One of my first projects upon joining ASUG earlier this year was a two-part blog series on SAP HANA versus SQL Server: Understanding the differences and making the right choice. It was the inspiration for our webcast in October and our most popular post to date. Here are the links (Part 1; Part 2) if you want to catch up.
If you have followed my thoughts over the past few years, you will know that I have a friendly but complicated relationship with SAP HANA.
I want to be clear: I am a fan of the technology and how it can be used to drive business improvement. While working at SAP, I made SAP HANA a focus in a series of overview videos now available through ONE.Source that I produced on my own time to help educate customers.
However, always the customer advocate and now working with ASUG, I have reservations about an emphasis on SAP HANA if it means current customers getting left behind.
SAP HANA as the Future– What About the Present?
As I have written, one of my main takaways from the Biz.ONE Conference is that SAP HANA is clearly the focal point of future developments and innovations with SAP Business One. This is not entirely different from SAP's approach to their business suite for large enterprises (see: SAP S/4HANA); but with the majority of 50,000+ small or midsize customers running SAP Business One on SQL Server, I am left wondering about their future.
My understanding (or perhaps assumption) is that many of the new features being added with SAP HANA might also be achieved on the latest versions of SQL Server. However, SAP seems to be prioritizing development for SAP HANA first and foremost, perhaps as a means to motivate customers to leave SQL Server on the sidelines in favor of SAP's own database.
To be fair, it is SAP's perogative to priorize as such, and there are arguments to be made in favor of optimizing an application to leverage the advantages of a cutting edge platform (you can find many such arguments in the literature around SAP S/4HANA and even SAP Business One version for SAP HANA).
The Question of Customer Adoption
I am curious to see how customers respond.
How quickly will current customers adopt the new technologies? Are the current and planned innovations enough to speed this up? Is SAP's message resonating with customers (and their partners)?
In my curiosity, I polled the audience in each of my presentations at Biz.ONE. In the first workshop, only about 6 percent (two of 34) were on SAP HANA, with a few others headed in that direction. In the second session, about 15 percent (six of 40) were already running on SAP HANA. (Side note: I find this intriguing, as the second session was on reporting, and improved analytics is the clearest use case I see for SAP Business One on SAP HANA).
SAP's message in their keynotes was that numbers are trending up; the rate of new customers on SAP HANA is increasing, as is the number of established customers, and total SAP HANA growth is up 60 percent for SAP Business One.
However, with this SAP HANA-first approach and so many legacy customers on SQL, there remains the potential for customers preferring SQL to vote with their dollars come maintenance renewal time.
More than one customer voiced this option in conversations with me and my ASUG colleagues at Biz.ONE Conference, usually paired with a plea for ASUG to persuade SAP to listen to their customers (we do intend to help via ONE.Source and established user feedback channels). These customers seemed more than satisfied running their business on SAP Business One, but afraid they will fall behind or lack functionality without a move away from the SQL Server platform that has served them well thus far.
Good News for Those Moving to SAP HANA
Having said all that, I am very happy to call your attention to new resources for those customers, developers, and partners that have bought into SAP HANA. SAP continues to provide free access to e-learning to help those making the transition to the new technology stack.
The latest of such is available now in the SAP Learning Hub, and I encourage you to take a look.
- Use the Home dropdown box at the top left of the landing page to navigate to Learning Content;
- Search for the “SAP Business One Extensibility” on the top left box;
- Enroll yourself and you'll have access to the videos.
Even if you are not a developer or a “roll up the sleeves” contributor on upgrades, these materials will help you develop a knowledge base and build understanding about what is possible when running SAP Business on the SAP HANA platform.
And if this material is over your head or you still have questions, or if you want to start an open conversation about SAP HANA versus SQL Server, you have a community to help you.
Our ONE.Source community forum has a Q&A area that I will be moderating in my role with ASUG. I will do my best to address all questions and provide answers; but I hope your questions become more of a catalyst for community discussions around this important topic facing customers.
Looking forward to continuing this discussion with you.