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SAP unveils HANA-powered cloud development platform

One component, NetWeaver Cloud, is now generally available

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SAP laid out broad details of a new cloud-based application development platform powered by the HANA in-memory database during the Tech Ed conference in Las Vegas yesterday.

One component of the strategy, NetWeaver Cloud, is generally available now, SAP said. The Java-based service provides tools for developing extensions to existing applications or entirely new ones.

Unlimited-use developer licences for NetWeaver Cloud are available now at no charge.

NetWeaver Cloud provides native integration to SAP and other on-premises applications, identity management and single sign-on for access across cloud and on-premises applications, according to SAP.

SAP also announced the availability of HANA on Amazon Web Services, albeit with some limitations.

Other aspects of SAP's HANA Cloud strategy include a database service layer powered by HANA.

Overall, SAP is looking to compete with the likes of Salesforce.com's Force.com and Heroku platforms, hoping to keep SAP customers interested in cloud-based development within its technological family.

The overarching foundation for SAP's cloud efforts is HANA, executive board member and technology chief Vishal Sikka said. " We believe the future is a RAM-optimised cloud," he said. "Every successful technology ever seeks to connect us in real time."

Over time, customers will be able to run SAP's HANA cloud stack inside their own data centres as a private cloud, Sikka said.

During a keynote address Sikka also sought to highlight HANA's momentum in the marketplace since its general-availability launch last year.

Some 100 startups are now involved in a HANA-related development program, and there are 603 HANA customers, Sikka said. Some 18 of those customers are members of SAP's '10,000 club', he added. "It is where the customer achieves a performance improvement by a factor of 10,000."

In addition, Sikka responded to recent criticisms of HANA by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who characterised the platform as lacking in scalability, among other things. SAP is hoping to displace Oracle databases with HANA over time, as well as compete with Oracle's Exadata database machines.

SAP is now beginning work with Intel on a 10-petabyte HANA farm, and recently performed a benchmark on 1.2 trillion records' worth of retail data with a 1-petabyte HANA system, Sikka said.

Simple queries on the data set, such as a monthly report, take less than a second, and more complex queries only take a few seconds, according to Sikka.

Customers will soon be able to buy HANA machines from potentially many more companies as well, due to a new open certification program for HANA that SAP also announced. "Anybody who builds hardware can start to build hardware for HANA," Sikka said.

SAP has actually built many of the HANA systems in its data centres on its own, Sikka said. But he demurred on the question of whether SAP will begin offering HANA appliances directly to customers. "We don't want to become a hardware provider."

Elsewhere during his keynote, Sikka told the developer-heavy Tech Ed audience that SAP's goal is to give them tools that are both easier to use and much more powerful, all with the goal of improving productivity and user experience.

HANA "represents the fundamental basis on which we'll renew ourselves," he said.

SAP executive Sam Yen joined Sikka on stage to discuss a new tool that allows developers to quickly create new applications, particularly for mobile devices, with a drag-and-drop-style interface.

Yen also demonstrated another new tool called SAP Screen Personas, which allows users to personalise and dress up otherwise drab software screens.

"Over 80% of the SAP experience is still on the old SAP GUI," he said. "You don't need to be a developer. If you have the skills to make a PowerPoint look beautiful, you have the skills to do this."

"Business users expect that consumer-grade experience," Yen added. "We're working to build that into our new applications."



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