Why Did SAP Pivot the Explanation of HANA In Memory?

Executive Summary

  • SAP has a very different explanation of how HANA’s memory management than when HANA was introduced.
  • We address why this pivot occurred.


SAP first introduced the idea that all data would be loaded into memory. We called out this as a myth in the article How to Understand the In-Memory Myth. This went on for years beginning in 2011 and extending out to 2018. Then SAP began to change the description of how its HANA database worked, to the point where it sounded like how other databases optimized their memory. We covered this in the article Is SAP’s Warm Data Tiering for HANA New?  

But one question is why this pivot changed.

A Hypothesis Put Forward By Ahmed Azmi

Give me any database system and I can boost its performance by an order of magnitude simply by upgrading the hardware. If you spend a million dollars on memory and processor acceleration, you can make any database faster. It’s just a matter of throwing more hardware (money) at it.

That’s why SAP had to claim that HANA stores everything in memory. They had to justify the nefarious cost of the hardware. Now, they are pivoting away from that because they realized that hardware-driven performance doesn’t work when the product is hosted on a multi-tenant, scale-out platform like Azure & GCP.

This could be an explanatory reason for the change. It also simply brings HANA’s explanation back into line with reality. The fact that HANA used memory optimization and did not load all data into memory was clearly explained in HANA’s technical documentation.


SAP has two explanations for its products. One is the sales and marketing explanation. This explanation not only exaggerates the explanation of their products, but in many cases changes the fundamental features of how their products work. HANA’s supposed “in memory” explanation which persisted from 2011 to 2018 is just one example of this.

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