Why SAP HANA needs help to unfold it’s potential

Posted December 1, 2012 by siliconchris
Categories: life on the go

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Why SAP HANA needs help

Posted December 1, 2012 by siliconchris
Categories: life on the go

Tags: , , , ,

First of all, I think that IT is still a dynamic environment. I know that if you go to SAP TechEd, or DSAG (here in Germany) or any other IT fair, you can see the slowly increasing average age. Not so many young talented engineers are going into IT like it was 10 or even 20 years ago. It’s funny and sad to say, but for most of the young people out there IT and computers are not that sexy anymore – might actually feel strange for most people to think of IT as being sexy, but for me and most people I know, it’s is exactly that. An exciting and great area of endless discoveries. But not for the 16-25 year olds of today. They see IT only as a vehicle to do inventions in other areas, or a simple work machine for real cool things like in biotechnology or so.

Nevertheless, IT still has loads of possibilities for new and exciting inventions. And right now, there is one unfolding right in front of our all eyes. Well all eyes that have something to do with SAP at least.

SAP founder Hasso Plattner has, I think the right terminus would be, co-invented an In-Memory Database which in turn SAP has put into a usable platform. A database? What the heck is anything inventive or cool or even worth writing about a database, you might ask. Nothing. I would answer, if this one was anything even remotely as boring as the next Oracle, or DB2 or even a new try on XML-DB.

But this HANA is different. First of all, it’s in memory, you probably guessed that. Second, it makes use of a completely different way to store it’s data and third, and because of one and two, it’s the first database to actually use all that immense computing powers, you can have in todays, affordable server systems.

I won’t dive into the depths of SAP HANA here. Other people with much more insight then me have already done that – you can find a list of links on articles about the inner circuits of HANA below. No, what I’d like to do is point out the major hurdle HANA has right now.

Ok. I will write 2 or 3 sentences about HANA, might make it easier to understand my point of view.

HANA stands for High performance Analytics Appliance. It is a combination of certified hardware (currently, to my knowledge, provided by Cisco, IBM and HP) with a column oriented database installed on it. Nothing special yet. The trick is, that the database and all the applications to run on it, are completely held in memory all times. No bit of data that is needed for any task you throw at the thing needs to be read from hard disk, writing to disk is only needed for archiving and backup.

This alone brings an incredible performance boost, as you can imagine. But that alone wouldn’t make HANA anymore interesting as, say, Oracle Version 35g, or whatsoever. The really inventive thing about it is, that the data stored in that database, is not organized in the usual relational database scheme of columns with attributes and rows that make up the actual data set. Instead, everything is stored columns-oriented. And that is perfect in sync with the fundamental architecture of computer memory itself.  Because of this, the CPU is able to simply read through neighbouring RAM locations to get a complete dataset and work on it. And because all data and applications are in memory, the CPU, or to be more specific, the multiple CPUs with multiple Cores, won’t waste precious cycles waiting for the data to be transferred from hard disk into RAM, instead you throw a computing task on HANA and all CPU cores can read the needed data and work on it in parallel, nearly instantly.

This also ends that biggest of all performance killers, when data, that is thought to be not needed anymore is unloaded from RAM back to disk, just in that second, when it is again needed, only because the garbage collector, or whatever memory optimizing technology is in use, decided the data won’t be needed anymore. A garbage collector is, if viewed from a user centric work load, a mind blowing stupid thing, because the programmer just can’t explain to it, how a user works.

 

Of course my explanation is a highly inaccurate oversimplification of HANA and how it works. As I said, I won’t write a new blog about HANA and how it works, but instead would like to tell you, what is the biggest problem.

Here’s my thesis: I say, that HANA is the next big thing in computer technology. Just like the invention of microprocessors, like Client Server back in the 80’s, like affordable and actually usable personal computers or the internet. But, without a big developer base from independent (and that means independent from SAP) companies. Without creative users and architects and designers to think beyond SAP’s enterprise analytics and planning horizon. It can’t unfold it’s full potential.

SAP HANA is fast. SAP HANA is flexible – you can build your own applications on it and let it run in a secured and predictable environment. And SAP HANA is really fast with Big Data.

So what can you do with it? I say, anything. And definitely more than just really, really fast analysis and prediction of customer reactions to an increase of price for a certain product.

 

So, what needs to be done? I say. SAP needs to lower the licensing costs for HANA for startups and small but very inventive companies, so that these people can invent on SAP’s invention. I don’t say they should give it to the world for free. But they should rethink the pricing for it. I won’t write how much licensing fee SAP takes, because I’m not sure, I’m allowed to do so, but I say, current pricing is way too high to spark a real invention gravitation. I actually think this to be sad, because it is the one most fascinating and promising technologies to emerge in the last 10 or more years. And also the one, that really has the potential to change the world of computers.

My second thesis: With SAP HANA or equivalent appliances/applications a lot of inventions that we already buried in the mass grave of “not possible, sorry. technology just didn’t hold it’s promises”, could be worth a second look to see how they now work.

