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There are a number of different editions and deployment options for SAP HANA. While this flexibility addresses a great variety of use cases, the customers and partners I work with often find it confusing and an additional challenge to get started developing a solution on SAP HANA.  So,here is some simple guidance to help you identify a HANA edition and/or deployment option to meet your needs and constraints for initial development.

(Note: in this post I am focusing only on the development environment to get you started. It does not cover architecture or sizing considerations for a production HANA system.  Please refer to the SAP HANA Master Guide and/or the HANA sizing information on for more information on these topics.)


Basically, there are two key questions that most people have when planning to setup a HANA system for development: (a) what edition/version of SAP HANA to deploy for development purposes and (b) where/how to deploy it?

Currently, there are three “editions” of SAP HANA available for developers as follows:

  1. SAP HANA, Platform Edition – this is the standard “full-use” SAP HANA product with all features and capabilities available. It requires a (paid) software license or subscription and server-grade hardware with multiple CPUs (of specific types) and a good amount of RAM.  More information on the SAP HANA platform is available at this link.

  2. SAP HANA, Express Edition – this is a streamlined “limited use” version of HANA that has most (but not all) platform capabilities and comes with some size restrictions.  Currently, it is available free of charge for up to 32 GB of memory with additional memory capacity up to 128 GB available for purchase on a subscription-basis.  This product is intended for deployment in resource-constrained environments such as a laptop, desktop or a small virtual machine (VM).  More information is available at this link.

  3. SAP Cloud Platform, HANA Service – this is a purely cloud-based offering that provides managed HANA servers on a subscription basis.  There is a free “developer edition” subscription where you can get access to a tenant database or a schema within a shared HANA system in the cloud or, for a paid subscription, you can get a dedicated HANA instance, available in various sizes depending on your needs and budget. More information is available at this link.

In addition, we have the following deployment options for development instances of SAP HANA:

  1. On-Premise Server – the traditional model of deploying software on a server that you own and manage yourself.

  2. Local / Individual Instance – deploying a “personal” instance of SAP HANA on your local laptop/desktop or a small-size VM for individual use (only available for HANA Express).

  3. Cloud – SAP HANA software hosted in a remote data center by a cloud provider such as:

    • SAP Cloud Platform (PaaS / DBaaS)

    • Amazon Web Services (IaaS)

    • Microsoft Azure (IaaS)

    • Google Cloud Platform (IaaS)

All these options can be a bit confusing and can require some time to investigate and understand. So, here is some simple guidance to help you make a decision and get started developing your solution with SAP HANA:

  • If you are evaluating HANA and don’t want to purchase a HANA software license yet (i.e., you’re looking for a free trial)…

    • Use SAP HANA, Express Edition.  You can register to download SAP HANA, Express Edition and use it for free with up to 32 GB of memory.  It can be run on a laptop, desktop, or a small VM so you don’t have to buy special or expensive server or cloud instance.  It’s also simple to deploy since it can be downloaded as a pre-configured VM.

    • Use the SAP Cloud Platform, HANA Service.  You can sign up for the free SAP Cloud Platform “developer edition”.  This will allow you to create a small tenant database or schema within a shared HANA instance on the SAP Cloud Platform.  However, please note that the SAP Cloud Platform currently (at time of this writing) only offers the HANA 1, SPS12 version. If you want to review the features and capabilities available in the latest version of SAP HANA, use HANA Express instead.

  • If you are developing or deploying your solution on SAP Cloud Platform…

    • Use the SAP Cloud Platform, HANA Service.  You will need to use the version and capabilities of HANA that are available in SAP Cloud Platform so this is the right choice.  It doesn’t matter what size of environment or database you need since the SAP Cloud Platform has subscriptions available for all sizes.  You can start small and then increase if/as needed.

  • If you want to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud to host your HANA system…

    • Use SAP HANA, Express Edition …if you need only a small environment and do not need any features that are outside the feature scope of HANA Express.  SAP HANA, Express Edition is available on the SAP Cloud Appliance Library (CAL) for easy deployment to these cloud services.

    • Use SAP HANA, Platform Edition …if you require a larger system (> 128 GB) to store your development data and/or you need access to any of the HANA features or options that are not available in HANA Express. SAP HANA, Platform Edition is also available on the SAP Cloud Appliance library (CAL) for easy deployment to these cloud services.

Note: there are additional validation and preparation tasks that need to be performed for software on the SAP Cloud Appliance Library (CAL) such that there is often a delay before the latest HANA version is made available through this deployment channel. If you need to have the very latest version of SAP HANA, you can use either the Platform Edition or the Express Edition and install it yourself in a virtual machine (IaaS instance) in the cloud.

  • If you plan to deploy your application as a small-scale or prototype/trial service in production and want to keep your operating costs low…

    • Use SAP HANA, Express Edition. HANA Express can be used for free in productive use for instances up to 32 GB of memory or up to 128 GB for an additional subscription fee and it can be run on small inexpensive hardware to help further minimize your costs as you test and develop your solution with real customers.

  • If you want to develop locally/offline on your laptop or have limited resources on a server or VM instance…

    • Use SAP HANA, Express Edition.  HANA Express is a “lightweight” version of HANA that can be run in resource constrained environments such as on a laptop, desktop, or a small VM.  However, there are some feature limitations and database size restrictions but it is often sufficient for development purposes.  Please note that you will need at least 16 GB of memory to run the database server only or 24 GB of memory to run the server plus web-based applications such as the HANA Cockpit (for admin) and Web IDE (for development).

  • If you have limited admin skills and/or don’t want to manage/maintain your HANA database…

    • Use the SAP Cloud Platform, HANA Service (Note: not the HANA server).  This is a managed service (PaaS/DBaaS) instead of server software that must be installed, configured, and maintained.  It includes support for install/config, patching/updating, and backup/recovery.  So, you can focus on developing and testing your HANA solution instead of having to worry about operating and maintaining the HANA system.

  • If you prefer to deploy on-premise, have your own server hardware, and are comfortable administering and maintaining your own database server…

    • Use SAP HANA, Platform Edition on supported hardware.  This will provide you will the full set of HANA capabilities and a shared server environment for development.  It will also help your operations team to develop HANA administration and maintenance skills as well.  If you don’t plan to do performance testing on this system, you can use less expensive hardware for your development environment.  See SAP Note 2271345 - Cost-Optimized SAP HANA Hardware for Non-Production Usage  and the section “Entry-Level Systems” in the Certified and Supported SAP HANA Hardware Directory for more information on supported hardware options for your HANA server.

  • If you need a full-size development environment and/or want to do performance testing/evaluation on your development server…

    • Use SAP HANA, Platform Edition on HANA-certified hardware.   You can setup a full-size, production-grade system that will support both development and performance testing of your solution. See the sections for “Certified Appliances” or “Certified IaaS Platforms” in the Certified and Supported SAP HANA Hardware Directory for more information on certified hardware.

These are just a few of the common scenarios and considerations for choosing a HANA development system.  If you are unsure what edition and deployment option is right for your situation and development needs, contact your account team for further assistance.