How Accurate Was Fortune Magazine on Oracle Boiling Down to the Database?

Executive Summary

  • Article Quotations
  • Oracle Exec Says Amazon’s Cloud Is Not Enterprise Ready
  • Oracle Is the Gold Standard?
  • Oracle Customers All Moving to Oracle Cloud?
  • How the Cloud Increases Competition
  • Oracle Wants Customer to Migrate to the Cloud?


On Mar 15, 2016 Fortune published an article titled For Oracle It Still Boils Down to the Database.

In this article, we will evaluate the accuracy of this Fortune article.

Article Quotations

“For Oracle, another earnings call has come and gone, and to a large degree it’s the same old story. As the company continues its cloud computing push against software competitors like Salesforce (CRM, +1.09%) and infrastructure giants like Amazon (AMZN, +0.22%) Web Services, it’s still the database that matters most.

With a healthy customer base using its accounting software (known as enterprise resource planning or ERP in industry-speak) and human resources tools, Oracle (ORCL, +0.25%) still milks its cash-cow, a relational database that most of the Fortune 500 have used to run their vital operations over the past couple of decades.”

True. Oracle receives 55% of its profits from its database business.

Oracle Is the Gold Standard?

“People say a lot of stuff about Oracle, but its database remains the gold standard,” said Gartner (IT, -1.09%) managing vice president Charles Eschinger. As a result, the shift of that business from Oracle databases running on customer servers to operating on Oracle’s cloud is a critical transition for the company.”

True, however, Oracle’s database business is being eroded by open source databases. This is shown in the following graphic.

Oracle Customers All Moving to Oracle Cloud?

“In the public cloud model, one company, in this case Oracle, aggregates server power, storage, and networking, which it uses to run many customers’ applications. That way the customers don’t need to build more of their own data centers.

But, if those customers decide that, while they’re moving, they might as well try out someone else’s cloud, database, or both, then Oracle would be in a heap of trouble. This is not just a theoretical: You can run Oracle’s database on AWS or on Microsoft (MSFT, +2.49%) Azure clouds, if you desire.”

True. Something that is undiscussed and missed by Wall Street is that moving to the cloud increases competition. AWS offers the ability to test various databases, which means that in the future sales will have less of an impact on the databases selected.

“On Oracle’s third quarter earnings call Tuesday, co-chief executive Mark Hurd said more than 350,000 customers run Oracle database in their own data centers, and all of them may migrate some or all of their workloads to Oracle’s cloud at some point. You can quibble over customer count, but no one disputes that Oracle has a boat load of database customers which is why every other tech company is trying to pick them off.”

That is a mighty big assumption. Mark Hurd should probably differentiate between what he would like to happen to what will happen. Some of those customers will actually switch from Oracle.

How the Cloud Increases Competition

“The database, as mentioned, is the lifeblood of enterprise applications of all types. Swapping out one database for another, has never been easy, which probably accounts for Oracle’s longevity in big accounts—even after years of attacks from Microsoft SQL Server, IBM (IBM, +0.09%) DB2, and now Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) which runs different flavors of databases.”

This is a major reason for Oracle’s longevity on big accounts. But the growth in databases is more in No-SQL and companies are in fact moving to open sourced databases in large numbers. This is a trend that is larger than Oracle.

Oracle Exec Says Amazon’s Cloud Is Not Enterprise Ready

“In fact, Oracle’s staying power is probably one reason Microsoft recently announced plans to put SQL Server (or at least core bits of it) on Linux. Oracle’s databases have long run on Linux, the popular open-source operating system which competes with Microsoft SQL Server.

It may also be why Amazon announced Tuesday, in an expedient bit of timing, that the database migration tool it previewed last October has been used by 1,000 customers to move their databases to AWS. At least one of those customers, Thomas Publishing, was apparently an Oracle shop. Microsoft unveiled its own aggressive Oracle-to-SQL Server exchange program last week.

