|Dell says SAP’s HANA Has ‘Scalability Issues|
Michael Hickins Editor
Dell Inc. CIO Andi Karaboutis says it took six months of testing before her team was able to successfully run SAP AG ’s analytic application, HANA, because of the size and complexity of the data being analyzed.
SAP is counting on HANA, introduced in June 2011, to offset slowing growth in customer spending in its traditional segments, such as ECC, an application used by large companies to manage inventory and other business processes. Monday afternoon in New York it introduced a new visualization tool called Lumira that it says makes it easier for business executives to view analysis produced by HANA. The company boasts that HANA makes it easy to analyze huge amounts of data from a wide variety of sources in real-time, but Dell’s experience would show that achieving those results in real-world circumstances is far from a slam-dunk.
According to Ms. Karaboutis, Dell is tracking customer behavior and transactions across a number of venues, including its own website, social networks, and from transactional data supplied by resale partners. The data is stored in a number of databases, including those from Oracle Corp. and Teradata Corp. The computer company is trying to reinvent itself as a broader services company in the face of flagging sales of personal computers, and getting a better understanding of customer preferences is key to that effort.
But 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.”
Steve Lucas, SAP’s president of platform solutions, said Monday that SAP intentionally went after big accounts when it first introduced HANA in order to establish its credibility. Noting that SAP will soon sign its two-thousandth HANA customer, he said, “if we hadn’t started with big customers, we wouldn’t be in this position.”
In an emailed response to Dell’s comments, he said “Dell is seeing significant benefit from investing in HANA… Dell was a VERY early adopter of HANA and we are grateful they brought a big challenge to us. In the end, HANA delivered.”
Mr. Lucas said HANA can perform a number of processing and analytic tasks, including transaction, text analysis, and predictive analytics, in live memory, which allows customers to get results almost instantaneously.
Data visualization tools such as Lumira generally make it easier for non-technical people to use complex analytics tools. They can also be used to display data to customers. Michael Gliedman, CIO of the National Basketball Association, was on hand Monday to help SAP introduce Lumira. Mr. Gliedman said HANA makes it possible for the NBA to show complex data sets, such as shooting efficiency or number of turnovers by individual players, on its website.
Mr. Gliedman said the NBA was “able to avoid any scaling issues,” and is able to generate “instant access to 4.5 quadrillion combinations of NBA statistics.”
Ms. Karaboutis said she is working closely with other executives, including the company’s chief marketing officer, to help turn around the company. She said executives remain focused on their responsibilities and “delivering on our commitments” to customers, despite the uncertainty provoked by the ongoing proxy fight and shareholder vote at Dell scheduled for Friday.
CORRECTION: Steve Lucas is SAP’s president of platform solutions. An earlier version of this article said he was the company’s executive vice president in charge of analytics products. HANA has almost two thousand customers; an earlier version of this article incorrectly cited that figure as one thousand.
The NBA is using HANA on its website, but has not yet begun using Lumira. An earlier version of this article said the NBA was already using this tool.