Teasing HANA database upgrade, SAP leaves crowd wondering if software giant has lost its innovation mojo

Great to know they 'remain committed'

SAP is trying to tease the market with new features headed to the core database underpinning its enterprise applications.

The official launch of SAP HANA 2.0 SPS 06 is not expected until December, but Baré Said, senior veep and head of database, has tried to whet users' appetite with a blog post.

Included will be improvements to SAP HANA's smart data access, which promises access to remote data as if it were local, with support for new versions of Oracle and Microsoft SQL. Said flaunted better machine learning capabilities with a new predictive analytics library and support for Python 3. He also promised further updates to native storage extension, a way of storing "warm" data locally, he said.

But the tone of the teaser was somewhat underwhelming. "We remain committed to supporting our customers in maximizing and safeguarding their existing investments as they chart their path into the future," he said.

Despite SAP's third-quarter results and dramatic shift in earnings guidance wiping off 23 per cent of its maket cap, the company still managed €6.5bn revenue for the quarter with €1.5bn profit. Perhaps observers would think a business of that size could come up with something other than "remaining committed" to its core database technology, particularly when rival Workday, which built its in-memory database from the same background as SAP, is snapping at its heels in the HCM market.

Online commentators certainly seemed to think so. "HANA starts 10 years ago as a groundbreaking innovation which is becoming core of every SAP application in the future. It seems now that HANA is no part (sic) of the innovation strategy," one said.

"This is legacy-language at best," consultant Lars Breddemann commented. "I believe SAP could do a lot better communication around HANA and probably should do a lot better if it still should play a part in the technology platform offered to customers. Right now, it's rather hard to make the case for using HANA for any non-[SAP] NetWeaver-platform based development. Nearly every cloud-based offering is more affordable and has a much better support/developer community," he said.

Meanwhile, arch-rival Oracle – which went from databases to applications, the opposite direction to SAP's journey – has this week announced the general availability of its Oracle Database 21c.

It already flaunted native support for JSON documents at the product launch in December 2020.

Other innovations promised by Big Red include In-Memory Automation, in which both row and column formats in the same table allow analytics and transactions to run simultaneously. The new database also supports AutoML for In-Database Machine Learning, a way of building and maintaining machine learning models within the database.

In the wake of a sprawling acquisition spree, SAP has said it is focusing attention on moving core ERP customers to the cloud as part of its plan for greater growth. It should not forget to detail its supporting database technology in the process. ®

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