As for Oracle’s third quarter, sales of new software licenses for products that run on-premises fell 11% year over year. That on-premises category makes up 70% of Oracle’s overall revenue, so there’s reason for concern there.

On the plus side, the company said sales of cloud products falling under the “platform as a service” and “software as a service” categories were up a healthy 61%. But that’s still a much smaller business.

Oracle co-founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison said the company is prepared for the battle. “A lot of people have come after us in databases,” he said. “We’re very comfortable defending our leading position in the database market.”

Perhaps. But that is not what the numbers show. The numbers show that Oracle will fall off of its long held perch as the top database in the next year. This is covered in the article Is Oracle in Trouble?

“Ellison also cast shade on claims that database migrations can be easy. “If you want to go to Amazon database, you have to rewrite your app,” he said. Amazon says its tool can sweat much of the angst out of these moves. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.”

Why is that true? Seems like FUD on the part of Larry. Larry would like this to be true as he wants to keep his customers locked in. There are adjustments to move to say PostgreSQL, but it is nothing like rewriting the app.

Oracle Wants Customer to Migrate to the Cloud?

“On the call, Oracle co-chief executive Safra Catz expressed confidence that databases—and database customers—will stick with Oracle regardless of their cloud plans. “We’d be thrilled if every one of our database customers came to our cloud instead of running on premise,” she said. “That would be fabulous.” But she added that some will likely put new applications and the test and development of new applications in the cloud, while keeping older apps running internally.”

Nothing new in that comment, but we disagree with Safra on this point. Companies that move to the cloud are far more likely to move away from Oracle. This is the problem in the direction that Wall Street is pushing Oracle and other vendors. It subjects them to more competition and more price comparison and feature comparisons. Wall Street prefers monopoly and lock-in because that maximizes profits.

“If those customers do go to Oracle’s cloud, the company will handle the hardware, support, upgrades, and labor. That means they’ll pay more in support fees but will still end up paying less in total because of the “massive economies of scale we have,” Catz noted. “Some will stay on prem indefinitely and that’s fine,” she added, using the slang term for “on premises.”That sounds like a nice story, but in the end, it may be one that some database shops find hard to swallow.”

Maybe. But Oracle is not as effective in the cloud is it is on premises. I would not expect the on-premises vendors to transition their dominance to the cloud so easily. This creates new opportunities for up and coming database companies. I just recently was exposed to a fantastic database in Airtable and am transitioning my databases to it. Airtable is obviously not Oracle, but the point is that the cloud is opening up the database market to more choice and more competition than it has ever seen.


Fortune receives a Brightwork score of 5.5 out of 10 on the article. The areas that are off are how Oracle’s statements are presented as if they are always true. Therefore, the article serves as in essence an endorsement for the statements of Oracle executives rather than analyzing the statements.

Brightwork Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

This article and no other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle and SAP. Brightwork does offer competitive intelligence work to vendors as part of its business, but no published research or articles are written with any financial consideration. As part of Brightwork’s commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research, the company’s business model is driven by consulting services; no paid media placements are accepted.

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The Real Story on ERP Book

ERPThe Real Story Behind ERP: Separating Fiction From Reality

How This Book is Structured

This book combines a meta-analysis of all of the academic research on the benefits of ERP, coupled with on project experience.

ERP has had a remarkable impact on most companies that implemented it. Unplanned expenses for customization, failed implementations, integration, and applications to meet the business requirements that ERP could not–have added up to a higher Total Cost of Ownership for ERP were all unexpected, and account control, on the part of ERP vendors — is now a significant issue affecting IT performance.

Break the Bank for ERP?

Many companies that have broken the bank to implement ERP projects have seen their KPIs go down— but the question is why this is the case. Major consulting companies are some of the largest promoters of ERP systems, but given the massive profits they make on ERP implementations — can they be trusted to provide the real story on ERP? Probably not, however, written by the Managing Editor of SCM Focus, Shaun Snapp — an author with many years of experience with ERP system. A supply chain software expert and well known for providing authentic information on the topics he covers, you can trust this book to provide all the detail that no consulting firm will.

