The Life-Changing Impact of IBM and SAP’s Real-time Data Processing System


Each time you withdraw money from an ATM or make a purchase using a credit card, you become part of a complex authorization request process. While these transactions are completed in a matter of seconds, they involve a central computer system authorizing your request, providing details of the authorization to the bank or to the merchant, and then registering the transaction. To be clear, the automated teller and point-of-sale (POS) machines simply verify a few pieces of evidence, such as the PIN. The bulk of the processing is done behind the scenes, on computers that are located thousands of miles away, in some cases.

Although this may seem simple, even elegant, on the surface, the story becomes far more complex as soon as we analyze the sheer number of operations that are carried out by a central computer, and then multiply them by the bank’s total number of ATMs. When we combine this number with the POS systems installed in every shop, it becomes nothing short of a nightmare.

At times, these requests strain central computers to the point where they must be managed by a strong and cohesive team. Ultimately, bank executives know that they cannot expect account holders to wait in line because the central computers are clogged with requests.

Pulling back the curtain reveals “real-time data processing,” or the ability to immediately process a specific request now.

To make the abstract concrete, we could talk about the surprising processing capabilities of well-engineered hardware and software that, on the whole, verifies requests within a few seconds by processing data from peripheral devices and instancing other central computers that hold the original authorization information. But we could also simply call it an “invisible force” — an imperceptible presence that allows us to perform all of the IT operations we rely on daily.

For this, two of the biggest players in the technological sphere — IBM and SAP — have joined forces to generate a response speed that seemingly defies the laws of physics. In more detail, SAP has developed a database (SAP HANA) to manage all of the data in the server’s main memory, rather than a hard disk or SSD. This allows it to side-step the typical bottlenecks of computer architecture, where the processor takes data from the disk, moves it to RAM memory, and then processes it. Since the data is always in memory, there’s no travel required to retrieve it from a disk.

Building upon this technological advance, IBM designed a series of mind-blowing systems that were engineered to magnify the work of in-memory databases. (If you’re into nerd stats, the IBM Power System E980 model comes with a 64TB RAM (you read that right, terabytes) and a maximum of 192 POWER9 cores.)

This technological innovation is revolutionizing the way we handle a huge volume of information in real-time. In addition to generating computational power, the IBM Power Systems allow users to optimize the total cost of ownership and reduce energy consumption. These benefits are highlighted (below) by Forrester Research, based on their analysis of a group of companies who used SAP HANA on IBM Power Systems extensively:

Ultimately, this giant is capable of ingesting and processing an infinite series of data without getting tired — and even consumes less energy than its predecessors.

On a deeper level, it enables us to reconcile our digital humanity with our cybernetic life, filled with digital transactions, social media prompts, and personal messages that transport a little piece of ourselves around the globe.

To read more about SAP HANA on IBM Power System, click here

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