Book Review: SAP HANA 2.0, an Introduction

SAP HANA 2.0, an Introduction [ISBN 978-1-4932-1838-7 (print), 978-1-4932-1839-4 (e-book), 978-1-4932-1840-0 (print and e-book)], by Denys van Kempen provides a complete and well-organized view of the SAP HANA platform. First launched as an in-memory database in 2010, HANA is nearly a teenager and has made lots of changes over the past decade. I was surprised while reading the book at how much of my HANA product knowledge was obsolete, mostly due to the way SAP has a way of renaming and retiring products as well as introducing new ones.

After presenting a thorough technical overview in Chapters 1 & 2, the author devotes seven chapters to unique personas that will interact with the HANA platform: administration, application development, advanced analytics, security, data integration, data architecture, and data center architecture. While it’s entirely possible that you, like me, will be required to function as more than one persona, it’s unlikely that your organization will be successful with SAP HANA if only one person is expected to be all seven personas.

The author says it best:

“Using personas [to organize the book] also safeguards against the constant change inherent in the software industry. By the time this book is in the online store, new features will have been added, product names may have been changed (again), and older components may no longer be supported. What’s unlikely to change any time soon, however, are the roles of developers and administrators.”

Denys van Kempen, SAP HANA 2.0: An Introduction

Regardless of your role using the SAP HANA platform, this book provides a solid introduction to the platform as a whole and illuminates what topics you should master based on your persona. As for me, I am both a hands-on practitioner as well as a manager of other, better-qualified hands-on practitioners. Having an understanding of the full platform as well as the key responsibilities of each persona is going to be invaluable to me making HANA a success for organizations that rely on it.

There are over 10,000 freely-available pages of HANA documentation available from SAP. So you might ask yourself why do you need a book if there’s so much free information? This book and its author provide an experienced guide – somebody who can keep you safely on the right trail and out of pitfalls as you climb the HANA mountain.

The book concludes with a chapter on Training and Support. As you would expect from a now 10-year-old platform, there are many free and paid options to get your team the education they need to be effective.

If you’re in IT management, this may be the only book about HANA that you’ll need to read. I guarantee you’ll be asking your team hard questions after reading to insure the HANA platform is managed well in your organization. For serious HANA practitioners such as administrators or developers, this won’t be your last HANA book. But it should definitely be the first.

I especially recommend the ebook or hardcover/ebook combination. Whether you read the book on Adobe Reader, Kindle, or a tablet, you’ll be able to utilize your device’s search functionality to quickly refresh your memory.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

SAP HANA Date Functions

Today is January 16, 2020. It’s been 12 years since SAP acquired BusinessObjects (see SAP press release, SAP and Business Objects Unite to Lead Emerging Market for Business Performance Optimization). In honor of the occasion, let’s use SAP HANA date functions to compute the number of years, months, days, seconds and milliseconds since the acquisition.

Let’s begin by determining the current date. Like Oracle, HANA has a dummy table. Unlike Oracle, SAP calls it “dummy” instead of “dual”.

-- Current date and time
SELECT CURRENT_DATE, CURRENT_TIME, CURRENT_TIMESTAMP,
CURRENT_UTCDATE, CURRENT_UTCTIME, CURRENT_UTCTIMESTAMP
FROM dummy

Using the TO_VARCHAR function, we can convert dates to strings.

-- Date Parts as Strings
SELECT TO_VARCHAR(CURRENT_DATE, 'YYYY') string_year,
TO_VARCHAR(CURRENT_DATE, 'YYYY-MM') string_month
FROM dummy

And lastly, it’s possible to use HANA’s date functions to determine the number of years, months, days, seconds, or even nanoseconds between two dates. Let’s see how much time has elapsed since SAP took control of BusinessObjects on January 16, 2008

-- Date Math
SELECT YEARS_BETWEEN(TO_DATE('2008-01-16'), CURRENT_DATE) my_age_in_years,
MONTHS_BETWEEN(TO_DATE('2008-01-16'), CURRENT_DATE) sap_bobj_in_months,
DAYS_BETWEEN(TO_DATE('2008-01-16'), CURRENT_DATE) sap_bobj_in_days,
SECONDS_BETWEEN(TO_DATE('2008-01-16'), CURRENT_TIMESTAMP) sap_bobj_in_seconds,
NANO100_BETWEEN(TO_DATE('2008-01-16'), CURRENT_TIMESTAMP) sap_bobj_in_ns
FROM dummy

Twelve years ago, the BusinessObjects partner summit was held in Las Vegas with the annual field sales kickoff meeting (FKOM), where SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise 3.0 was introduced with great fanfare (see related blog post, 2008 Business Objects Partner Summit). Xcelsius was a really big deal.