By reading this book you will:

  • Examine the high failure rates of ERP implementations.
  • Demystify the convincing arguments ERP vendors use to sell ERP.
  • See how ERP vendors take control of client accounts with ERP.
  • Understand why single-instance ERP is not typically feasible.
  • Calculate the total cost of ownership and return on investment for your ERP implementation.
  • Understand the alternatives to ERP.


  • Chapter 1: Introduction to ERP Software
  • Chapter 2: The History of ERP
  • Chapter 3: Logical Fallacies and the Logics Used to Sell ERP
  • Chapter 4: The Best Practice Logic for ERP
  • Chapter 5: The Integration Benefits Logic for ERP
  • Chapter 6: Analyzing The Logic Used to Sell ERP
  • Chapter 7: The High TCO and Low ROI of ERP
  • Chapter 8: ERP and the Problem with Institutional Decision Making
  • Chapter 9: How ERP Creates Redundant Systems
  • Chapter 10: How ERP Distracts Companies from Implementing Better Functionality
  • Chapter 11: Alternatives to ERP or Adjusting the Current ERP System
  • Chapter 12: Conclusion

How Accurate Was Fortune on SAP Starting a Database War?

Executive Summary

  • Where Does SAP’s Revenue Come From?
  • Did SAP Become the Fastest Growing Database Company in the World?
  • Is Oracle Less Popular with Customers?
  • Did SAP Successfully Implement its Learning from SuccessFactors on the Cloud?


On Apr 25, 2012, Fortune published an article titled SAP throws down the gauntlet in database wars.

In this article, we will evaluate the accuracy of this Fortune article.

Article Quotations

SAP’s efforts to become more nimble and innovative appear to be working—to some extent. Revenue from new products like an in-memory database technology called HANA and cloud-based software from recently-acquired SuccessFactors is growing, but it still makes up a small fraction of the company’s overall sales. And SAP is still far from reaching some of the ambitious milestones its co-CEOs have set.

Where Does SAP’s Revenue Come From?

Yes, this is true. Most of SAP’s revenue comes from its older products like ECC and BW.

The world’s largest business software maker announced quarterly results on Wednesday, reporting its ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth in software and software-related revenue. HANA brought in 28 million euros, while cloud subscription and support sales came in at 29 million euros (the company’s overall revenue, meanwhile, came in at 3.35 billion euros). But SAP says it’s serious about becoming a major cloud player. And the company is confident that it’s on track to double last year’s HANA sales to at least 320 million euros in 2012.

Over 5 years later SAP, is still not a major cloud player.

Did SAP Become the Fastest Growing Database Company in the World?

“We intend to be the fastest-growing database company in the world,” Bill McDermott, SAP co-CEO, said in a call with Fortune Wednesday morning. To accelerate the adoption of HANA, SAP recently launched a fund to help customers migrate from their existing databases to HANA. The company says it has already started doling out some of the money it has put aside for customers interested in making the switch.

Over 5 years later, SAP did not even come close to being the fastest growing database company in the world. This is covered in the article How Popular is HANA?

Is Oracle Less Popular with Customers?

“Most of them are not that happy with their incumbent [database provider],” McDermott said.

Yes, this is true. However, the reason for this is that Oracle imposes most of the same account control strategies that SAP does. Therefore, McDermott, who heads a company that rips off customers using things like indirect access, is serious hypocrisy.

Oracle (ORCL, +0.42%), of course, is the number one database provider. And it’s not going down without a fight. On a recent call with investors, the company downplayed the threat from HANA. (On Friday Oracle is planning a webcast presentation to investors and press on Exalytics, its HANA competitor).

