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SAP In-Memory Analytics Speeds Information Access

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Store managers can receive real-time information on sales and make immediate decisions regarding inventory, merchandising and promotions using SAP’s High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) software running In-Memory Analytics. The first in a series of installments of In-Memory Analytics — Business Warehouse (BW) — features reporting capabilities for functions including sales analytics, promotional analytics, supplier analysis and clustering analysis.

With HANA, retailers no longer have to rely on hardware, traditional databases and data warehouses, or be constrained by the speed of the database, according to SAP. “You can now reduce the time to run a report from a week down to seconds,” said Barry Adam, SAP Retail In-Memory Expert. “We are focusing on getting data off the disc into memory and enabling applications to get at data any way they need to.”

HANA is based on SAP’s BusinessObjects business intelligence software and is bundled with hardware from partners including IBM, HP, Fujitsu-Siemens, Intel, Cisco and Dell.

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Testing Reveals HANA’s Abilities
In recent testing with SAP and IBM, the first official performance results of HANA found that the software easily handles 10,000 queries per hour against 1.3 terabytes of data, returning results within seconds. The test scenarios were directly based on the query workload requirements typical in SAP customers’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) reporting requirements. They accessed data found in the sales delivery database tables for the SAP ERP application. The test, which was independently audited and verified by WinterCorp, used testing scenarios designed to measure the performance of the in-memory database processing analytical queries on operational business data.

In another instance, HANA was able to query 460 billion point of sale records in less than one minute on 10, 32-core blade servers costing $530,000, reported SAP Executive Board Member Vishal Sikka.

During testing with other early adopter retailers and manufacturers, In-Memory Analytics has improved information delivery speed by up to 100 times, SAP reported. One company is now able to take POS sales data from thousands of locations and drill down to find out which products are selling, margins, and volumes in different regions instead of only having the ability to do an aggregate summary. “Being able to do this at an individual SKU level was unthinkable a year ago for companies that have large store counts and transaction volumes,” Adam stated.

Tighter Retailer-Supplier Collaboration
Physically HANA is a secure box living in the data center beside the servers and disc storage. It shares data with the applications living in the organization’s application layer, finds information and provides responses quickly. “A retailer can now be on the phone with a supplier and share information about a product that is not moving, or conversely is flying off the shelf at that moment,” according to Adam.

In the past retailers may have had the ability to summarize and share sales data once a month. “Now we can set them up with a web portal so they can share information in real time,” said Adam. Retailers also can be very specific about the amount and type of information that will be shared with suppliers. With this immediate information in-hand, retailers also can make more effective decisions about whether or not to implement a supplier’s suggested promotions.

Next Steps For HANA
The next installments of HANA In-Memory Analytics will be introduced during 2011 and include: Sales and Operations Planning, Intelligent Payment Broker, Smart Meter Analytics, SAP Trade Promotion Management, and SAP Cash and Liquidity Management.

SAP currently is working with early adopter customers to develop specific retail line of business solutions. In the next one to two years, the company is developing the ability to use the entire SAP business suite for retail on top of the latest version of HANA and eliminate the need for a third-party database.

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