SAP executive Vishal Sikka
Like most enterprise software companies, SAP is busy remaking itself into a cloud-computing company. At the core of its cloud efforts is a superfast database technology called HANA.
During a press conference today where SAP announced new pricing and features for its SAP HANA Cloud Platform, the executive who created HANA mentioned that it had just set a Guinness World Record.
SAP's Vishal Sikka said that setting a new world record "was a moonshot challenge I had laid out for our engineering team."
Using HANA and another of SAP's databases, Sybase, plus technology from several other tech companies — BMMsoft, HP, Intel, NetApp and Red Hat — these companies built a computer system that holds 12.1 petabytes of data (12,100 terabytes). This computer system is known as a data warehouse.
The point was to show that SAP's database, which competes with Oracle, can handle enormous amounts of data. That's important because HANA is what's known as an "in-memory database," meaning that all of the data is held in memory (like RAM), and not in traditional computer storage like a hard drive.
Putting data on a hard drive slows the database down because, before it can do anything, it has to grab information from the drive. In contrast, an in-memory databases works instantly, but is limited by how much memory a computer has.
To give you an idea on just how big 12.1 petabytes is, a single petabyte of MP3 songs, each 4 minutes long, would take 2,000 years to play, according to Computerweekly.
But even though this project earned the Guinness World Record, it's not the biggest data warehouse around.
Facebook, for instance, runs a much bigger data warehouse: an incredible 300 petabytes, its engineers say. But Facebook has not submitted it to Guinness to be validated for a world record like SAP did.
In any case, SAP's HANA can handle a lot of data, and that is attracting a lot of attention, especially from the startup community, which is using this database in its products, services and apps.
Sikka said today that 1,237 startup companies in 57 countries are building products with the HANA database and "60 of them are live." These startups have already crossed $10 million in revenue, he says.
"It's still a small number. It's not like the Apple App Store yet," he jokes, the implication being that one day HANA apps will be as big as iOS apps.
In fact, SAP has been aggressively recruiting startups, investing in them and trying to entice them in usual ways.
For instance, it will soon open a 24-hour cafe named HANA in Palo Alto. The cafe will serve food, coffee, alcohol, even have standup comedy, as a place where startups can hang out together. SAP plans to open a bunch of HANA cafes in cities worldwide and connect them all together with 24-7 video conferencing.
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