Who Was Right and Who Was Wrong on HANA?

Executive Summary

  • Most of the sources that covered HANA were wrong. Only a few were right.
  • In this article, we cover who was right and who was wrong.


Few articles measure the accuracy of previous statements in IT.

In this article, we rate this accuracy.

Who Got it Wrong?

Hasso Plattner: Wrong

Hasso was the main driving force behind HANA. Hasso is so wealthy and powerful within SAP that no one can “No” to him. However, Hasso greatly overestimated the benefit that something like HANA would bring to SAP. Hasso thought he had found the magic pill for giving SAP a new life. However, he had SAP invest big into databases at the exact time when less expensive databases and open source databases were about to erode the margins and sales of the proprietary database vendors. This is covered in the article How Accurate is Seeking Alpha on the Decline of SQL? SAP invested in the wrong thing by going into the database, and then by bringing out such a premium-priced product. Hasso was wrong on HANA not only in that the market did not respond as Hasso predicted, but most of what Hasso said about HANA was simply incorrect.

Bill McDermott: Wrong

Bill McDermott is more PR spokesman for SAP than CEO. When Bill McDermott speaks, I never get the impression he has any idea what he is talking about. Bill is an excellent salesman, but primarily he excels as explaining things in a way that makes it seem as if the objective the listener wants can be achieved very simply. But to do this, he dispenses with any detail that complicates the messaging. For example, Bill stated to a Fortune Magazine interviewer that one could do both transactions and Big Data all in a single database. However, connecting HANA to Hadoop is not using one database, is it?

Vishal Sikka: Wrong

Vishal Sikka was, for a time was the “architect of HANA,” something which is a bit doubtful given his level in SAP. Vishal Sikka is almost indecipherable when speaking. I analyzed Vishal’s statements in great detail about HANA and concluded that he was massively exaggerating the overall reason for and benefit of HANA. After reading his comments, I would never listen to Vishal on any topic as long as his name is attached to it. Interestingly, Vishal left for Infosys in 2014, which may have been for reasons unrelated to HANA’s progress. However, for someone who is thought of being so intelligent, HANA makes little sense. But at SAP, at that level, you do what Hasso tells you to do. If HANA was in part his vision, one does not need a Ph.D. in computer science to recognize that you don’t put an ERP system on what is nothing more than a gussied up analytics database.

John Appleby/Bluefin Solutions: Wrong

Bluefin Solutions, more than any other consulting company, went all in on HANA. They wrote articles, lead by John Appleby, clearly simply copied and pasted from information provided to them by SAP. In one article, John Appleby stated that…

“SAP is finished on Oracle.”

This is a curious statement as the evidence he provided related to S/4HANA.

John Appleby should know that SAP is about a lot more than S/4. Therefore even if Oracle were finished on S/4 (which I don’t think it is, as covered in the article Why SAP Will Have to Backtrack on S/4HANA), it would not mean that all SAP applications are finished on Oracle. Four and a half years after Appleby made this statement, I wonder if he could guess what the majority of SAP applications use as a database today (hint, it’s not HANA). This is why consulting companies that are partners with SAP are unreliable sources of information on SAP. And this is particularly true of public statements released in the media.

After Appleby was promoted at Bluefin Solutions, Steve Chaflen took over the position of HANA promoter from him, Appleby. Not only John Appleby and Bluefin Solutions but all consulting partners of SAP release inaccurate information about SAP as they compete to see who can more intensively shine the shoes of SAP in return for special consideration.

John Appleby’s inaccuracy level was so high that we investigated it in the article A Study into John Appleby’s HANA Accuracy. We later found that John Appleby was also releasing false information HANA to promote his company before its acquisition, as we cover in the article Appleby’s False HANA Statements and the Mindtree Acquisition.

Gartner: Wrong

Gartner receives probably around $100 to $150 million from SAP per year. All of this undisclosed.

The primary analyst assigned to SAP is Donald Fienberg, who is also Gartner’s liaison to SAP. This puts Gartner in a bit of a problematic area as there was no line drawn between the analyst work Donald Fienberg was performing and his role as essentially an SAP relationship manager for Gartner.

Donald Fienberg made repeated inaccurate and promotional statements about HANA, such as the following.

“Now SAP can set up a database to do my transactions and analytics with everything virtual. People have wanted to do both in the same database for years, but have not been able to do it because of the discrepancy between the two types of data. These guys (SAP) are first, period. That’s a good thing. They have got a two to five-year head start on everybody else..”