Oracle is very seriously losing its market share in databases. However, it has little to do with HANA. This is covered in the article Is Oracle in Trouble?

In reality, SAP (SAP, +0.70%) does have a long way to go to prove it can transform itself into major player in database technology, cloud-based software, mobility and analytics–all fast-growing sectors of the enterprise market.

Over 5 years later, SAP is not a major player in database technology.

It is lagging in cloud based software, with the only significant cloud offerings being those companies that SAP acquired. Notably SuccessFactors and Ariba.

SAP is nowhere in mobility. SAP is a substantial provider of analytics. But they are not any more prominent now than when this article was written 5 years ago.

Did SAP Successfully Implement its Learning from SuccessFactors on the Cloud?

But it has put some of the right pieces in place—the CEO of recently-acquired SuccessFactors, Lars Dalgaard, has joined the company’s executive board and is now tasked with running all of its cloud efforts. Cloud revenue is small but growing at a much faster rate than traditional software sales: SAP reported that the SuccessFactors business grew bookings by 69% compared to the first quarter of 2011. And the company is pouring marketing muscle and manpower into HANA and other innovative efforts like mobile apps.

The idea was that SAP would learn a lot about cloud from SuccessFactors, and talking to those inside of SAP, they did. Yet, the exposure has not translated into any of the expected improvements in SAP’s cloud offerings, which is very much lagging the market.

Next month, at a conference in Florida, SAP is expected to unveil more details on its cloud strategy. It’s sure to talk up HANA, mobile and analytics as well. But what about its core business, enterprise resource planning software? It’s long-overdue for a serious overhaul on its less-exciting core product, which accounts for the bulk of current revenue. Of course, redesigning complex software isn’t easy and takes time. But it’s a necessary step for SAP to truly become the innovation leader in the enterprise.

Whatever SAP announced it has not resulted in anything of substance over 5 years later.


Fortune receives a score of 3 out of 10 on the article. Fortune is serving as a promoter of SAP in this article. None of the projections in this article came true. It received a 3 because it did not present inaccurate information per se, but it had no predictive power. This article appears to be a paid placement and written by SAP.

How Much Do You Know About?


This quiz will ask basic questions around SAP HANA.

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Risk Estimation and Calculation

Risk Estimation and Calculation

See our free project risk estimators that are available per application. The provide a method of risk analysis that is not available from other sources.


How Accurate Was Fortune on Vora?

Executive Summary

  • Article Quotations
  • Why the World Needs Vora
  • How Common is HANA and Vora Discussed in Big Data Circles
  • Vora Works With What?
  • The Problem with Vora and the Dominance of Open Source Big Data Products
  • Making Hadoop a “Corporate Database”


On Sept 1, 2015 Fortune published an article titled A Look at HANA, SAP pitches Vora to bridge the big data gap.

In this article, we will evaluate the accuracy of this Fortune article.

Article Quotations

Why the World Needs Vora

The world has been drowning in talk about big data, the massive troves of information churned out by sensors, engines, and other machinery. That information can be very useful to businesses but there’s been a divide between that often-formless data and the more structured, traditional data that resides in a company’s databases, inventory, or sales systems.

SAP (SAP, +0.70%) proposes to bridge that divide with Vora, an in-memory query processor that plugs into Spark, open-source software that developers and data scientists use to ask questions of all that data.

Apache Spark is open source (free) technology geared to speed up data queries of unstructured data, but the goal of Vora is to augment, not displace, Spark said Steve Lucas, president of SAP’s Platform Products Group. Vora, slated to ship this month, proposes to speed up queries to a company’s various “data lakes” he told Fortune.

What Fortune is not bringing up is that it is quite unclear what the value is of Vora over spark.

Secondly, HANA has a very small footprint in Big Data. AWS, for instance, does not offer HANA as part of its Big Data offering. AWS offers Spark for in-memory caching and optimized execution. One can create Spark clusters from the AWS Management Consol, but not Vora and not HANA. And it is not as if AWS does not offer HANA. But they don’t offer it as part of their Big Data offering. AWS does offer Vora, but not part of their main AWS offering. Why?

