IT consultancy Bluefin Solutions has claimed that SAP's in-memory database, HANA, could cause the biggest paradigm shift since the introduction of IBM's original PC in the 1980s.

Speaking to Computerworld UK sister title Techworld at the SAP User Group conference in Birmingham, Bluefin's information architecture and strategy capability lead Ian Brown made the strong claims.

Brown said that HANA has made it possible for a finance director to sit in his office with a box in a cupboard next to him running two billion rows of data.

"HANA is effectively the ability to take an enterprise scale database and put it in a single box," said Brown, "and it only costs £50,000. That may sound like a lot, but in the 80s businesses used to have to spend £10,000 to get things working on a PC, and that transformed the small business. You've now got a box which is not a million miles away from that. For big companies, they can put their numbers on it and run it live."

Brown expands on this idea in a blog post on the Bluefin website, in which he identifies several similarities between the development and marketing of both the SAP HANA technology and the earlier IBM PC. These include open, well-defined standards, flexible and scalable architecture, 'off-the-shelf' hardware and a focus on business value and engineering excellence.

"I believe SAP HANA will take off because it's going fundamentally to hit the same sweet-spot of huge corporate demand that drove the PC's takeover of most of the world," said Brown.

Launched in December 2010, HANA employs an in-memory computing engine, wherein data to be processed is held in RAM instead of being read from disks or flash storage, providing a performance boost. SAP intends HANA boxes to be attached to its own ERP systems, sucking in and analysing transactional data in real time. However, HANA's 'agnostic' data access functionality means any information source can be used.

Bluefin works with clients such as BSI, Camelot, Travelodge and Royal Mail to help them achieve greater business performance by optimising SAP technology. Brown said that HANA could potentially be of use to all its customers, but that the company is currently targeting those running SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse on SQL server.

"HANA will swallow anyone who's running BW on SQL server, as they're likely to have a database that's small enough to run on HANA today," he said. "For the bigger enterprises currently running Oracle or DB2, the technology isn't there yet. Oracle databases tend to go up to around 30 Terabytes, whereas HANA can swallow around 2 Terabytes."

However, Brown said Oracle is getting very nervous, as Moore's law will mean that ultimately the hardware will get bigger and cheaper, until it becomes a direct competitor with Oracle Exalytics.

Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang agrees that a SAP's strong play targeting the database market will hurt Oracle, but said that it should not get worried just yet.

"If you're really serious about undercutting Oracle, you make a database. You cut into Oracle's market on database so that you actually stop funding there," Wang said.

"But Oracle's got so big because of all the acquisitions, you can't just cut them off on database, although that's one big piece. They were vulnerable at one point in time. Teradata pretty much was in that same boat. So this is just natural competition between the tech vendors."