SAP talks up Hana but small companies slow to sign on

Small companies have some internal work to do before adopting the in-memory computing platform

Small and medium-sized businesses looking to grow need to leverage Big Data, Cloud computing and mobility, and SAP says that its Hana platform can help them on those fronts.

"If we can bring the power of Hana to small businesses we can change the world," said SAP CEO Bill McDermott during a panel talk at the company's small and medium-sized business summit in New York City.

With the Internet of Things flooding companies with data, businesses will need a way to analyze that information as fast as possible and on-premises software may not quickly deliver those results, he said.

"You better have a way to manage that in-memory. Everything will eventually go to the cloud," McDermott said, referencing two features of the Hana in-memory computing platform that allow it to speedily process information. Hana can also run on premises, although that deployment wasn't referred to during the talk.

SAP customers who spoke during the discussion seemed to have housekeeping duties to sort out before they roll out Hana, however.

Lynch Fluid Controls, a Canadian company that manufactures fluids for hydraulic systems, needs to collect manufacturing data from its machines and find a secure cloud service provider to store it, said company CIO Gavin Lynch.

"We have a bit of a ramp up, but I know that the data is there. It's a little ways from us, but it's in the works. We're treading very carefully before moving data in the cloud," he said.

Once Lynch's company gets its data in order, drawing insights from it in real time will allow it to better manage machines and develop more efficient production schedules.

"We can't wait for a quarterly or monthly report to come out to make a decision. Having that data in real time is going to be huge," Lynch said.

Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles will implement Hana after the company opens up additional breweries and restaurants, when it will need to be on one data platform and integrate distributor data.

"We'll be able to use one platform and that is the value in all of this when you have one software for all of your business," said Meg Gill, Golden Road's president and co-founder.

SMBs aren't the only companies that have been reluctant to buy into Hana. According to a recent survey from the Americas' SAP Users' Group, when asked if their company had purchased Hana 55 percent of the 377 respondents said they hadn't, 40 percent said they had and 5 percent didn't know.

Of those customers who hadn't purchased any Hana products, 75 per cent said they didn't have a use for the platform that justified its cost, the survey said.

SAP is trying to increase Hana sales and in October announced programs, services and policies to help boost sales by making the Hana adoption process easier.

For SMBs, a market that represents 80 per cent of SAP customers, the vendor's channel partners now sell Hana in separate pieces, which makes implementing the platform more manageable, said Kevin Gilroy, senior vice-president and general manager, Global Channels, SAP Global Channel Operations, in a separate talk.

"Now you don't have to buy an expensive server. The use cases for Hana are in the thousands now," he said. SMBs understand how Hana can help large companies and by using resellers specific to their vertical industries, SMBs are also understanding better how the platform can work for them, he added.

SAP knows that selling any of its products to SMBs involves a different strategy than the one it uses for large companies, Gilroy said.

"[SMB] isn't a homogenous group of customers. It's fragmented," he said.

SAP is adopting methods to ease its procurement process for SMBs, including decreasing the number of pages in its procurement documents and offering flexible buying options, he said.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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