Let me give you an example. Some 15 or more years ago, I had the idea of a firewall that did not work on static rulesets like “that IP address is ok, but that not or this protocol is ok, but that not”, but rather analyzed normal network traffic in a company and when it found something strange or unusual, it would react. The firewall was learning how normal network behavior was like and based on that knowledge would find suspicious network activity. Sounds cool, eh? Yeah, I thought so too. But unfortunately it was impossible to realize. Too slow CPU’s, too low bandwidth with regards to IO and way too much data volume to analyze, if you really wanted that analysis to be trustworthy and accurate.

With the new SAP HANA appliances, today this old idea might actually work. HANA is able to provide the speed and extremely fast reaction time needed (that’s only because of better and faster hardware, and it combines this with the possibility to analyze high volumes of data. The result is, you could actually have your firewall inspect your network traffic and on the fly compare it with past network traffic, to see, if there is something suspicious going on or not.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a firewall is the perfect use case for SAP HANA. It#s just an example of how SAP HANA has the potential to be so much more then just the next BI or even the RealTime Application platform for ERP.

 

Now it’s your turn, go ahead and send me an email to christian_guenther@mac.com. Tell me if you think I’m on the completely wrong track, or, of course even better, if you agree and you’d like to engage in a creative discussion on what could be possible with SAP HANA.

 

Greetings to all of you,

 

Christian

 

Organizing Photos – How do you do it?

Posted September 2, 2007 by siliconchris
Categories: life on the go

I have too less space on my harddrive. No matter how big a disk I choose, it takes me less than a month to fill up any drive. I think this is partly because I do so many things with my Powerbook and partly because I can’t really decide what to delete.One of the things that take up most of the space is my iTunes Library and second is my digital photos. Since ever I got myself a Canon EOS 400D (see my other post) I create dozens of photos a day.

Mac OS X Terminal tip: Increase the scroll buffer

Posted July 28, 2007 by siliconchris
Categories: Apple, Howto, Mac OS X

Hi all,

 

in Mac OS X nearly everything can be done in the graphical environment – which is cool. But there are other possibilities to this. As under the hood, Mac OS X is still a BSD System (that is actually the reason it works as opposed to Windows), you can also use the console. 

 

Albeit being happy to have it, there is a glitch to the Mac OS X Console (or Terminal.app as it is called). You can only scrollback 10000 line, or so. This might sound like plenty of room, but if you are a console junkie like me, sometimes this is just too less.

 

Now there is a simple solution to the problem: increase the scrollback value or make it unlimited – this is how you do it:

 

 

  1. Open the Terminal (you can find it in the Utilities folder)
  2. Hit Command-I
  3. Choose the Buffer-entry from the drop down menu
  4. Set the desired buffer limit

 

That’s it. 

Accessing GMail as a Filesystem on Mac OS X

Posted April 23, 2007 by siliconchris
Categories: Apple, Howto, Linux, Mac OS X

THIS IS STILL INCOMPLETE

Hey all,

it’s quite a while since my last posting. Had a lot to do recently and was busy.

Initially this blog was about how to access your GMail account via a filesystem mount on your Mac OS X desktop. By doing so, you can access all your Mails in your GMail Inbox as files on a Volume on your Desktop. However, as I had some difficulties actually getting this to work, I extended it with information on SpotlightFS.

Why would you want to do that?

Because it’s fun and possible!

Ok, how do you do it then?

I use MacFUSE for this – you can find out about MacFUSE on this site. Excellent information on the standard gmailfs that we’ll use, can be found here.

Now, off to the installation process.

Download the following files:

By the way, I think you should propably try to follow the versions given and copy/unpack all sourcecode (that is libgmail, gmailfs, and fuse, the other three are Mac OS X Apps) to the /usr/local directory.

MacFUSE

Install the MacFUSE package. This is one of the few occassions where you need to restart your Mac – broke my 198 Day counter, but gave me the chance to also apply the latest security fixes and Apple updates. Anyway, the restart is of course necessary, as MacFUSE needs to interact with the MacOS X Kernel.

SpotlightFS

After the restart you should give Spotlight-FS a try. Place the Spotlight-FS App in your Utilities folder and double click on it. A new mountpoint, called SpotlightFS will be shown in you folder view and your desktop. If you open it, you will see a folder named Smarter Folder. Create a new folder with the contents of your Sptlight query. I choose Adobe Interactive Forms, because I want to get all docs and infos about Adobes Interactive Forms from my harddrive.

Adobe Interactive Forms

This is an exciting possibility to get easy barrier free access to the hundreds of informations all scattered around my home folder. You can find out more on this here.

Now let’s take a closer look on the other we downloaded, what twhere they about? ah, getting gmailfs to work on your Mac.

SSHFS

Next give the sshfs a run. This one is about accessing an ssh server as a filesystem server, maybe presented as a folder on your desktop.

