Database is not dead interview series - SAP

Suraj Pai, Vice President, Platform Solutions, SAP Southeast Asia 

DataStorageAsean: Is there a place for the relational database in this new world of unstructured and big data?

Suraj Pai: The answer to this question lies in the manner in which enterprises value the new world of unstructured and big data and what they determine would give them data nuggets to either develop new sources of revenue, methods to delight customer(s), reduce costs or even identify fraud. Today’s enterprises want to do all of this in lightning speed time, in order to stay relevant.

Traditional relational databases were designed in a different hardware and software era and are facing challenges in meeting the scale and performance requirements of Big Data. While the relevance of relational databases is slowly declining, the pace of this decline will vary. Enterprises will look at integration mechanisms between legacy relational databases to the new world so that they maintain some “structure”, while the new world evolves in terms of data access from performance, uptime and security perspective.

DataStorageAsean: How is cloud computing affecting the Database market - should companies be thinking of moving all of their databases to the cloud?

Suraj Pai:  Cloud computing offers a lot of options for scalability to companies, as they grapple with ever increasing volumes of data. Cloud computing also resolves the need of immense processing and storage requirements, due to the proliferation of structured and unstructured data, especially from mobile devices and sensors connected to the Internet.

The option of moving databases to the cloud will be determined by the criticality of business applications and data privacy requirements. Ideally, I see larger companies opting for a hybrid model of on-premise and cloud capabilities, driven by these two factors.
Startups and SMEs have a big opportunity of starting on a cloud-only option and getting their business models to scale in quick time, in a market without geographical boundaries.

DataStorageAsean: How important is it these days for databases to have hooks into other products such as BI or even Big Data technologies?

Suraj Pai: Databases will need to have hooks into Big Data and Business Intelligence technologies if they want to stay relevant. This is analogous to thousands of traditional enterprises who are reviewing legacy business models in the light of this new digital world and are focusing on “information” gleaned out of “data”, to ensure they stay honest to the “customer is king” culture. As organizations look at providing a great experience to their customers, their ability to use business intelligence and predictive technologies, while looking at the volume, variety and velocity of data (aka Big Data), will ultimately determine survival of the fittest, and smartest.

In-memory data platforms can help deliver real-time applications to support operational applications like patient health monitoring, fraud detection, stock trading and many other functions. Customer Analytics help retailers and eCommerce sites to use Big Data to help upsell and cross-sell new products based on their likes, dislikes, past buying patterns and circle of friends, amongst other criteria, and in this way, create a personalized experience for their customer. For instance, eBay uses in-memory columnar database technology to sift through 50 terabytes of each and every website interaction by all known and guest users stored in their big data platform. This is to predict market signals to help connect buyers and sellers better.

IOT Applications help improve operational efficiencies with manufacturers, who are now able to track health machines every second, to predict potential failures and pre-order parts required to repair the machine, should a breakdown occur.  This could potentially save millions of dollars – all with continuously streaming unstructured data, incorporating machine learning and in-memory technologies.

Customers can combine Hadoop with in-memory platforms like Apache Spark or in-memory databases to process and deliver large amounts of data quickly.

DataStorageAsean: What is the future for Relational Databases?

Suraj Pai: The future of Relational Databases needs to be reviewed in the light of the OLTP and OLAP worlds. The OLAP worlds are rapidly being replaced with columnar database technologies which offer a much superior value proposition compared to traditional row-based Relational Database Management systems. However, these technologies are making giant strides in the OLTP world too which gives enterprises the exciting opportunity of simplifying their IT system landscapes and combining OLTP and OLAP. This augments well with the new digital world where enterprises rely on super-fast analytics to stay ahead of competitors.

We see traditional row-based relational database management systems being replaced by in-memory columnar database management systems with hooks to a Big Data environment, creating an ecosystem for managing Big Data with a data lake architecture.

DataStorageAsean: What is unique about your own company's database offerings?

Suraj Pai: SAP are pioneers in in-memory and columnar database technology. Our focus was always in business applications, but we decided to invest into database technology only because we did not see innovation with traditional databases that would help us to build the next-generation of “digital-ready” business applications.

SAP has SAP S/4HANA, the next-generation business suite designed to help customers run simple in the digital economy offering a personalized user experience with SAP Fiori. This new suite is built on our advanced in-memory platform, SAP HANA. SAP HANA is an in-memory, column oriented platform that is designed to support transactions and complex query processing, on the same data set.  The technology helps SAP to simplify the architecture of this new business suite by removing data redundancy, storing one piece of data only once and removing the requirement for aggregates and indexes. It also helps companies innovate by connecting the enterprise to the Internet of Things and business networks, predict and simulate outcomes on the fly, and focus on essential decisions and tasks from any device – all in real time.

We also offer the SAP HANA Cloud Platform, an open Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providing the in-memory database and application services to build, extend or integrate business applications. .

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