How Common is HANA and Vora Discussed in Big Data Circles

Outside of SAP marketing and sales cycles, Vora and HANA are not discussed when it comes to Big Data.

Hadoop is an open source database that is a great value and has many tools that work extremely well without the proprietary and highly expensive HANA database.

A big part of the product’s appeal will be that it plugs into both Hadoop/Spark ecosystems and into transactional data sources, including SAP HANA. “We embracing Hadoop and Spark and bringing the online transaction processing world together with them,” Lucas said.

Lucas is known to provide inaccurate information on SAP, so his credibility is low due to this history. Lucas also knows very little about databases. This is made clear in the article Analysis of Steve Lucas’ Article on What Oracle Won’t Tell Your About HANA. And once again, he makes the preposterous statement that SAP embraces Hadoop and Spark. SAP would have to wouldn’t they as Hadoop and Spark are the industry standard in Big Data and SAP is virtually nowhere with Big Data. And when Steve Lucas states that OLTP is brought together with them, it makes absolutely no sense.

OLTP has nothing to do with Big Data!

HANA is OLAP, not OLTP, so it is normally just a good practice to ignore Steve Lucas. Some people don’t really make any effort to learn the topic areas in which they work. And amazingly, Fortune simply allowed this statement to be published without questioning its obvious inaccuracy.

Vora Works With What?

Why the name? Vora was selected because it’s the Latin root for “voracious,” the implication being that Vora can consume large amounts of data, according to an SAP spokeswoman.

To be clear, the use of SAP HANA, the focal point of the company’s software push, is something SAP would recommend, but is not required. “We think Vora works well without HANA, but even better (natch!) with HANA, ” he said.

This is a strange statement. What else would Vora work with?

SAP’s Vora plugs into existing Apache Ambari console so developers can keep using their tools of choice.

SAP, a leader in enterprise software, is addressing a key need of big companies that want to query both their existing data warehouses and Hadoop data, ” said Nick Heudecker, research director at Gartner.

That is strange because that is not what Spark is used for.

The Problem with Vora and the Dominance of Open Source Big Data Products

“SAP was smart to build it on Spark which is the loudest parade in town right now and very programmer focused,” Neudecker added.

One potential downside to Vora is that lot of the programmers in this field have an affinity for open-source software and SAP, is definitively a commercial software company which means it likes to be paid for its software. It will make a free developer version of Vora available on Amazon (AMZN, +0.11%) Web Services, but it cannot be deployed in production. Otherwise, commercial-use Vora will be priced on a subscription model with an 18-month term.

Yes, that is a massive downside.

And an even bigger downside is that it is entirely unclear how Vora adds any value over Spark. And the Big Data market is dominated by open source databases and tools, which looks bad for SAP’s entry has SAP’s software cost and TCO is normally the highest in any application category in which SAP has an offering.

Making Hadoop a “Corporate Database”

IDC research vice president Carl Olofson said Vora will let companies optimize their Hortonworks (HDP, +0.83%) Hadoop and make it more like a corporate database in terms of queries and query performance.

That statement is illogical. Does Carl mean that it will make Hadoop more like an RDBMS? If so, that is not a desirable end state. I have never heard of the term corporate database before, and it is not a distinction I am aware of.

Other tech vendors are working on federated data query across different data platforms, but Olofson said the most direct competitors to Vora would be from data analytics companies like Platfora and Zaloni.


Fortune receives a score of 1 out of 10 on the article. Fortune simply allows representatives from SAP to say whatever they like. The article presents the fact that SAP is offering Vora, but does not analyze Vora or validate anything that SAP says. This article appears to be a paid placement and written by SAP.

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Risk Estimation and Calculation

Risk Estimation and Calculation

See our free project risk estimators that are available per application. The provide a method of risk analysis that is not available from other sources.


