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Live from SAPinsider Studio: Jonathan Haun on Implementing SAP HANA

A one-on-one recorded live at HANA 2014 in Orlando

April 30, 2014

In this interview recorded live at HANA 2014, Jonathan Haun of Decision First Technologies discusses strategies and tactics for implementing SAP HANA.

Topics covered in the interview include:

  • Hardware requirements for implementing SAP HANA
  • Misconceptions about using SAP HANA with non-SAP data sources
  • How existing solution sets impact SAP HANA implementation strategies
  • What SAP customers are saying about their experience with SAP HANA

Haun is also the author of Implementing SAP HANA from SAP Press.

View the video, and read the edited transcript of this conversation with Jonathan Haun here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, I’m reporting live from SAPinsider’s BI and HANA 2014 event. This afternoon I’m pleased to be joined by Jonathan Haun of Decision First. Jonathan, welcome.

Jonathan Haun, Decision First: Thank you, Ken.

Ken: I was hoping we could start, just if you could introduce yourself and your area of expertise with Decision First?

Jonathan: My name is Jonathan Haun, of course, as Ken mentioned, I’m a consulting manager and practice lead for SAP HANA at Decision First. I’ve been with them for about eight years, been in the industry for about 15. I grew up basically working with tools like Crystal Reports, BusinessObjects, pre-acquisition. I’ve also worked in the data warehousing field for quite a while too, so I do all of those things with Decision First, but over the last couple of years, since HANA came out, that’s been basically my responsibility to dive deep into it, understand it, and then, as a result, you know, we’re able to write the book Implementing SAP HANA, from SAP Press, and then actually get quite a few projects here in the last couple of years helping customers implement a variety of BI solutions on HANA.

Ken: Ok, great. And obviously this is SAPinsider’s first SAP HANA show, so there’s a lot of interest in the last few days and today, so I’m curious; you hear a lot about building the business case for HANA. Beyond that, do customers have questions about things like sizing or hardware?

Jonathan: Yeah, I mean when it comes down to actually getting it implemented, of course, the sales cycle, the very first thing, the most important thing is sizing, you know, the data lives in memory, so we can’t—we can’t cut that short, I mean it has to fit within there and it has to have enough room to grow and it has to have enough room to compute, so we have to take all of those factors into play. And so that’s hardware selection, and you know, getting the right amount of RAM on the system is critical. As a secondary thing, if you look at what the certified offerings are from the different hardware vendors out there for HANA, there’s a variety of storage options incorporated into that. And so, while they all perform, you know, at a standard for, to meet SAP’s requirements, they do have differences in things like disaster recovery, high availability, being able to bulk-load data into HANA really fast, and then backup, and then most importantly, cost. So those are all factors that, you know, you work with customers on when it actually comes time to spend money on HANA.

Ken: So is there maybe a misconception or misunderstanding out there that SAP HANA is really used specifically for existing SAP applications, say like NetWeaver BW, or of course Business Suite, but not necessarily for non-SAP data sources?

Jonathan: Yeah, I think it can be easily construed that that is the case, you know, they do have BW on HANA, which, you know, it’s marketed and pushed a lot by SAP because it’s a very easy transition for the organization who’s already running BW today. And so, you know, if you’re not paying close attention to all the possibilities out there, you may have a conception, “Oh, this only works for SAP data.” And then of course you’ve got Suite on HANA, which is another new evolution here in the last year, again, that’s you know, purely SAP-based. But HANA itself can act as a database, or a data platform, more appropriately, for any type of data, and so it’s got a lot of characteristics that are very similar to the other databases from a connectivity standpoint; ODBC, JDBC, MDX, these are all industry-standard connectivity options. It uses things like tables and views and roles and users, and all of that that a DBA would be very familiar  with. Now, on its own, HANA is not going to be able to just go out and get third-party data in mass amounts, but if we supplement it with tools like Data Services, Data Services is a tool that can take data from anywhere, transform it, and then put it back into HANA, in this case, we can pretty much do what everyone’s done in the traditional data warehouse, data mart world for years.

