to everyone.

SAP is also trumpeting HANA as a cost-saver, despite the extra fee businesses must pay for it. Since all applications work on a single in-memory platform, HANA eliminates the need to run and sort data multiple times. For some businesses, it may eliminate the need for outsourcing.

SAP has much to prove yet with HANA, but the company seems confident that it’s on its way to stamping out Silicon Valley competition. SAP has recently focused more attention and resources in the Bay Area, such as the February acquisition of SuccessFactors, which will lead much of SAP’s expansion in the cloud from a shiny new office building in South San Francisco.

At Thursday’s conference, Plattner didn’t pass up an opportunity to thumb his nose at SAP’s biggest competitor. When asked by an audience member to respond to Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison’s snide remarks last year about HANA, Plattner said: “I enjoy that he is not smiling.”

(L.A. Times reporter Chris O’Brien has more on the exchange here)




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