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History, Data, and Success in the Digital Economy

The Database and Data Management Team at SAP

October 19, 2017


Back in 1973, in the early days of SAP, co-founder Hasso Plattner had a mishap. In those days, the company processed data using punch cards that ran on mainframe computers. Time on these mainframes was a precious commodity, and programmers like Hasso would travel from computer to computer according to availability, toting the punch cards around in metal briefcases.

According to an interview published in the book Anticipating Change, one rainy day in Germany, while walking across a parking lot with his metal briefcase in hand, Hasso stumbled, dropped the case, and scattered more than 2,000 punch cards across the wet pavement. It took two days of meticulous hanging, drying, and resequencing to recover.

How things have changed

In 1973, such was the state of data management. To store data, we punched holes in cards. The shortcomings of this approach led to vacuum tubes and magnetic tape – and eventually to the core memory chips you have in your laptop, tablet, and phone today.  

Throughout our history, SAP has stayed on top of these changes – always on the lookout for better, faster, more economical ways of managing and processing data. Today, we’re in the era of the digital economy and Big Data – and SAP has responded with in-memory computing (the SAP HANA platform) and a business suite that can run in the cloud (SAP S/4 HANA).

In-memory computing solves the problem of timely analytics and insight – a critical need in the digital economy. When we use data warehouses – storing analytical data in separate relational databases on separate hard disks – it takes time to gain insight from that data and act on it. But when you keep data in active memory – holding transactional and analytical data in the same place – you can act faster than ever before. This is a big part of SAP HANA.  

Growing complexity

But few businesses are going to completely discard their traditional relational databases and warehouses – at least not anytime soon. Most will use in-memory for core business processes where real-time insight creates differentiation, reserving relational databases for less critical scenarios.

On top of this, some companies want to process Big Data using Hadoop, a distributed computing model to process data loads across different machines in parallel. For such scenarios, SAP offers the SAP Vora engine.

The point here isn’t to elucidate all of the SAP data management offerings. Rather, the point is to highlight a challenge for almost any company competing in the digital economy: a proliferation of data management tools. Ideally, you want these tools not only to work together but to work with the broader landscape, which in a digital economy will invariably involve cloud technology.

We hear you

At SAP, we understand this challenge – which leads us to the SAP Database and Data Management portfolio.

Figure 1: SAP Database and Data Management

SAP Database and Data Management reduces the complexity of data management and allows you to pursue your digital transformation initiatives with vigor by making it easier for you to plug in cloud solutions as needed – cloud solutions that deliver value by using the data managed with SAP Database and Data Management. Think of it in terms of “one”:

  • One platform to process all transactions and analytics for insight in real time
  • One data copy with no disk latency for fast access to a single source of truth
  • One system for enterprise information and process management leading to better data quality and business processes

All of this is a good thing. After all, what increasingly separates one business from another in the digital economy is the value derived from data. Truth be told, this is something SAP has always thought to be true. The difference today is the sheer volume of data. The program that Hasso Plattner spilled on a wet parking lot in 1973 probably held approximately 156,000 bits. The computer this piece is written on (250 gigabytes solid state hard drive) could hold almost 14 million of these programs without a hiccup. Are today’s companies 14 million times better than they were in 1973? Hmm. That’s a question for another time. For now, check out this infographic on SAP Database and Data Management.

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