Oracle 12c, which has this ability Donald was describing, was released six months after this article was written. IBM DB2 Blu (which offers the same ability) preceded HANA. And Microsoft SQL Server had a column store index in 2012, therefore before Donald Fienberg made this statement. We cover Gartner’s terrible coverage of HANA in the article How Gartner Got HANA So Wrong.

Forrester: Wrong

Forrester was paid by SAP to write a report that predicted a reduced TCO for HANA, which SAP then took and marketed as proving that HANA “did reduce TCO.” This deftly changed a forecast into an actual. Forrester made some inaccurate assumptions in the report, including the use of a runtime license for HANA. This is not a production license, and there was no reason for Forrester to have used this except — to reduce the cost of HANA artificially. This is covered in the article How Accurate was Forrester’s TCO Study for SAP HANA?  

ASUG: Wrong

As usual, ASUG served as only outlet for SAP marketing, proving once again that they provide no filter to anything SAP says or does.

Fortune Magazine: Wrong

Through a series of what appears to have been paid placements, Fortune provided SAP with an outlet for SAP to say anything it wanted in the future. Brightwork will be sharing an analysis of these articles, and how wrong they were in the coming months.

IT Leaders Who Purchased HANA: Wrong

IT leaders that supported moving to HANA were tricked. Even in HANA’s “golden case,” which is moving BW on HANA, there was never any reason to do this. SAP customers could have stayed with SAP Oracle and received a far better database with better performance than HANA at a lower price. I believe similarly this may apply for DB2 and SQL Server, which also can store data in a columnar store. But I simply have not investigated the technical comparisons as I have with these databases as I have with SAP Oracle as is covered in the article Which is Faster HANA or Oracle 12c. However, Bloor Research recently performed a study that, while funded by IBM, I have reviewed and considered it to be entirely accurate. In this study, which I have analyzed in the article How to Best Understand Bloor’s Research on HANA, and have given it one of the highest accuracy ratings of any publication I have examined. Those IT leaders cost their companies and directed monies towards SAP’s vanity project that should have been used elsewhere. And this is no small thing. I have visited companies that needed investment quite badly in neglected areas and instead decided to use that money to invest in HANA. What a monumental waste of resources!

Conclusion on Those that Got HANA Wrong

This is a highly truncated list. Aside from wrong individuals, every single giant SAP consulting company, Accenture, IBM, etc. all of them promoted HANA, and all of them got it wrong. Their support of HANA was so extensive that to analyze all of it would require a book.

This is why I have often said that if I want false information, I can always find it at a big consulting company. Whatever SAP marketing happens to be saying at the time, the major SAP consulting partners all in on the “vision.”

Who Got it Right?

Larry Ellison: Right

Larry Ellison criticizes anything reflexively that is not good for Oracle. But you have to hand it to him; he made some very valid criticisms of HANA.

Probably one of his best lines was in 2015 when he said:

“For years SAP offered up lots of benchmarks for its database systems, Ellison said. But when SAP introduced HANA, its in-memory database, the company didn’t use any of its existing benchmarks —“ and they had a dozen of them,” Ellison said. They said they were going to write a brand new benchmark for HANA.“Now, call me cynical,” he continued, “but I guess this was to make HANA look good. It was a benchmark that allowed HANA to distinguish itself. And we decided to run the same exact benchmark on Oracle. And we ran more than twice as fast as they did.”By the way, SAP has not certified our benchmark. We’ve sent it to them…over and over and over again. And for some reason, they don’t want to certify.…The facts are, the entire SAP cloud runs on Oracle, not HANA. SAP Ariba in the cloud runs on Oracle, not HANA. SAP SuccessFactors in the cloud runs on Oracle, not HANA. SAP Concur runs on Oracle, not HANA. I don’t know what HANA runs, but it’s not [SAP’s cloud applications].”

Every one of these statements by Larry turned out to be true. SAP did play around with the benchmarks, in my view, because the HANA benchmarks for anything but read access are poor as we cover in the article The Hidden Issues with the SD HANA Benchmarks. This is something I have verified even with people inside of SAP. And secondly, the acquired applications are not moving to HANA. Right again, Larry.

