Living with the Enemy
Just imagine two people who hate each other to death, being forced to live in the same house and continue inflicting pain on each other in every possible way. Do you get the picture? That is what is happening between Oracle and SAP. To Larry Ellison, there is no other enemy more worse than SAP, and for SAP (even though they downplay it) the number one in their enemy list is Oracle.
When SAP hates Oracle this much, SAP can not stop being major sales channel for Oracle’s database. Oracle is still the number one database in the SAP customer base. It’s also no secret that many SAP customers would love to stop paying a premium price for a database that is functionally underused by the SAP product line.
But now there is a hope to SAP, a new reason that SAP would like to get rid of the traditional relationship between its software and database leader Oracle. If SAP can develop its application to be less dependent on disk database, that would be the first step to reduce the dependency.
Speed is Money
That was what was proclaimed by Mr. Plattner in the Sapphire conference in his key note address. He said the new world of in-memory computing is the next in-thing in the enterprise software. In-memory database system (IMDS) is designed explicitly for real-time applications and for embedded systems such as set-top boxes, telecom equipment, consumer electronics and other connected gear. The in-memory database minimizes RAM and CPU demands and offers unmatched performance, reliability and development flexibility.
Enterprise software companies could learn from the techniques used by gaming software developing where the in-memory database usage is already making big impact to get the maximum output from the multi-core CPUs. Mr. Plattner did not promise that SAP is developing in-memory concept into SAP product but he made it very clear that it is the way forward.
The desire to kill Oracle is not new found for SAP. As early as 2005, Shai Agassi, the then president of product technology group and member of SAP executive board, elaborated about the company’s programs to improve the in-memory capability of the software. In-memory capability is a new way to manage the data. Largest databases in the world are data warehouses, and these databases get the most complicated queries that they need to process as fast as possible. This requires enormous amount of CPU power. The testing ground for SAP’s new database strategy can be found in a product the company released few years back – the BI Accelerator or BIA. Among its many attributes, BIA is a hardware appliance that runs SAP Analytics incredibly quickly. The potential “Oracle killer” part of BIA comes from its in-memory database functionality, which processes database queries in RAM with no need to access disk-based storage — or even have a relational database at all — which means no costly database license, no massive data-storage farm, no expensive DBAs, and so on.
The idea of in-memory query management at SAP is hardly new. Back in the late 1990s, SAP unveiled LiveCache, an in-memory processor for what was then called the Business Warehouse. LiveCache was a little ahead of its time for lots of reasons, starting with the fact that CPU and memory costs were still relatively high for what SAP had in mind. In the end, LiveCache failed to live up to expectations. But it still survived as the in-memory query engine for SAP’s Advanced Planner and Optimizer (APO) supply-chain product.
LiveCache made history in SAP benchmarking, giving an indication of the response times that are possible using an in-memory database engine. Based on SAP’s own benchmarking standard — the SAP Standard Applications Benchmark — SAP’s hardware partners have had a glorious time leapfrogging each other in recent years to see which could achieve the best response times with LiveCache.
So, It is more of the question of when the killer will arrive. Someday soon, we will have a choice to choose between the status quo and new radical database approach. What will you choose if the newer approach is cheaper and faster and effective?