How Accurate Was Fortune on HANA?

Execurtive Summary

  • Article Quotations
  • HANA Microservices?
  • Marie Goodell as a Source of Information on SAP?
  • SAP Now Has the Ability to Copy Databases?
  • HANA as a Good Investment of Resources?
  • HANA as the Answer to All Business Problems?


On Nov 7, 2016 Fortune published an article titled A Look at HANA, SAP’s Newly Updated, Super Strategic Database.

In this article, we will evaluate the accuracy of this Fortune article.

Article Quotations

On Tuesday, German software giant SAP unveiled a new version of HANA, the company’s bread-and-butter database, as well as a new marketplace that will let HANA customers selectively add new “micro-services” or software capabilities to their database as needed. Micro-services, as the name implies, are small but potentially useful pieces of software or specialized data streams that can be pulled into other programs. If you have an application that crunches data from a variety of sources, but want to add additional information to the mix, say on topographical structures of the Earth or weather patterns from an organization like the European Space Agency, you can do that provided the ESA makes that data available from satellite imaging. And so it does.

HANA Microservices?

Eight months after this article, not much has happened with microservices and HANA. However, an issue which should be broached is how HANA has not met the vast majority of the technical promises or the financial goals that were stated for HANA by Hasso Plattner, Bill McDermott, Vishal Sikka, and any other SAP representatives. HANA offers nowhere near the performance that it was promised by SAP to deliver, as is covered in the article What is the Actual Performance of HANA? SAP cannot cover this discrepancy up by simply making more promises about things that connect to HANA. For years SAP has been making announcements of products related to HANA. HANA Cloud Platform, HANA Studio, HANA Analytics. And all of these products have amounted to very little on projects.

Marie Goodell as a Source of Information on SAP?

Marie Goodell, SAP’s (SAP, -0.66%) vice president of marketing, says one HANA customer, Munich ReInsurance, uses that data to help its customers in agriculture, utilities, and land management assess risks of fire and other possible disasters. One such use is by the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, which has been troubled by forest fires. This application tracks the propensity for fire damage in different locations. “It doesn’t just show a map but layers of earth, soil, water beneath the soil by scanning deeply, and that helps them know which areas are most prone to fire,” said Goodell.

Marie Goodell is not a reliable source of information for anything happening in SAP. Inaccurate quotations from Marie Goodell are profiled in the article Interpreting False Information from SAP.

SAP Now Has the Ability to Copy Databases?

The ability to add these data sources as needed and pay for them based on usage and amount of data could be very useful to companies, said Carl Olofson, research vice president at IDC, a market research firm. The marketplace is out now, while the updated database itself, SAP HANA 2, will be broadly available on Nov. 30, Goodell said. All of the news is coming out of SAP’s TechEd conference in Barcelona this week. For the many organizations that have to run big reports based on their weekly, monthly, or quarterly results, HANA 2 will let them take a secondary copy of the database, one that is typically used just for replicating data or backup, and activate it just to create those reports without impacting operations of the primary database.

Has SAP cracked the code to making database copies? I hope SAP has patented this amazing technology. Certainly, a Nobel Prize must be in order.

If I reach out to my contacts in Oracle or Teradata and state that SAP can now make copies of HANA, and that this is an accomplishment, they will fall down laughing.

HANA as a Good Investment of Resources?

SAP, based in Waldorf, Germany, has long been a leader in what is called enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that big companies use to manage their manufacturing processes and track inventory. Historically, many of those ERP systems relied on Oracle (ORCL, -0.20%) databases. But as Oracle started to move onto SAP’s turf more than 10 years ago, SAP responded: by getting extremely serious about its own fast, in-memory database. That is HANA.

SAP has misinvested in HANA, and HANA’s role as SAP’s marketing tentpole is coming to an end. The results have simply not been worth it. This is covered in the article SAP’s Change in Policy with HANA and Oracle. 

