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Why some SAP shops move off Oracle to an SAP HANA database

While the vendors disagree on how many SAP customers have made the switch, Ferrara Candy has numbers that show a huge speed boost for its BI operations on SAP Business Warehouse.

Ferrara Candy Co., a U.S. confectionery producer owned by The Ferrero Group, was looking for a way to enable its sales team to respond to consumer demand in real time.

To do that, the company needed business intelligence tools that offered a single, integrated view of its customers, and ultimately found the answer in an SAP HANA database, according to an SAP case study.

Although Ferrara had been running SAP Business Warehouse (BW) on an Oracle database for a number of years, the performance of the Oracle database wasn't meeting expectations, said Mustafa Mustafa, senior director of IT at Ferrara, in an interview.

So in 2014, Ferrara, based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., hired Mustafa, handed him SAP BW on Oracle and asked him to revamp the environment to meet the needs of the business.

"We did a proof of concept using SAP BW on Oracle," Mustafa said. "We executed a nine-step process for the use case and we timed how long it took for the data to be rendered from Oracle. It took six minutes."

When Mustafa executed the same nine steps using BW on SAP HANA, the vendor's in-memory database technology, the process only took three minutes -- a 50% improvement just by switching databases, he said.

"Then when we optimized BW on HANA, it only took two minutes to complete the nine-step process," Mustafa said.

Then he replaced BW's front-end reporting with SAP Business Objects reporting that runs on an SAP HANA database, which brought the time down to less than a minute.

"That enabled our business to get the right information at the right time with the right tools," Mustafa said. Now the sales reps can access a single, comprehensive view of customers and act on consistent, solid information and insights, according to the case study.

Swapping Oracle for SAP HANA database

Ferrara Candy is one example of an SAP shop that has opted to displace its Oracle database in favor of HANA. However, exactly how many other enterprises have done so appears to be a closely-guarded secret.

Philip On, global vice president of SAP HANA, said 28,000 customers are running HANA for both SAP and non-SAP applications.

"We're seeing great momentum: More customers are using HANA over competitive databases," he said. "And since [SAP] does not charge for nonproductive [HANA] licenses, such as test, development, quality and assurance, we're displacing even more competitive licenses than the actual quantity of customers. That's because many other database vendors often charge for both productive and nonproductive licenses."

However, On was unable to provide a breakdown of the number of SAP customers that had replaced their Oracle Database in favor of HANA.

He pointed to Ferrara Candy as well as J.J. Keller & Associates, a provider of safety and compliance-related consulting services, as two companies that have moved to HANA from Oracle. "[J.J. Keller] wanted to modernize their IT infrastructure to deliver the real-time performance needs of their business, and they chose to migrate off their Oracle database to SAP HANA," On said.

The company's sales team can now monitor the progress of over 16,000 orders submitted each week in real time for improved customer support operations, sales call planning and distribution management, according to On.

"Some of the tangible benefits include 20 times faster billing with SAP HANA and they saved over $740,000 a year in revenue," he said. "They also saw 60% data compression and 10 times faster sales order processing. These are some tangible data points that customers have seen after they have migrated from Oracle to SAP HANA."

Oracle claims move to HANA is rare

For its part, Oracle took exception to the notion that companies in SAP shops were moving away from its database and onto the SAP HANA database.

Oracle has seen very little movement from its database to HANA even in SAP shops, according to Tirthankar Lahiri, senior vice president of data and in-memory technologies at Oracle.

"Our customers -- many large ERP and data warehouse users -- prefer Oracle's database for its scalability, reliability and best-in-class features and functionality, which SAP HANA can't deliver," Lahiri said. "With more than 1,000 customers and 4,000 new trials for our Autonomous Database in Q3 alone, we expect our lead in the database market over SAP HANA to increase even more."

DB-Engines Ranking, a website that ranks database management systems according to their popularity among database administrators and developers, indicates Oracle's database is number one in popularity with a score of over 1,279, while the SAP HANA database is ranked number 21, with a score of 55.34.  

And sales intelligence firm iDataLabs seems to contradict the numbers of customers SAP claims are using HANA.

"We have found 7,370 companies that use SAP HANA," iDataLabs said in a recent report. "The companies using SAP HANA are most often found in the United States and in the computer software industry. SAP HANA is most often used by companies with 50-200 employees and $1-10 million in revenue. Our data for SAP HANA usage goes back as far as three years and 10 months."

SAP's point of view

In an email, an SAP spokesperson commented further on HANA adoption and performance, noting that HANA powers S/4HANA and serves as the database for SAP's cloud application portfolio, thereby delivering its benefits to "tens of thousands of customers" and 125 million SuccessFactors users. HANA is used by companies of all sizes, he said, including many of the largest companies in the world. PayPal, for example, is running SAP Bank Analyzer on HANA with a single-node 48TB HANA hardware setup for mission-critical use, with the system processing over 100 million transactions per day for more than 200 million active accounts.

Citing "highly vetted" industry data from leading analyst firms, the spokesperson said SAP was recognized in Gartner's "Peer Insights Customers' Choice for Operational Database Management Systems" in January, for the second year in a row. According to Gartner, the recognition is based on "verified end-user professionals, taking into account both the number of reviews and the overall user ratings," the spokesperson said.

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