HANA Chairman at the Center of SAP-Oracle Rivalry

Oracle and SAP have been going at it for a long time now.  The feud has extended beyond regular industry competition when the former sued the BI solutions maker for corporate espionage, a case that was eventually resolved without too much of an impact on SAP’s end.

The two IT giants are used to competing in the courtroom, as well as in the fast-evolving business intelligence space.  And analytics is the name of the game today.

SAP chairman Hasso Plattner has contributed a great deal to the company’s growth, going back several decades. He was also the one who conceived and architected the development of HANA, SAP’s in-memory big data analytics platform that eliminated the need to store datasets on relational databases, such as the ones provided by Oracle.

WSJ’s Chris Lawton looked into the history of the project, which he rather accurately depicted as a gamble during the early stages of design.

“For his bet, Mr. Plattner decided to do an end run around SAP’s corporate research-and-development department with thousands of engineers.

Instead, he recruited a bunch of university students in this small city outside Berlin. Working in a converted East German railway building dubbed “the villa,” these T-shirt-clad 20-somethings built the prototype of Mr. Plattner’s new product.

“It’s not so easy to break out as a large company and do something radically different,” says Mr. Plattner. “At the university, you have the freedom.”

Plattner’s bet is already beginning to pay off. SAP has some big plans for HANA, which has seen stellar growth throughout the past few months. Most recently in Q4, sales of HANA beat expectations, and the company reported some strong overall earnings as well.

On the other hand, Oracle’s latest quarter results were not so positive. And in an effort to do some catching up, the DB firm has also – somewhat ironically – jumped on the big data bandwagon.