What were you doing twelve years ago?

Does Your Database Know Which Week It Is?

Where can you find the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform maintenance schedule calendar?

SAP maintains a release calendar for the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, indicating by week when various support packs and patches are scheduled to arrive. For example, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP8 is supposed to arrive in week 7 of 2020.

SAP BusinessObjects Maintenance Schedule

It will be the first release of BI 4.2 that does not sport new features and will only deliver bug fixes and additional platform support (browsers, databases, operating systems, etc.). If you haven’t patched in a while, BI 4.2 SP8 should be a safe place to hang out while you wait for SAP BI 4.3 (currently in beta) to become generally available (GA).

But which week is the current week of the year? Your database has functions that can help.

For Microsoft SQL Server:

SELECT datepart(week, getdate())

For Oracle:

SELECT TO_CHAR(SYSDATE, 'IW') FROM DUAL (ISO week)

OR

SELECT TO_CHAR(SYSDATE, 'WW') FROM DUAL (starts on January 1)

According to Wikipedia, ISO Weeks ‘IW’ “start with Monday. Each week’s year is the Gregorian year in which the Thursday falls.” So for 2020, the ISO week started on Monday, December 30, 2019 while the standard week ‘WW’ started on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

For SAP HANA:

SELECT WEEK(CURRENT_DATE) FROM dummy

According to my databases, we are in week 3 of the year, so four more weeks to go before we can download the next patch release of the SAP BI platform.

Dell Loves SAP HANA. Really.

SAP HANA not only solves Big Data challenges, but Big PR Nightmares, too.

Dell tells WSJ SAP HANA has scalability issues

This week, the Wall Street Journal posted a blog with a catchy title about SAP HANA (see Wall Street Journal article, Dell Says SAP’s HANA Has ‘Scalability Issues’). I imagine that the article was clearly posted above the urinals in the executive mens room at Oracle.

But [Dell CIO] Ms. Karaboutis said during an interview that, “we’re not in production yet [because of] some scalability issues.” She said HANA may not have been as robust as it needed to be when it was introduced to the market, and while SAP marketed it as being able to parse data from a variety of sources, the system struggled to do that. “That’s one of the reasons it took so long to implement,” she said, and is “why it’s taken so long” for Dell executives to get those needed insights about customers. But she added that she still thinks SAP has “a great product.”

What made the article even more entertaining is that Dell is one of the hardware partners for SAP HANA. Maybe the Dell hardware, and not the SAP software, isn’t scaling? Hmmm??? Perhaps Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis thought she was speaking off-the-record- a mistake recently made by Barbara Morgan, communications director for the ever-entertaining NYC mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (see New York Daily News article, Anthony Weiner’s spokeswoman trashes intern Olivia Nuzzi in profanity-laced rant).

The Wall Street Journal article clearly got things buzzing at SAP, where Steve Lucas, SAP’s president of platform solutions, undoubtedly reached for the blue hotline to the Dell CIO office.

Blue Telephone

Yesterday, Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis posted  A Look at SAP HANA Inside Dell IT on the Dell web site. Without mentioning the Wall Street Journal article, she addressed the scalability issue with these remarks:

We have architected a model for scaling SAP HANA that we believe will keep pace with the demand of our users in sales operations and services.  To date we’ve been working in a single-node environment, and we will expand with the new architecture to a multi-node environment which we believe will lead to a successful launch.  We will leverage Dell’s recently launched scale-out solutions for our Active Infrastructure platform and rapid deployment services as we conduct these project deployments.

So if one Dell server isn’t enough, it doesn’t hurt to add a few more.  Wall Street Journal editor Michael Hickens back-pedalled from the “scalability issue” in his original piece (see Wall Street Journal article The Morning Download: ‘Scalability Issues’ Delayed SAP’s HANA at Dell) but still put the blame on SAP and other software vendors for “promising quick and seamless implementations”.

