Highway Signpost with Real-time Computing wording [shutterstock: 225294244, mindscanner]

Highway Signpost with Real-time Computing wording [shutterstock: 225294244, mindscanner]

Real-Time Retail at Spar

Andreas Kranabitl heads IT at the Spar retail group and has planned the largest and most innovative Hana retail system together with Hitachi Data Systems and Imtech ITC Austria.

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The Spar Austria Group, as a retail enterprise with about 77,000 employees and almost 3,000 locations in Austria and abroad, is confronted with a growing amount of unstructured data every day. This data has a major relevance for the company – therefore information technology is increasingly important for the business. Companies like Spar are faced with the problem of growing data sets, which play an important role in business decisions and consequently for the success of the enterprise.

Such business-critical environments, where large quantities of valuable and sensitive data and their constant availability mean an essential competitive advantage, require a special infrastructure, which guarantees the necessary scalability, high availability, disaster tolerance and backup at the highest level. Reacting as fast and efficiently as possible to market changes as well as shorter time-to-market for product introductions can be the decisive factor for the success of a retail operation. Spar Austria has evolved from an Austrian retail company into a successful European retail group.

This not only means international business and developing new markets, customers and sales channels but also new challenges for the corporation’s IT department. “The strategic importance of IT for the success of the company increases. Thanks to HDS and Imtech, we were able to appropriately scale and accelerate our SAP Hana landscape. Hitachi UCP for Hana is the system that perfectly fulfills those high performance requirements, which we require for our future vision, said a satisfied Andreas Kranabitl, managing director of the Spar Information and Communication Service GmbH, Spar’s independent IT company.

e3zine: Which specific SAP Hana knowledge has Spar acquired?

Andreas Kranabitl: We worked hard on our Hana strategy, its implementation and developed a road map. As part of this work, we looked at new possibilities at the application level and also at the technical challenges. Today, Hana is a core component in the SAP landscape, which will likely be indispensible in the retail area. Accordingly, SAP Hana is an area, where we have acquired appropriate competence and will continue to develop.

e3zine: What do the SAP-basis employees at Spar think about the hardware and database change?

Kranabitl: The changes naturally trigger different responses. At the forefront of our discussions was the risk of not degrading current quality and availability, and not to add more workload to our employees. With the Hana on HDS solution which we launched with an experienced implementation partner and the ease of on-going management, these concerns were minimized.

e3zine: Which business and strategic objectives was Spar able to realize through the Hana/HDS project and what is planned for the future?

Kranabitl: Acting as an early mover in data analysis at this high quality level is a step in the right direction for the Spar. Being ahead of the pack is important for survival in the marketplace. By 2016, all of the applications at Spar will be migrated to the Hana platform. With our CRM system on SAP Hana, the speed of the business processes has already increased. Our next step will be moving the international data warehouse for business intelligence applications on to Hana. We will tackle the central data warehouse for Austria at the end of summer 2014. Finance, controlling and HR systems will then be placed on new, robust infrastructure by 2015 and 2016. The major move – converting all business processes in the area of merchandise management – should be implemented with the availability of the new SAP retail solutions by 2017 at the latest.

e3zine: Besides the “real-time” advantage, are there other plus points for Hana in the Spar installation?

Kranabitl: Spar is investing in the very latest technology, which ultimately means investment protection. Spar is therefore well prepared for the future, which contains many consolidation options all the way to multi-tenancy scenarios. The Hana system on Hitachi Data Systems could also support several clients on one platform and exploit the underlying technology even better. But our primary focus at Spar is the new SAP business solutions based on Hana, which will be used to maximize the enterprise’s bottom line.

e3zine: Mr Kranabitl, thank you very much for talking to us.

 


Risk Assessment

Andreas Kranabitl, CEO of the Spar Austria Spar Information and Communication Services (ICS), on the question: How has Spar protected itself against the risks of an in-memory database? “Besides the challenge of ensuring the economic feasibility of such a system, we see three concrete risks in this area.”

“First, a very large increase in the amount of data could prove challenging. Many offerings in the market are not able to manage that, since they are not widely scalable. With databases, it is not just a matter of adding hard drives. However, since the HDS solution is highly scalable, we estimate this risk as low for the time being.

“Second, the complexity of the Hana appliances and the degree of maturity of the products can impact availability. The classic data protection aspects were solved with traditional methods, for example high availability through a redundant array in the data processing center. Internal problems in the system have to be safeguarded through high-quality service level agreements.

“Third, the Hana appliance architecture and the decision to use Hana mean a high-level and long-term dependence on the system supplier. This places great demands on sustainable, strategic partnerships.”

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