Peter Goldmacher: Right

In the article How Popular is SAP HANA?, I observed that Peter Goldmacher pointed out…

“In a research note, Cowen analyst Peter Goldmacher did a deep dive into SAP’s HANA results. SAP has said that HANA’s two-year license compound annual growth rate through fiscal 2013 has been about 120 percent. If that growth rate is true, Goldmacher noted that “the other 90% of SAP’s license business, apps and business intelligence, is growing at a combined two-year CAGR of roughly 2%, materially below category growth rates.”

Peter was right.

As with CRM growth many years before, SAP was simply shifting revenue to HANA from other sources. This is virtually the same thing that SAP did with CRM beginning 15 years go. SAP pushed back hard on Peter, issuing a nonsensical statement about what percentage of HANA’s sales were stand-alone deals. Every time HANA was criticized, SAP pushed back in the media through a spokesperson. And, every single time I checked what the SAP spokesman said in defense of HANA, it ended up being inaccurate.

Brightwork Research & Analysis: Right

We wrote the most comprehensive and detailed critiques of HANA available on the internet. As more information increasingly comes from the field, it turns out that even we missed areas of weakness of HANA. Our research into HANA is verifiable at this searchable archive HANA Search. (this index may have an issue displaying in Chrome if you run into a problem Firefox or other non-Chrome browser)

This is a highly truncated list. Aside from wrong individuals, every single giant SAP consulting company, Accenture, IBM, etc. all of them promoted HANA, and all of them got it wrong. Their support of HANA was so extensive that to analyze all of it would require a book.

This is why I have often said that if I want false information, I can always find it at a big consulting company. Whatever SAP marketing happens to be saying at the time, the major SAP consulting partners all in on the “vision.”

Advice on Enjoying the Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.



The vast majority of information providers on HANA got HANA wrong.

SAP’s Inaccurate Messaging on HANA as Communicated in SAP Videos

Fact-Checking SAP’s HANA Information

This video is filled with great falsehoods. We will address them in the sequence they are stated in this video.

SAP Video Accuracy Measurement

SAP's Statement
Brightwork Fact Check
Link to Analysis Article
HANA is a Platform
HANA is not a platform, it is a database.How to Deflect You Were Wrong About HANA
HANA runs more "in-memory" than other databases.
HANA uses a lot of memory, but the entire database is not loaded into memory.How to Understand the In-Memory Myth
S/4HANA Simplifies the Data Model
HANA does not simplify the data model from ECC. There are significant questions as to the benefit of the S/4HANA data model over ECC.Does HANA Have a Simplified Data Model?
Databases that are not HANA are legacy.
There is zero basis for SAP to call all databases that are not HANA legacy.SAP Calling All Non-HANA DBs Legacy.
Aggregates should be removed and replaced with real time recalculation.
Aggregates are very valuable, and all RDBMS have them (including HANA) and they should not be removed or minimized in importance.Is Hasso Plattner Correct on Database Aggregates?
Reducing the number of tables reduces database complexity.
Reducing the number of tables does not necessarily decrease the complexity of a database. The fewer tables in HANA are more complicated than the larger number of tables pre-HANA.Why Pressure SAP to Port S/4HANA to AnyDB?
HANA is 100% columnar tables.
HANA does not run entirely with columnar tables. HANA has many row-oriented tables, as much as 1/3 of the database.Why Pressure SAP to Port S/4HANA to AnyDB?
S/4HANA eliminates reconciliation.
S/4HANA does not eliminate reconciliation or reduce the time to perform reconciliation to any significant degree.Does HANA Have a Simplified Data Model and Faster Reconciliation?
HANA outperforms all other databases.
Our research shows that not only can competing databases do more than HANA, but they are also a better fit for ERP systems.How to Understand the Mismatch Between HANA and S/4HANA and ECC.

The Problem: A Lack of Fact-Checking of HANA

There are two fundamental problems around HANA. The first is the exaggeration of HANA, which means that companies that purchased HANA end up getting far less than they were promised. The second is that the SAP consulting companies simply repeat whatever SAP says. This means that on virtually all accounts, there is no independent entity that can contradict statements by SAP.

The Necessity of Fact Checking

We ask a question that anyone working in enterprise software should ask.

Should decisions be made based on sales information from 100% financially biased parties like consulting firms, IT analysts, and vendors to companies that do not specialize in fact-checking?

If the answer is “No,” then perhaps there should be a change to the present approach to IT decision making.

In a market where inaccurate information is commonplace, our conclusion from our research is that software project problems and failures correlate to a lack of fact checking of the claims made by vendors and consulting firms. If you are worried that you don’t have the real story from your current sources, we offer the solution.

Financial Disclosure

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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