Why it is Likely That HANA Underperforms SQL Server

Executive Summary

  • We have obtained reports of SQL Server outperforming HANA.
  • We analyze is the hardware specification differences that lie beneath SQL Server versus HANA.


In the field reports of SQL Server’s performance versus HANA, a number of customers have been surprised that HANA does not seem to outperform SQL Server for performing similar tasks. But one item is often left out in the conversation in performance comparison. 

The Hardware Used by SQL Server Versus HANA

SAP has their customers purchase the largest possible hardware specs for HANA. t is impossible that SQL Server had anywhere near the same spec as the box that was used for HANA. It follows logically that HANA greatly underperforms its hardware specification. We addressed the inability (or lack of interest) by IT directors to account for the percentage of the performance boost was accounted for by hardware as we covered in How Much is Hardware Responsible for S/4HANA’s Benefits? 

Ahmed Azmi offers the following take on this topic.

The only way to compare the performance of 2 DB systems is to run them both on the same hardware. If you run HANA and SQL Server on the exact same hardware, SQL Server will outperform HANA by a wide margin. 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.

As for “in memory” type processing, Microsoft added this to SQL Server back in 2016 as can be seen in the graphic below.


It is difficult to see how HANA can match SQL Server’s performance, given the difference in hardware specification used by HANA. What is amazing about this is that HANA by far the most expensive database of any of the databases that it competes against, and SQL Server is considered the “budget” commercial RDBMS. At this large price discrepancy, SQL Server would further outperform HANA as its low cost would leave more budget to have an even larger hardware specification than HANA.

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