How Popular is SAP HANA?

Executive Summary

  • SAP has created misleading impressions regarding HANA’s growth.
  • We fact-checked SAP by using the independent DB-Engines ranking.

Introduction to Fact Checking HANA’s Growth

SAP has been proposing that HANA is a fast growing database. However, what is the truth about HANA’s usage? You will learn about our unbiased analysis of the reporting of a site that tracks database usage. We will begin by reviewing SAP’s claims around HANA’s growth.

Statements About HANA’s Growth

SAP and their surrogates have made some seriously buoyant statements regarding HANA’s growth. Back in 2013, Peter Goldmacher of Cowen and Co-accused SAP of inflating the HANA growth figures.

“SAP executives have not only called HANA the fastest-growing product in the history of SAP, co-CEO Bill McDermott said it was “the fastest growing software product in the history of the world.”

Peter Goldmacher had the following to say about HANA and Bill McDermott’s statement:

“If we take management at its word and believe that HANA’s two-year license growth [rate] through FY13 is about 120 percent, then this means that the other 90 percent of SAP’s license business, Apps and BI, is growing at … roughly 2 percent, materially below category growth rates … Our research and experience lead us to believe that SAP is allocating product revenue subjectively and that this is resulting in an inflated HANA growth rate.”

SAP did not like this interpretation and SAP spokesperson Jim Dever fired back at Goldmacher.

“Roughly half of HANA business is stand-alone deals, HANA and nothing else. We think his report could not be more inaccurate in its assumptions,” he told Business Insider. “We have been consistent in our HANA pricing, our no-discount policy, and our reporting of growth rates and revenue results – and have no changes to announce.” – Business Insider

And it was not only SAP that came forward with bold claims regarding HANA growth, but also its surrogates. For instance, John Appleby of Bluefin Solutions said the following in his article 2013 the Year of the SAP Database.

“We’ve heard a lot about the SAP HANA database platform over the last 18 months since its release, and whilst we are in the quiet period between end of year and SAP releasing earnings reports in mid-January, the investors I talk to are talking about bookings between €350m and €400m for the year (as compared to €160m in the first full year, 2011), which probably makes SAP HANA the fastest growing database of all time, if not the fastest growing enterprise software product – ever.(emphasis added)”

Is it just me, or does this quote from John Appleby appears to be a copy of what was stated by Bill McDermott?

Secondly, it undeniably sounds definitive, as any sentence that is ended with “- ever” tends to be.

Understanding the DB-Engines Ranking

DB-Engines ranking is a site that uses a method that combines a series of factors to result in a rank of how widely a particular database is used. So what factors do they use? Well, I have listed their description of their method below:

“Number of mentions of the system on websites, measured as number of results in search engines queries. At the moment, we use Google, Bing and Yandex for this measurement. In order to count only relevant results, we are searching for <system name> together with the term database, e.g. “Oracle” and “database”.

General interest in the system. For this measurement, we use the frequency of searches in Google Trends.

Frequency of technical discussions about the system. We use the number of related questions and the number of interested users on the well-known IT-related Q&A sites Stack Overflow and DBA Stack Exchange.

Number of job offers, in which the system is mentioned. We use the number of offers on the leading job search engines Indeed and Simply Hired.

Number of profiles in professional networks, in which the system is mentioned. We use the internationally most popular professional networks LinkedIn and Upwork.

Relevance in social networks. We count the number of Twitter tweets, in which the system is mentioned.” – DB-Engines

This seems like a reasonable way to perform a ranking. However, when it comes to HANA, this method will tend to exaggerate HANA’s usage. This is because of the following inputs.

  • Number of Mentions on Websites: This will exaggerate HANA’s actual usage because SAP has spent big money to promote HANA. Big consulting companies promote all SAP products, not because the applications are useful, but because SAP implementations provide the most billing hours and at the highest rate per hour of any vendor in enterprise software. Even Oracle’s consulting network is tiny compared to SAP’s.
  • Google Trends: Google Trends is responsive to published material and searches. But many searches are driven by marketing. This will tend to exaggerate HANA’s usage.
  • Number of Profiles in Professional Networks: Many people have placed HANA on their LinkedIn profiles because they want to be associated with a scarce and highly publicized product. Many people with this HANA terminology don’t know much about HANA. They can be solution architects, salespeople, etc.. This overestimates usage.

We will use this information further on in this article.

Calculating HANA’s Relative Popularity

To begin, let us review the usage/popularity list from DB-Engines.

HANA’s DB-Engines Ranking

According to DB-Engines, HANA is the 19th most popular database in the market.

But that tells us less than the relative popularity measured in gross terms of usage. For that, we need to perform a calculation with this data set.

To perform this calculation, we need to reduce HANA’s popularity score due to the overestimations that are part of DB-Engine’s method of calculation.

Why am I doing this? Well, because DB-Engine is tracking something a bit different than I am looking for. I am trying to get to usage, and am not interested in media mentions.

It was difficult to know how much to reduce this value by, but I settled on a reduction in 1/3. I was tempted to do more than this, but whether it is a reduction of 1/3 or 1/2, it does not end up making that much of a difference.

Therefore, HANA’s 47.50 score was reduced to 31.35.

