SAP unwraps an enterprise suite based on Hana

S/4Hana can run in parallel with its predecessor, enabling a nondisruptive transition

SAP has unveiled a new generation of enterprise software built around its Hana in-memory database platform.

Dubbed SAP S/4Hana, the new business suite aims to bring Hana's real-time intelligence capabilities to all parts of the enterprise, with accessibility on all types of devices. ERP, CRM, SRM, SCM and PLM technologies are essentially combined in one system, which uses a massively simplified model to reduce a company's data footprint by a factor of 10.

"This is our biggest product launch in 23 years -- maybe even in the history of SAP," said company CEO Bill McDermott on Tuesday at the New York Stock Exchange, where SAP announced the product. "You're now seeing the real-time enterprise come to life."

SAP's enterprise software suite has gone through several generations. The last one to incorporate a major architectural shift, however, was its R3 offering, which was launched in 1992.

Accordingly, S/4Hana was numbered to reflect that it's essentially the fourth generation of the enterprise software.

Driving the shift in the company's approach with this new release were both a recognition of the increasing prominence of mobile devices and the rise of the Internet of Things.

"We knew that yesterday's disk-based database could not solve the problems that would be presented by this new world and the challenges of tomorrow," McDermott said. "So we invented Hana, and Hana has now hit scale."

S/4Hana is a completely new system, with a new database and user experience, said Hasso Plattner, Hana creator and SAP chairman and cofounder.

The first step along the way to the new suite was SAP Simple Finance, a product announced last year that runs on the Hana Enterprise Cloud. Tuesday's announcement, however, extends such capabilities to other functions as well.

"Thanks to Hana, we don't have to distinguish anymore between transactional and analytical systems," Plattner said.

Because of that simplified approach, the new system offers throughput that is between three and seven times faster than its predecessor's, depending on the transaction, he said.

Analytics, meanwhile can be as much as 1800 times faster.

"In other data landscapes, there's typically one system for tracking how things are changing in the world, and another for looking back at how the world once was," said Quentin Clark, SAP's CTO. "Hana eliminates that gap. You get the power of understanding in real time what is really going on."

Textual, social, geo-aware, graphical and processing data are all supported and viewable in real time via desktops and mobile devices using SAP's Fiori interface.

The technology can be used in the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid scenario, with guided configuration available to help individual users within the enterprise tailor the system for their own needs.

Particularly important for large enterprise users will be the ability to implement and run S/4Hana in parallel with existing technologies, allowing them to make the transition at their own speed, Plattner said.

Financial services firm Swiss Re is an early adopter of the technology, said Markus Schmid, the company's CIO.

"We are in the middle of a finance transformation," he said. "We initially planned to run on the traditional SAP stack, but it seems like the major promises from S4 are real. Our next generation will be S4-based."

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