You will of course need an ssh server, if you do not have one at hand, don’t worry, Mac OS X comes prepacked with one. Open the System Preferences Pane and click on Sharing. In the Sharing Dialog activate the Remote Login Service. This will enable the sshd and allow you to login via ssh to the IP address given.

Sharing Preferences

Next start up the sshfs application and log on to your own system.

SSHFS

Fuse

To get GMailFS working you need a pythin binding for Fuse, which, in turn, requires a patch from MacFUSE to compile on MacOS X. If you try to compile fuse straight away, you will get an error like during the make run.

Make error

These are the steps you need to do:

  1. Download the MacFUSE source from CVS repository
  2. Patch the Fuse source with
  3. Compile Fuse from the dowloaded directory

You should propably become root for this and you need the mac os x patch for your fuse package (2.6.3 if you followed this):


   su -
   cd /usr/local
   tar -xvf fuse-2.6.3
   svn checkout http://macfuse.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ macfuse

In the fuse-2.6.3 source directory, patch and compile fuse:


   cd fuse-2.6.3
   patch -p1    sudo make install

This is the moment I got stuck the first time, the bl… fuse would not compile even though I patched the source with the Mac OS X patch.

GMailFS

Let’s next get the gmail-fs thing working. That’s what this is all about, ins’t it?

The needed libgmail is a python library so you need to install it via the command line – start the Terminal application from your utilities folder. In the command line window cd to the folder where you downloaded and unpacked the libgmail tarball:


   cd Desktop/libgmail-0.1.5.1
   python setup.py build
   sudo python setup.py install

Setup libgmail

Make sure the library was installed with the standard python framework – MacOS X can have different python versions and if you install it, say with the 2.3 python framework and later try to call it from the 2.4 framework, this fails. Strictly speaking you should use the python 2.3 or 2.4 framework and you should make sure that it is called with a simple python, like shown in the above picture.

Next, download the Python FUSE bindings from it’s CVS repository:


   cd Desktop
   cvs -d:pserver:anonymous@fuse.cvs.sourceforge.net:/cvsroot/fuse co -P python
   cd python
   

Now, after the libgmail is installed, copy the gmailfs-0.7.3 directory to your /usr/local directory.


   cd Desktop
   sudo cp -pr gmailfs-0.7.3 /usr/local
   cd /usr/local/gmailfs-0.7.3

Unfortunately this led to an error in my case, so lets dive into this abit deeper.


   python gmailfs.py
   Traceback (most recent call last):
     File "gmailfs.py", line 20, in ?
       from fuse import Fuse
   ImportError: No module named fuse

BIRTHDAY

Posted March 24, 2007 by siliconchris
Categories: life on the go

Hi all. It’s my birthday today. I can’t believe I’m 34 now. whats next year is like a quater of a millenia plus 10!

Wait, that does not really make a lot of sense.

Whatever. It’s my birthday and I will have the greatest day 😉 Dinner with some friends – THAI!!!

Chatter, Twitter – Special Greatings to all birthday kids (pretty sure there is a different name for that in english).

So what does really 34 mean? Is now the time for the big change? Maybe the time to think things over. Getting a grip on your live – already got married, so that is obviously not what has to happen now. Maybe I should get settled down? Buy a house have a kid? Slowing down?

NA, DON’T THINK SO!

It’s 34, that is 1/4 of a millenia plus 10 – thats nothing. Settling down, resting can wait.

I think 34 is the time go abroad – leave Germany and try some other country for a couple of years. IT Consultants can work everywhere 😉 I can rest in say 1/4 of a millena plus 30.

Apple Store New York

Posted March 9, 2007 by siliconchris
Categories: Apple, life on the go, photo

I just stumbled over this little excerpt of a story about how Apple designed their first Apple Store and had to think, how I visited the Apple Store New York 5th Avenue in New Yorks 5th Avenue in December 2006.

“One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work,” says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus. “Ron and I had a store all designed,” says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a “hub” for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category – in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. “We were like, ‘Oh, God, we’re screwed!'” says Jobs.

But they weren’t screwed; they were in a mockup. “So we redesigned it,” he says. “And it cost us, I don’t know, six, nine months. But it was the right decision by a million miles.” When the first store finally opened, in Tysons Corner, Va., only a quarter of it was about product. The rest was arranged around interests: along the right wall, photos, videos, kids; on the left, problems. A third area – the Genius Bar in the back – was Johnson’s brainstorm.

I tell, you believe this a 100% if you ever visited that Apple Store in New York. First thing you see is this big glass cube with the Apple Logo in the middle. This cube is actually the entrance. It has a wide spiral stairs and an elevator. Downstairs it opens in a wide and bright hall that is overcrowded by People and Macs 😉

There are dozens if not moer eMac, iMac, PowerMac, PowerBook, iBook, MacBook Pro and so forth. Every system is fired up and loaded with fun software to play around. They have free internet and nobody minds if you sit for an hour with a Starbucks coffee fiddling around.

I had the greatest time…