HANA as the Answer to All Business Problems?

Now, if you ask an SAP exec a question, any question about its business, the answer is likely to be HANA, not unlike IBM executives with Watson.

No that is inaccurate. And if true, then that exec is poorly informed. HANA does one thing well. It is a database for analytics. If the answer to every question is to run analytics faster, that person need not be a decision maker.

In-memory databases tend to be faster than traditional databases that shipped data to and from hard disk storage as they operated. The SAP-Oracle rivalry continues apace, and is one of the drivers behind Oracle’s planned $9.3 billion purchase of NetSuite (N). NetSuite offers ERP software to small and mid-sized companies.

In memory, databases are faster. But the world is not transitioning to in-memory databases anytime soon. Companies are transitioning to open source databases, not in-memory database. SAP has misread where the market for databases was going. And now they will have to back off their focus on HANA as it has reached a point of dysfunction.


Fortune receives a score of 1 out of 10 on the article. Although the article appears to be a paid placement and written by SAP.

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    Just fill out the form below and we'll be in touch.


The Risk Estimation Book


Software RiskRethinking Enterprise Software Risk: Controlling the Main Risk Factors on IT Projects

Better Managing Software Risk

The software implementation is risky business and success is not a certainty. But you can reduce risk with the strategies in this book. Undertaking software selection and implementation without approximating the project’s risk is a poor way to make decisions about either projects or software. But that’s the way many companies do business, even though 50 percent of IT implementations are deemed failures.

Finding What Works and What Doesn’t

In this book, you will review the strategies commonly used by most companies for mitigating software project risk–and learn why these plans don’t work–and then acquire practical and realistic strategies that will help you to maximize success on your software implementation.


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Enterprise Software Risk Management
Chapter 3: The Basics of Enterprise Software Risk Management
Chapter 4: Understanding the Enterprise Software Market
Chapter 5: Software Sell-ability versus Implementability
Chapter 6: Selecting the Right IT Consultant
Chapter 7: How to Use the Reports of Analysts Like Gartner
Chapter 8: How to Interpret Vendor-Provided Information to Reduce Project Risk
Chapter 9: Evaluating Implementation Preparedness
Chapter 10: Using TCO for Decision Making
Chapter 11: The Software Decisions’ Risk Component Model

How Accurate Was Hasso Plattner and Fortune on HANA?

Executive Summary

  • Hasso Plattner makes some incredible claims about HANA, but how many of these claims are true?
  • Why it is not possible for HANA to be the fastest growing product in SAP’s history.


On Jan 31, 2013, Fortune published an article titled Meet HANA; she’s SAP’s new goldmine.

In this article, we will evaluate how accurate Hasso Plattner’s statements and Fortune’s coverage turned out to be.

Article Quotations

FORTUNE — “The fastest-growing product in SAP’s 40-year history isn’t a business software application, and it wasn’t invented within the German company’s massive research and development labs at the request of its co-CEOs. Rather, HANA, a new in-memory database technology capable of speeding up complex computations, was developed by a handful of university students and spearheaded by none other than SAP’s 69-year-old co-founder and chairman, Hasso Plattner. In the early days, HANA was known as “Hasso’s New Architecture”.”

HANA as the Fastest Growing SAP Product of All Time?

This is a story that SAP has been pushing, but it is inaccurate. The math behind why HANA could not be the fastest growing product in SAP’s history is covered in the article How Popular is HANA?

“A number of SAP’s (SAP, -0.61%) core business applications have already been rewritten to run on HANA. But Plattner, whose father was a doctor, is particularly excited about HANA’s prospects in the healthcare industry. Earlier this week, at a personalized medicine conference in Silicon Valley, he touted HANA’s abilities to quickly churn through massive amounts of medical information, like genomic data, in order to identify the best therapy for a patient. According to Plattner, SAP will launch a HANA-based healthcare platform in the “next few months.””