Ken: I’m also curious about, say, a BusinessObjects user, depending on which BusinessObjects tools I have, does that influence how I’m going to implement SAP HANA?

Jonathan: It really shouldn’t, you know in my world of the data warehouse, data governance world, we’d concentrate on creating a foundation and the tool selection, you know, shouldn’t matter, because the foundation I build should work for any tool that’s out there. I think in some cases that may be the case, especially with some of the newer products that are out on the street. But SAP’s doing a good job of giving them the and/or option with a lot of those tools. So, your tools shouldn’t really drive how you set your foundation in HANA, you know, HANA gives you the ability to be very agile, a lot more than even the traditional data warehouse, even with Business Warehouse on HANA, especially with Suite on HANA, you know, its ability to create those logical, multi-dimensional data models allows us to you know, move data around less, and that data movement process that most organizations do at night you know, can sometimes take hours, or even you know, close to half a day sometimes, so we’re a lot more agile with HANA, and as a result, from a  tool selection standpoint, you know for adopting all those principles and philosophies we should be able to connect to HANA with any tool, especially in the BusinessObjects Suite.

Ken: And before we met I had a chance to look over your blog, you have a very popular BI blog, and I noticed one of your latest posts was kind of breaking down self-service BI, and I was just wondering if you could talk about SAP HANA in that context, of how that might contribute toward more self-service BI or…

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah, and that blog article was kind of, you know, a tale of two cities, it’s why we need self-service, and why we need to be cautious of it. And so I think if we look at why we need it , you know, business users want these desktop self-service tools because they’re more agile, and they can go get the data, they can answer their questions, and move about their day. When IT drives a lot of that process, they’re not as agile, so the business user may have to wait a week, or two, for that answer to come and maybe by then it’s no longer relevant. And so what HANA allows us to do, you know especially with its real-time replication, we take the data as is, we build logical models, which are very easy to adapt and change for the business user. And then from a tool standpoint, you know you look at like, Lumira, Lumira can already today directly connect to HANA information views, so, we got a foundation there, you know, the user’s not acquiring data on their own, which is one of my cautious things, you know, we don’t want ten versions of the truth in the organization, we want one. But it allows them to have a very self-service feel from a visualization, maybe they got this little spreadsheet of weather data they want to mesh up into their existing BI data on HANA, you know, that gives them some of that flexibility. And then you have tools like Explorer, soon to be Lumira Server, you have quite a few options, and they really all use—I guess the word is foundation, HANA is the foundation for all of that.

Ken: And lastly, during this event have you had a chance to talk to some customers about their experience with SAP HANA, I wondered if you could share anything that you’ve learned?

Jonathan: Yeah I mean it’s, you’ve got customers that have HANA, they’ve bought it but not implemented it, they’re just very curious about it. And I think I haven’t heard a lot of anyone say HANA’s not fast, so I think we all know HANA’s fast and the customers are affirming that over and over again, but when it comes to, “How do I actually use it? I mean, what solutions can I build for my business users?” I think it gets a little bit more complex. First of all you’ve got to look at what is your data source, you know, is it an SAP system, is it a third-party system? And so, you know, we’ve shared a lot at our booth this week, you know looking at all these different options for customers to choose from and hope we’ve given them some ideas of which one to settle on. And you know, in some cases, it’s a hybrid solution, of a mixture of different things. So I’d say yeah, I mean, you know, the feedback has been either we’re agile, we’re faster, you know, this is the way it should have been all the time, you know, especially BusinessObjects  loves talking directly to HANA, I mean it’s a relational connection at that point. So it really, it was built on that type of connectivity before the SAP acquisition, so it will continue, even to today, to enjoy that connectivity even more.

Ken: Jonathan, thanks for joining us.

Jonathan: Thank you.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider reporting live from SAPinsider’s BI and HANA 2014 event.                                               

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