 It took six months for Dell Inc . to get HANA, SAP AG ‘s analytic software platform, running in a production environment, Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis told CIO Journal during an interview. Six months may not seem excessive for getting a large software project up and running, but time, especially for Dell these days, is of the essence.

The trouble isn’t so much with a six-month runway as with vendors’ penchant for promising quick and seamless implementations.

It’s rarely quite that simple, and vendors would be doing everyone a favor if they owned up to that.

The Wall Street Journal would be doing everyone a favor by avoiding a similar temptation- creating sensational headlines that take a single remark out of context. Andi Karaboutis concluded her blog with the following promise.

These are just a few of the exciting solutions and projects we have going on with SAP.  We look forward to sharing more about partnership at SAP TechEd, Oct. 21-25 in Las Vegas.

No doubt SAP TechEd attendees will be able to grab some cute “Dell Loves SAP HANA” teddy bear swag at the Dell booth.

  • Follow SAP’s Steve Lucas on Twitter
  • Follow Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis on Twitter
  • Follow Wall Street Journal editor Michael Hickens on Twitter
  • You’ll excuse me if I don’t provide a link to Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account

What do you think of Dell’s SAP HANA project?

Top 10 SAP Analytics Stories of 2012

What were the top 10 SAP Analytics news stories of 2012?

Diversified Semantic Layer

Join Diversified Semantic Layer hosts Greg Myers, Jamie Oswald, and Eric Vallo along with contributors Josh Fletcher, Clint Vosloo and myself in this end-of-year podcast to count down the top 10 SAP Analytics news stories of 2012.

 

SAP SAPPHIRE: Too Much HANA Montana and Not Enough BIeber 4.0?

My impressions of SAP SAPPHIRE 2011

Although not quite as enthusiastic as the thousands of girls screaming and crying at a Justin Bieber concert, I was part of the 14,000+ screaming (didn’t see anyone crying) SAP fans at this week’s combined ASUG and SAP SAPPHIRE conference. Cindi Howson has a great summary of business analytics content from the conference on her BI Scorecard blog (see BI Scorecard article, SAP’s In-Memory HANA Showcased at Sapphire). I realize that HANA is a “game changer” (if I had a nickel- or maybe a bullet- for each time I heard the phrase this week…), but either CTO Vishal Sikka’s keynote was waaaaay toooooo long or I drank too much coffee. Sadly, the length of his presentation (which was mostly video customer testimonials about HANA) shortchanged the effervescent and thoughtful Dr. Hasso Plattner. Totally loved his demonstration of HANA on an Apple Mac Mini.

I share Cindi Howson’s assessment that there was too much HANA Montana and not enough Justin BIber 4.0 from the keynote podium (Can you tell that Bieber’s Never Say Never DVD arrived at my house this week?). Although Cindi indicated

I would have liked more (any, in fact) SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 testimonials and ideally from customers who have gone through an upgrade.

even I missed Consultancy by Kingfisher’s presentation based on their experience with three different ramp-up customers for SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0. I did hear that the presentation was very good, despite the absence of Kingfisher’s fearless Jay Riddle. Ms. Howson goes on to say

Until then, I remain in the skeptic’s corner that customers will rush to embrace this new version as taking advantage of many of the most sought-after improvements…

I also remain in the skeptic’s corner, particularly for existing customers who may be buried under a large pile of Desktop Intelligence documents. However, after this week’s conference, I think SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 is an easy decision for established SAP enterprises adopting SAP BusinessObjects for the first time. For those customers, the risk of a new major product version is mitigated by the ease of connectivity to SAP BW and BEx queries by all five SAP BI tools (Crystal Reports, Web Intelligence, Analysis, Explorer, and Dashboards/Xcelsius). Risk is also mitigated for new customers because they are unlikely to deploy either a large amount of content or to a large number of users before some additional support packs are released. If that’s not enough incentive, the Mobile BI demos of Web Intelligence on the Apple iPad, coming shortly after the early June 2011 GA of BI 4.0, sealed the deal for me.

It was a great conference that wrapped up with a phenomenal concert by Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. Just kidding – Sting and his band were in fine form at the Amway Arena.

What were your impressions of this year’s ASUG/SAP SAPPHIRE event?