SAP is set to offer customers the option of running their applications on top of a cloud-based version of its HANA in-memory database technology.

The SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, which was announced yesterday, will be offered by SAP through its own data centres. Eventually hosting partners will also be able to run the service, according to the announcement.

While HANA was initially aimed at analytic workloads, it has also been ported to transactional applications such as SAP's Business Suite ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

With the service, SAP is tearing down the assumption "that on the cloud you can only have simple applications," said SAP executive board member and technology chief Vishal Sikka. Such a notion is nonsense, he added.

HANA Enterprise Cloud's capabilities "take care of a lot of the really important but more mundane tasks" such as provisioning hardware and disaster recovery, he said. Customers can also scale up resources as needed.

The HANA instances will be run on bare metal for top performance and SAP is "doing a lot of work" building out utilities and administrative tooling for its cloud, Sikka said.

In order to use the service, customers would first need to obtain licenses for HANA, as well as applications such as the Business Suite and Business Warehouse, according to the announcement.

They would then consult with SAP services staffers, who would determine which of their applications would benefit the most from the HANA cloud deployment option.

SAP services would then assist in migrating the workloads to the HANA cloud, whereupon customers would pay a monthly subscription for the managed cloud services, with the cost tied to "the size, scale of data and applications," according to the announcement.

Customers who are interested can get started right away, an SAP spokeswoman said.

Sugar producer Florida Crystals is the first pilot customer to use the HANA Enterprise Cloud service, company CIO Don Whittington revealed. The company completed "the app migration and cloud on-boarding" for its SAP ERP and Business Warehouse software in two months, Whittington said.

The new service is not intended to be a "general-purpose cloud," and is aimed at mission-critical workloads, Sikka said. SAP has already offered a limited version of HANA on Amazon Web Services that is intended more for development and testing purposes.

It has also launched a cloud-based, HANA-powered platform aimed at application developers and is courting startup companies, encouraging them to build their applications with HANA.