The next step was to divide the HANA score by each of the scores of the more popular databases. I did this on the table which is displayed below:

Observations and HANA’s Current Popularity and Growth

According to my calculations, HANA is only 2% as popular as Oracle and MySQL and 3% as popular as SQLServer.

This is not very popular, and four years after Bill McDermott’s and John Appleby’s statements, it would not be possible for HANA to have been the fastest-growing product in the history of software. In fact, the average growth rate of the databases ahead of HANA is 4.5%. So HANA is growing 1.73 percentage points faster than the average.

Now an SAP salesperson or consultant might say that HANA has only been out for around seven years, and is still ramping up. However, the issue with that argument is the following:

  • Transitioning from Easy to More Difficult Accounts: SAP was able to sell HANA into its most compliant accounts. As SAP moves away from those accounts, selling HANA becomes more difficult.
  • HANA’s Exaggerations: SAP greatly exaggerated the benefits of HANA as is covered in the article, When Articles that Exaggerate the Benefits of HANA. This is now becoming more apparent to customers that initially may have bought off on the concepts behind the marketing literature.
  • Enlarging HANA Beyond SAP BW: Most of HANA’s installs have been for the Business Warehouse (SAP’s Data Warehouse, aka the BW). HANA has been shown to improve the performance of SAP BW. But there is very little information available regarding the cost-benefit ratio to SAP BW on HANA. Once one gets beyond SAP BW, the value proposition for HANA becomes far weaker. What this means is that SAP has already brought HANA to the easiest SAP application to make HANA fit. Growing HANA beyond the BW becomes more difficult.

Secondly, DB-Engines also shows HANA’s growth rate.

HANA’s Growth Chart

DB-Engines shows the following growth rate for HANA.

Here we can see that HANA picked up most of its popularity between April of 2013 and November of 2016. In this 39 month period, HANA grew from 5.2 points to 39.15 points. That is a growth of 33.95 points. That translates to .87 points per month. 

However, since November 2015 until July 2017, HANA has only picked up 8.79 points and grew an average of .43 points per month. In that 20 month period, HANA only increased in popularity by 22%, and this is at a time when SAP is showcasing HANA and placing major marketing muscle behind HANA. 

Also, HANA has dipped since its peak in February 2017. In fact, HANA has declined since November of 2016. 

HANA cannot be SAP’s flagpole marketing item forever. Eventually, HANA fatigue will (or already has) set it. If you are a competing group in HANA and you see a chart similar to this, can’t you begin to question if SAP’s marketing resources are being used optimally. SAP can drive more revenues by switching the marketing emphasis to other products.

HANA as the Ace in the Hole?

What many SAP salespeople think is their ace in the hole is that companies will have to migrate to HANA to migrate to S/4HANA.  This is a forced migration mind you. SAP can put any spin on it that it likes, but it is a coerced move to HANA, as presently no other database is certified to run on S/4HANA. There is also zero real technical reason for making S/4HANA exclusive to HANA. I have analyzed every single one of Hasso Plattner’s arguments on this topic through a great deal of time analyzing HANA. I have found all of the reasons provided by SAP for keeping S/4HANA exclusive to HANA to be inaccurate. Oracle 12c is a far more capable database than HANA, as I covered in What is the Actual Performance of HANA. Oracle is perfectly able to run S/4HANA, but SAP is intent on blocking Oracle out of S/4HANA for commercial reasons. (and other databases may be capable as well, but I have not analyzed any other aside from Oracle 12c for supporting S/4HANA)

But that logic has a problem as well. S/4HANA has very low adoption. At some point, SAP may be forced to decide between promoting S/4HANA or promoting HANA, as its original plan of tying S/4HANA to HANA has so far not worked out as SAP intended. This is why I have proposed that SAP will eventually change its policy on the exclusivity of S/4HANA to HANA in the article SAP Will Backtrack on S/4HANA.


HANA is nowhere near as popular as proposed by SAP and its surrogates. And four years later it appears that Peter Goldmacher was right and SAP and their surrogates exaggerated HANA’s growth rates.

Secondly, the trend in databases is clear — most of the growth is coming from open source databases versus proprietary databases. What this shows us is that the original promoters of open source were right.

  • The Big Data Market: Big Data is driven by open source databases. High-cost vendors like SAP and IBM have tried to pile on Big Data, but the problem is that they don’t have much to do with or much to add to Big Data’s technology. And their high-cost structure does not work well if they can’t control the actual software.
  • The Relational Market: This is still dominated by Oracle in both its proprietary databases and in MySQL, is giving way to open source databases.
  • The Data Warehouse Market: With few open source data warehouse applications showing growth, and Teradata showing modest growth, the open source database movement seems to have not hit data warehousing yet.
  • The Rise of AWS: The usage of AWS’s open source databases continues to grow rapidly.

The Fastest Growing Databases

If we look at the fastest growing databases they are:

  • PostgreSQL 61.94%
  • SQL Server  33.16%
  • Elastisearch 24.14%
  • MongoDB 20.38%
  • MariaDB 18.24%

Of this list, only SQL Server is a proprietary database. And while SQL Server is proprietary, it is also a lower cost proprietary database with an Enterprise license running roughly $7000 per core.

HANA, on the other hand, grew 6.23% last year. Its base is too low, and its growth rate is too small for HANA to be what SAP says that it is, which is a high growth database.

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Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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