sap hana schrodingers cat christian klein [shutterstock: 227038018, Mopic]
[shutterstock: 227038018, Mopic]
Blog Last and Least

Why SAP Hana Is Like Schrodinger’s Cat

What follows is a thought experiment, not animal cruelty. The question of how SAP customers feel when they have to pay two database licenses for one ERP system remains unanswered, though.

In quantum mechanics, Schrodinger’s cat is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox of quantum superposition. A hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.

The thought experiment was devised by Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1935. He writes, “A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): In a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it.”

This poses the question: When does a quantum system stop existing as a superposition of states and become one or the other?

Hana is dead

When I say Hana is dead, I don’t mean that the database itself has been phased out. While Hana is still a requirement for switching to S/4, nobody is truly excited anymore when it comes to the in-memory database.

Hana gets to live out of necessity: Without Hana no S/4! The enthusiasm for Hasso Plattner’s innovation has long since died down, however. Everyone loves Hana (because they have to), but no one wants to marry her.

Quantum physicists would say that Hana exists in a superposition of states between life and death. As long as we don’t open the steel chamber in which the cat is contained, the cat is 50 percent alive and 50 percent dead. We have yet to open Hana’s proverbial steel chamber to see if it has any chance of survival.

SAP customers in limbo

Because SAP lacks a comprehensive Hana roadmap, existing customers might find themselves in a superposition of their own. During the release change, customers have to pay licensing fees for both AnyDB (meaning IBM DB2, Oracle, or Microsoft SQl Server) and Hana. While the ERP system is being transformed, it is in limbo between AnyDB and Hana. It doesn’t matter if the release change takes a few days, weeks, months or even years – during that time period, Hana and AnyDB have to exist simultaneously, leaving SAP customers to foot both bills.

There is no official answer to this DB superposition from SAP yet as there’s no comprehensive Hana roadmap for S/4 transformation. The unofficial answer is that SAP might waive licensing fees during the transition period. For that to happen, however, SAP customers need licensing know-how and to negotiate under maximum of confidentiality – it’s worth it to not buy the cat in the steel chamber, though.

E-3 Magazine June 2021 (German)

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