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What is SAP HANA?

Enterprises operating in the new, always-on digital age have large amounts of data coming in from a variety of sources, and it is essential that they can organize and pull this data whenever they need it quickly. The traditional databases they have used in the past simply won’t cut it when it comes to meeting their growing demands.

This is why more and more organizations are pivoting towards using SAP HANA for their database needs. But what exactly is SAP HANA and why is it better than traditional databases?

SAP HANA is an in-memory database, and HANA is actually an acronym—it stands for “high-performance, analytical appliance.” The idea behind it is that it’s a database that is orders-of-magnitude faster than any traditional database that you can buy that runs on a disk.

This matters because organizations have a lot of untapped data outside of their traditional business source data, such as contracts and sales data. There is also an abundance of valuable information coming in from their website, mobile devices, IoT, etc. In this video, we’ll give you the basics on SAP HANA, look at S4/HANA, outline how SAP HANA captures all this additional data, and examine the key advantages enterprises gain with this new insight into their business.

More IBM Cloud lightboarding videos

Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Bradley Knapp and I am a product manager here at IBM. I own all of our SAP-certified infrastructure that runs on IBM cloud, and one of the questions that we get a lot from people who are at the very beginning of their SAP journey is: What is SAP HANA, and why is it important? You guys talk about it all over the place, but you never tell us what it is.

SAP HANA: An in-memory database that is faster than any traditional database

SAP HANA is an in-memory database, and HANA is actually an acronym—it stands for “high-performance, analytical appliance.” The idea behind it is that it’s a database that is orders-of-magnitude faster than any traditional database that you can buy that runs on a disk.

SAP HANA: High performance analytical appliance

Handling data from many different sources

Why does that matter? That matters because you have all of these different pieces of the business solution that are now feeding data back and forth, right? So, you’ve got a database that’s constantly ingesting data from all these different sources.

SAP HANA: Difference pieces of the business solution.

You’ve got all the traditional business sources that you’re bringing data in and out of, right? So that’s going to be your contracts and sales data, all of the normal stuff, things that you’ve been bringing in and out. But you’ve also got UX and UI data—you’ve got information that’s coming into and out of your website, into and out of your forms.

And then you have the proliferation of mobile data. So that data, that’s coming out of mobile devices, not just from your customers, but also from your workforce, right? As our workforce goes increasingly mobile, you’ve got more and more information that’s coming from those data sources.

SAP HANA: Data sources - business, UI/UX, Mobile, Machine Learning, and IoT

And then you’ve got all of the machine learning pieces, right? So, what good is data if you’re not gonna do interesting things with it? You’ve got machine learning that’s both reading from and then writing to that HANA. database.

And then you’ve got the IoT sensors, right? We’ve got IoT sensors in everything now—you might have IoT devices in your factory, IoT devices in your warehouses, IoT devices that your points of presence and points of sale. IoT sensors are everywhere; and you get this a massive amount of data that’s all coming in, and you need a database that’s able to handle it.

That’s why HANA exists. HANA is the core of your digital enterprise—it is the core database that everything feeds into. And why does that matter, right?


So over here, let’s talk about S4/HANA. So S4/HANA is the application suite that goes around it, you know, and so you’ve got three fairly normal components that go into it. The first one is gonna be your ERP—the traditional SAP product, the one that everybody knows about. But you’ve also got the CRM piece, and you’ve got an SRM piece; these are all important components of that S4/HANA deployment.


NetWeaver stack

And then you have the really neat part, right? That’s the piece that sits right here in the middle that is the NetWeaver stack. NetWeaver is an application platform that you can deploy applications onto that talk back and forth with this HANA database.

So, not only do you have the data sources coming in and out, but now you’ve got all the applications that go along with it. So, you’ve got applications that run on the NetWeaver platform that come from SAP directly, but also, anyone can develop on top of that NetWeaver platform, right? A third party, a business partner, a consultant—anybody can develop an application that’s specific to your needs, that goes along with the NetWeaver platform.

SAP HANA: NetWeaver

Analytics: Tactical, enterprise, and strategic levels

And why does all of that matter? Well, what good is data if you aren’t going to do things with it, right? Otherwise, it’s just sitting out there—it’s data in a warehouse, it doesn’t matter.

That’s where we start talking about the analytical pieces, and I like to break the analytics piece up into three levels. So your first level, that’s going to be your tactical level—that’s going to be your business objects. That’s a WYSIWYG editor, where any employee who has got access to the system can go out and put together a query to get the data that they need to do their job.

The second piece is what I like to consider the enterprise level, right? That’s going to be your machine learning, your Leonardo, your Watson. That’s where you’re using artificial intelligence to go out and actually gain important insight into your data that, otherwise, you might never know about.

SAP HANA: Analytics

And then that third piece is what I like to think of as the strategic level—that’s going to be your digital boardroom. So that’s your C-suite and your board of directors that want the top-down, enterprise-level view of what’s going on in your system, what’s going on in your factories. But they want to look at it at the strategic level—I want to see all of my factories that once, all of my warehouses at once. And then I want to be able to drill down into: oh, alright, well I see that we’ve got a little bit of an uptime issue at this particular factory, or we’ve got some sort of a hang-up in this warehouse or at this piece of our inventory system or this piece of our logistics trail. And they can take and go from that very high level and then start drilling down into it, piece by piece, so that they can take the insight that they need to make the strategic-level decisions.

So, that’s kind of a basic overview of HANA. I want to encourage you to learn more, and you can always learn more by visiting us on IBM Cloud‘s website. You can learn more at the IBM Cloud Blog, where we get into more detail around how to architect a solution based around SAP HANA, based around that HANA database. And also, you can always learn more at SAP’s website at

Offering Manager, IBM Cloud for SAP

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