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New in-memory systems—roughly analogous to flash memory in small laptops—make it much easier to process greater volumes of data rapidly in real time. Here’s how those systems work, who’s behind them—and what they promise for faster and more informed decision making on the journey to achieve high performance.
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Businesses need to make decisions both rapidly and confidently—hence the growing importance of analytics.
However, there is widespread frustration with the limitations of current analytics systems. Most company data is still distributed across a wide range of applications and stored in disjointed silos. Traditional databases rely on outdated disk-drive technologies with built-in delays. Creating a unified view of the available data is cumbersome and time-consuming: with traditional divided OLTP/OLAP systems, it can take a week to write the query and receive the answer.
Additionally, analytical reports typically do not run directly on operational data, but on aggregated data from a data warehouse. Operational data is transferred into this warehouse in batch jobs, which makes it all the more challenging to use flexible, adhoc reporting on up-to-date data. Presentations are made with high-level summary data created on spreadsheets, which do not allow users to dig into accurate information. And traditional databases are still geared to structured data, which is only part of the sum of all the data that is useful today.
Rapid increases in silicon memory capacity and in the number of the processors per chip are producing a step change in the economics of data storage. Now, so-called in-memory technology is moving into the corporate data center, making it possible to store data sets of whole companies entirely in main memory, which offers much better performance than traditional disk-based systems.
By 2012, according to research firm Gartner, 70 percent of all Fortune Global 1,000 organizations will load detailed data into memory as the primary method of optimizing the performance of their business intelligence applications.
In-memory technology and insert-only databases using row- and column-oriented storage allow transactional and analytical processing to be unified. In-memory data warehousing finally offers the promise of real-time computing; business leaders now can ask ad hoc questions of the production transaction database and get the answers back in seconds.
Over the past 18 months, most of the leading storage-technology vendors have declared their involvement with in-memory systems. Three of the largest players have aggressively pursued acquisitions. Hewlett-Packard recently purchased Vertica Systems, an analytic database management software company; last year, IBM bought data warehousing company Netezza, while Oracle acquired Exadata. And SAP has developed its own in-memory solutions, launching its High Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA) earlier this year.
In-memory data warehousing has application in every industry sector, but is being explored with particular interest in the utilities, telecommunications and financial services industries—all of which combine high transaction volumes with a need for very rapid insight.
For example, in-memory could help a utility process data from an entire neighborhood’s smart meters every 15 to 20 minutes, enabling better and faster decisions about buying or selling power. There are multiple other applications.
Consumer packaged companies can use in-memory systems to analyze their retailers’ point-of-sale data to predict demand and activate stock replenishment timeously.
A taxi or logistics company could search through millions of traffic records in just over a second to streamline vehicle dispatch and scheduling.
Benefits to customers include:
Improved development time for business intelligence deployments.
Empowerment through greater analytic flexibility by reducing business users’ reliance on IT.
Cost benefits through the reduction in hardware and maintenance costs.
SAP has been especially assertive in the in-memory space. Accenture and SAP have set up a network of innovation centers to help users identify their most appropriate applications for HANA to generate real business benefits—in effect, enabling them to innovate on their terms.
Contact Accenture to learn more about the Accenture-SAP HANA innovation centers, or to discuss how in-memory can help power your company toward high performance through the improved use of analytics.
October 27, 2011
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