Because HANA is more than one thing, the answer to this question depends heavily on the use case, maturity of features and features scanned, and the competitive environment.
Here are some ways to start thinking clearly (and with hindsight) about how HANA can position itself in your organization today.
What is HANA today
The first question that arises is: what exactly is HANA? In the early days of HANA , SAP first communicated on a simple strategy. The idea was to go down from the application layer to the database to merge more or less both.
HANA has changed a lot since then. And SAP has almost put all his offer. HANA now includes a dozen functions that fall into three broad categories:
1 – Processing and storage of data . These capabilities are based on HANA’s original, in memory and column engine . Added to this are its database management functions ( DBMS ), graph-oriented database, geospatial data, document-based database and Machine Learning .
While HANA’s engine architecture has many names, “hybrid column and in-memory” remains the clearest way to describe it. The expression highlights the advantages of the two approaches, which avoids the inconvenience of architectures entirely in columns or entirely in memory.
3 – Data integration . These integration features allow HANA to interact with other platforms and other data sources. They provide the means to create a single federated data model.
Smart Data Access and Smart Data Integration allow federated or replicated access to varying degrees of external data in traditional databases, Spark , Hadoop distributed file systems or other platforms. These features are also the basis of some of the HANA data tiering options that administrators can use to store information on less expensive platforms.
Strengths, weaknesses and use cases
Among the features of SAP HANA, its traditional SQL processing and data storage capabilities are the most advanced, the most used and the most stable.
Customers seem to use the application platform, the NoSQL functions or its data integration part less often , as these possibilities are a little less advanced in terms of stability.
Because of the different maturities for the various assets of SAP HANA, the question of the positioning of HANA in an organization will be evaluated according to the use cases.
Here are some cases where HANA is a good candidate:
S / 4HANA or BW / 4HANA . In this case, there is not much choice. HANA shines by running these applications specifically designed for her and using its most powerful features (the hybrid engine in memory and columns).
Generalist Database Management System ( DBMS ) . The use cases of databases vary considerably in terms of workloads. For many of them, HANA is the best in class in terms of performance and scalability. HANA’s strong point is workloads that require both transactional and analytic characteristics.
Application platform . SAP customers often view HANA as a general-purpose platform for business applications that integrate (but not always) with S / 4HANA.
Warehouse data . HANA provides data warehouse modeling functions. Its strength as a robust SQL database makes it a major competitor in this field.
Machine Learning and Data Science Platform . HANA has built-in statistical learning and textual analysis capabilities.
How to make a choice ?
In deciding whether HANA is suitable for a given use case, it is best to examine the maturity level of the platform’s capabilities for that particular case, compared to other options.
You also need to consider the cost, SAP’s commitment to the feature, and the availability of people with the necessary skills to make HANA’s capabilities work.
For uses like S / 4HANA, the choice is clear . There are no other options. SAP is very attached to the application and, therefore, to the features of HANA that support it. But for the other cases, the choice is never so clear.
Customers will often decide that HANA is not the best option. It is often difficult to find the skills needed to use HANA as an application platform or generalist Data Science platform. Others benefit from larger communities or even more mature features. Of course, the evaluation will depend on particular preferences; there will always be cases where HANA will make sense for development or machine learning, especially for organizations with a strong commitment to SAP technology.