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What is In-Memory Computing Anyway?

by Davin Wilfrid

May 28, 2010

By Davin Wilfrid, ERP Expert

The recent SAPPHIRE NOW conference served as a sort-of coming out party for in-memory computing, a new type of technology SAP has talked about for years -- and has now made a central component of its future strategy.

But what, exactly, is in-memory computing?

Here's an excerpt from my SAPPHIRE NOW recap, which gets into the definition of it without getting too technical. (Hasso Plattner has published several scientific papers on the subject if you're really anxious to read about the underlying technology). The key takeaway is that in-memory computing -- if it works -- would remove the complicated ETL process necessary for rendering data. The result would be an analytics engine that could report on massive amounts of data in seconds rather than hours:

The engine behind in-memory computing is a new type of database that stores a real-time copy of a traditional database in a DRAM (dynamic random access memory) solid-state disk. Because the in-memory database is column-based, Plattner and SAP CTO Vishal Sikka said the volume of data from the traditional database can be compressed to a fraction of its former size. Sikka said SAP was able to create a logical copy of one customer’s enormous database — more than two terabytes of data — on a single 256 gigabyte blade server.

The end result is easy access to massive amounts of data from across the enterprise, delivered to business users more quickly than ever. In the customer example, Sikka said a report that previously took a day to generate can now be delivered in fewer than two seconds.

“Every once in a while, sets of technologies emerge that change everything. We believe we are at that moment in time,” said Sikka.

Sikka predicts a wave of applications will spring from the deployment of in-memory computing, starting with enhanced editions of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and other BI tools. To capture the benefits of in-memory computing, SAP will offer a combined hardware and software solution that comprises server technology from HP with the SAP Business Analytic Engine. The combined solution is called the high-performance analytic appliance, and will be made available to customers on SAP ERP 4.6 and higher.

“Google allowed us to find the hay in the haystack. To make the right decisions you have to find the needle,” said Snabe.

The full article is free and is available on the ERP Expert site.

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