For HarrisLogic, a technology and clinical services vendor, SAP HANA is the axle for its wagon wheel.
"That's the metaphor I like to use," said Hudson Harris, chief engagement officer at the St. Louis-based company, when asked to describe his company's SAP HANA uses. HarrisLogic develops tools to help healthcare professionals make better clinical decisions for mental health patients.
"We have five different technology engines that encompass what we do technology-wise and SAP HANA is the axle around which all our technology moves."
The five technology engines that run on HANA are:
- population health, to integrate data to help organizations streamline and improve healthcare;
- engagement, to enable clinicians to serve their patients more effectively;
- decision support, to give clinicians the necessary data and tools to better assess patient needs;
- workflow, to support best practices that enable multiple entities to coordinate patient care; and
- analytics, powered by SAP BusinessObjects and the HANA analytics engine, to help organizations glean actionable insights from their clinical and business data.
Harris said the company turned to SAP HANA because the in-memory database platform provided the most flexibility around deployment and an operating environment that enabled HarrisLogic's technology engines to operate in the cloud. The company also uses BusinessObjects to create reports that show key performance indicators for itself and its customers.
"HANA really gave us a platform and place where we could run all of our home-built applications but then also be able to get all the analytics [we needed]," he said.
Three main SAP HANA uses
HarrisLogic's extensive use of HANA as a combination database, analytics and application platform is a good example of how to take advantage of HANA's biggest strengths.
Philip On, global vice president of SAP HANA, said he sees three main SAP HANA uses among customers: as an operational database management system, a next-generation analytical data management system and a way to build modern applications.
SAP HANA has evolved to become an all-in-one data platform that can handle analytical, transactional and application development for customers, he said.
"When I talk about an operational database management system, I'm referring to a transactional database that is running transactions for a business process," On said. "And, in our opinion, that's why we've delivered on SAP HANA. Customers need that in-memory performance, that real-time response to run modern business processes."
Customers use HANA to run smarter business processes because of its "unique" ability to process analytics on live transactional data, according to On. That means they don't have to move data from a transactional system to a data mart to analyze it.
"The data can sit in the same transactional system, and then you can run live analytics on that live data. The benefit to customers is so dramatic. This is the No. 1 use case."
Additionally, customers are using HANA to manage next-generation data marts and data warehousing. They're loading transactional data into those environments so they can run real-time analytics and reporting, On said. With the explosion of data everywhere inside and outside the enterprise, it's no longer feasible to collect all of that data into a data warehouse or data mart to analyze it.
"You may have terabytes in Hadoop or in the cloud, and what HANA can do is virtualize the access to the data so we can connect to that data without physically moving it," On said, adding that data protection compliance prohibits some companies from moving the data.
Also among the most popular SAP HANA uses among customers is virtually connecting to all of their data inside and outside the enterprise and gaining a real-time view of it, he said.
"That's the second scenario," he said. "The third scenario is using the power of in-memory computing, combined with advanced analytics, such as machine learning, spatial graph text and predictive analytics, to build modern applications."
HANA often used to speed up enterprise apps
Seth Lippincott, an analyst at Nucleus Research, said many large global enterprises use HANA as the backbone for their digital transformation projects, although they would probably supplement HANA with Hadoop and some other analytics engine.
Such customers are already SAP shops and are using HANA as the backbone for important enterprise systems, such as CRM and human capital management, according to Lippincott.
Some in the manufacturing sector use HANA as a central system of record for foundational elements, like finance and accounting, that offer significant benefits in speed and power, he said. Such users might have previously run such core functions on the same database that was running another mission-critical function: material requirements planning (MRP).
"When they were running their MRP, before, it would have taken multiple hours, and it would have shut down everything else, and they wouldn't have been able to do anything else while that was happening," Lippincott said.
Now, with HANA, MRP only takes a few hours or minutes, and they can continue to run the rest of their operations normally while that's happening, he said.
Vinnie Mirchandani, CEO of Deal Architect, said that organizations mainly use HANA as a data lake, although it's not a replacement for Hadoop.
"It's not really huge data sets, but midlevel data sets where speed is important," he said. "Those tend to be the applications. And now, with S/4HANA, it's clearly becoming the database that is the ERP database. I would say those are the two common use cases."