“Doctors are instant decision makers,” Plattner told the audience.” “And therefore the system has to be extremely fast.”

SAP’s Mystery Health System

This never occurred. If SAP ever released SAP Medical Research Insights, which we covered in the article How Accurate was Vishal Sikkas on the Future of HANA? 

Also, why does Hasso believe that doctors are instant decision makers? Is that actually how health care is delivered, through doctors who make instant decisions? Is Hasso speaking of the emergency room physicians or physicians overall? Furthermore, as we cover in the article Why HANA is a Mismatch for ERP and S/4HANA and What is the Actual Performance of HANA?, HANA has not been shown to have better performance than the competing offerings from other database vendors. Therefore, even if Hasso Plattner’s statement were true, which it isn’t, the point would be moot, as that performance benefit is better obtained from non-SAP databases.

Bill McDermott’s Predictions on HANA’s Uptake

“HANA has quickly grown into a 392 million euro business for SAP, though it still comprises a relatively small percentage of the company’s total revenue. But SAP is already touting the uber-fast technology as a big success story. “You can see the acceleration,” co-CEO Bill McDermott told Fortune after the company announced its latest earnings report last week, adding that about half of HANA’s 2012 revenue came in the fourth quarter of last year. “It’s becoming a real brand, and a well-known solution. And guess what, we’re just getting started.””

Hasso’s Predictions on HANA’s Becoming 20% of SAP’s Revenues

Four and a half years later, HANA’s sales have been disappointing. Rather than push out Oracle, SAP has extended their partnership with Oracle into the foreseeable future as is covered in the article SAP’s Change in Policy on HANA and Oracle. 

“SAP expects sales of HANA to reach upwards of 700 million euros in 2013. Though the technology is promising, it requires companies—including SAP—to rewrite applications for the new platform, a time-consuming task. But Plattner says all of SAP’s current and future applications will be “HANA-rized,” and that the technology will someday soon make up at least 20% of SAP’s revenue.”

Four and a half years later HANA is nowhere near 20% of revenues. SAP is a $20 billion a year company, so to do what Hasso proposed would mean HANA would have to have become a $4 billion business. According to DB-Engines, HANA currently sits as the 19th most popular database.

Larry Ellison’s Prediction on HANA

“Of course, Larry Ellison, CEO of database leader Oracle (ORCL, -0.18%), has a different take on HANA’s prospects. Last year he suggested Plattner must be on drugs to think he can compete with Oracle, saying his company has been working on in-memory technology for a decade.”

Larry turned out to be right.

“Plattner’s response: “I never took drugs in my life,” he said in an interview with Fortune earlier this week.”

SAP’s Growth into Health Care and Comparisons to Watson

“But SAP doesn’t have just Oracle to contend with. IBM (IBM, +0.02%) has already made a big push into healthcare with its Watson supercomputer, which relies on similar underlying technologies (like parallel processing) but also uses artificial intelligence to suggest diagnoses and therapies to doctors. Both technologies aim to comb through medical data much faster than a human physician can.”

HANA does not rely upon the parallel process. It relies on a combination of large amounts of memory in SSD and RAM combined with column-oriented table design, as covered in the article How HANA is Such a Fast Database (for Anaytics).

Secondly, IBM’s Watson has been the subject of a major marketing campaign on the part of SAP, but it has not been a successful product for IBM.

Hasso on HANA’s Performance

“The major message is we can do things faster,” says Plattner. “Faster is better.”

SAP has lost benchmarks against Oracle 12c on performance versus HANA. This is covered in the article What is the Actual Performance of HANA? 


Both Fortune and Hasso receive a score of 1 out of 10 on the Fortune article. The article is filled with inaccuracies and nothing that Hasso Plattner or Bill McDermott said turned out to be true. The only accurate part of the article was Larry Ellison, who was criticizing SAP’s plans.